“Everyone on skid row — kids, cops, prostitutes, pimps — loved her,” Jeff Dietrich writes about Sheba, in another remembrance of the Los Angeles street dog we told you about after her death a couple of months ago.
Dietrich, a member of the Los Angeles Catholic Worker, focuses his op-ed piece — it appeared in the Los Angeles Times yesterday – on the relationship between Sheba and Georgina (pictured together above).
Sheba’s best friends were the homeless street addicts who live outside the Catholic Worker soup kitchen. And, at least in Georgina’s case, maybe, vice versa.
Georgina ended up on skid row after fleeing an abusive husband. At first she lived with her handicapped, addicted mother in the St. Agnes Hotel, but she soon became addicted to crack cocaine herself and began living on the streets.
She found Sheba 17 years ago, chained to a pole, freed her, and took over the care of the German shepherd mix for the next 10 years — except for those periods she was in prison — until finding a home and entering recovery.
Sheba — still living on the streets, among the homeless – died in June after being struck by a car.
“I can’t say that it was Georgina’s relationship with Sheba that enabled her to enter and successfully complete a recovery program,” Dietrich writes. “But I can say without doubt that the maternal presence of this loving creature was one of the few positive attachment relationships in her life for a time, and that Sheba also touched the shattered lives of many addicts and petty drug dealers on Gladys Street. It’s possible that, for Georgina, the steady, unconditional love she got from Sheba provided just enough stability to make recovery seem possible.”
Dietrich notes that substance abuse can often be traced to early childhood trauma — abandonment, nutritional deprivation, battery, rape, or growing up in an unstable, unloving family:
“A dog is no substitute, certainly, for a loving, stable family or for strong human bonds. But most of the addicts on skid row haven’t known nurturing families for years, if they ever did. Sheba stepped into a void in Georgina’s life, and she made a difference.”
Dietrich, who is the author of ”Broken and Shared: Food, Dignity, and the Poor on Los Angeles’ Skid Row,” says that when a memorial service was held for Sheba in the dining garden of the soup kitchen, Georgina didn’t attend, upon the advice of her therapist, who feared a possible relapse.
“The gathering was full of fond memories of Sheba, but toward the end there was one awkward moment. Was it theologically correct, we wondered, to pray for a dog? But then someone in the crowd called out, “Let us pray for the loving gift that Sheba was to our community.
“We did. And the people of skid row said, ‘Amen.’”
Posted by jwoestendiek August 21st, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: catholic worker, cocaine, crack, drugs, food, georgina, homeless, Jeff Dietrich, kitchen, los angeles, love, memorial, recovery, remembrance, sheba, skid row, soup, stability, streets, substance abuse, unconditional
Ace and I will be appearing at the Aperture Cinema in Winston-Salem this week for a group discussion following the showing of the animated movie, “My Dog Tulip,” based on J.R. Ackerley’s memoir of his relationship with his dog.
I’ll also be talking about, selling and signing my new book, “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”
If you’re wondering what the human-dog bond, or a memoir about that, have in common with cloning, the answer is:
For, in addition to the profits foreseen by entrepreneurs, it was that bond – tighter-than-ever as the 21st Century arrived– that sparked the attempt to clone dogs, prompted customers to sign up for it and led to the emergence of a fledgling, and highly questionable, pet cloning industry.
And what, after all, is a dog clone but a living, breathing, laboratory re-creation of the past — a memoir you can pet?
The first dog whose cloning was attempted by U.S. scientists, in fact, was a border collie mix who belonged to — you guessed it — a memoir writer. Missy, as it turned out, wasn’t the first dog cloned. South Korean scientists accomplished that first with an Afghan hound, whose clone would be named Snuppy. But Missy was eventually cloned — more than five times.
Cloning wasn’t available in J.R. Ackerley’s day (the British writer died in 1967), but given the love he expressed for his German shepherd, given his many unsuccesful attempts to breed her to another purebred “Alsatian,” given the void she filled in his life and the one her passing left in it, he might have considered it, if it had been.
“Tulip,” whose real name was Queenie — publishers opted to change it, fearing its gay connotations might be too titillating for stuffy old 1950′s England – spent 14 years with Ackerley, and according to some accounts he never quite got over her death.
“She offered me what I had never found in my life with humans: constant, single-hearted, incorruptible, uncritical devotion, which it is in the nature of dogs to offer,” he says in the book, written while she was still alive.
The movie — though, like the book, it doesn’t shy away from dogs’ bodily functions — is charming and charmingly animated, drawn and directed by Paul and Sandra Fierlinger, and narrated by Christopher Plummer, in the role of Ackerley. It also features the voices of Isabella Rossellini and Lynn Redgrave.
It tells the story of a man who, having all but given up on finding an “ideal friend” in the human world, finds one in a canine — the first dog he’s had in his life.
I’ll be leaving my ideal friend home tonight, but Ace, if he feels up to it, is scheduled to join me at the theater Wednesday night.
The movie starts at 8 p.m., both nights, with the discussion following. The Aperture Cinema is at 311 W. 4th St. in downtown Winston-Salem.
Posted by jwoestendiek March 22nd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, alsatian, animals, aperture, bond, book, book signing, cinema, cloning, dog, dog inc., dogs, friends, german shepherd, human, ideal friend, jr ackerley, loss, love, man's best friend, memoirs, missy, my dog tulip, north carolina, pets, queenie, snuppy, tulip, unconditional, void, winston-salem
You hear a lot these days about young couples foregoing parenthood and opting for a dog instead. You hear a lot, too, about young couples who take in a dog as practice for when a real baby comes along.
There’s nothing wrong, in my view, with either.
What often gets ignored though — amid the kind of scoffing the dogless sometimes do at dog peoples’ commitment to their animals – is the fact that dogs, while not the equivalent of a child, do indeed prepare young couples for parenthood.
And that’s just the beginning.
After that, they go on to help those children grow up with a healthy respect for living things, teaching them about love and loyalty. And, after the kids depart, dogs help fill the void – though usually not the same dog — of an empty nest.
They, like some brands of dog food, in fact, are there for all the cycles of our human lives — including the the onset of parenthood.
Rebecca Dube does beautiful job of describing how her dog helped prepare her for parenthood in this week’s Toronto’s Globe and Mail – in a piece whose writing was prompted, sadly, by death of the family’s beagle, Lily:
“My dog was my baby; and now that I have an actual baby, I see that my dog prepared me for motherhood far better than any of those What to Expect books.”
Rebecca and her husband adopted Lily from a rescue group, altering their lives in numerous ways — from cleaning up shed hair to shifting their schedules, to dictating where to vacation and where to live — and once Lily got sick, affecting the budget as well.
Lily lived much longer with cancer than the three months her vet originally predicted, long enough to meet the newest addition to the family.
Rebecca writes that, once she became ill, they never questioned the time and money they were investing in her: “She was our baby … And then along came a real baby.
“Our son, Elijah, arrived 10 days early, and we brought him home on a Saturday night. All through my pregnancy, I’d hoped for the moment we finally got, when we introduced Elijah to Lily, and stroked his tiny baby hand against her soft fur. In my greedy heart I wanted them to have years together, for him to laugh at her wagging tail, for her to wait patiently for scraps beneath his high chair. But that tiny bit of grace would have to be enough. Lily died early Monday morning…
“My dog was my baby. She taught me that a slobbery, stinky creature could pee on my shoes, poop everywhere, complicate my life in a million aggravating ways – and at the same time inspire so much love that my heart felt like it would burst with happiness. She taught me and my husband how to go from two to three. She taught us how to be a family…
Rebecca writes that, when Elijah gets old enough to understand, she’ll show him the photos of him and Lily, “and tell him that for a few days he had the best dog a boy could ever want.”
(Photo: Elijah and Lily, Toronto Globe and Mail)
Posted by jwoestendiek May 23rd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, babies, baby, beagle, couples, cycles, dog, dogs, lily, love, ohmidog!, parenthood, parenting, pets, practice, rebecca dube, relationships, responsibility, surrogate, unconditional
Money can buy you love in Baltimore — and, for the next two weeks, for just $40.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS), is dropping the fees on all adoptions to $40 until Feb. 28:
“Want to find the perfect companion? Want to find someone who is guaranteed to love you unconditionally, even if you go bald, gain weight, or lose all of your money? Tired of the dating scene and the pressure of Valentine’s Day romance? Forget internet dating!”
BARCS promises “the perfect companion … not afraid of making a commitment and they will give you pure affection and unconditional love for their entire lifetime.”
Adoption fees include spaying and neutering, rabies vaccination, DHLPP vaccination, bordatella, de-wormer, flea preventative, a general examination, a food sample, Felv testing for cats and kittens, and even a month of free veterinary insurance.
BARCS is the largest shelter in Baltimore and the surrounding area, caring for more than 11,000 animals each year.
To find true love, stop by the shelter at 301 Stockholm St. (behind M&T Bank Stadium), call at 410-396-4695, or visit BARCS online.
The shelter is open for adoptions Monday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The shelter will be closed on Monday, Feb. 15, in celebration of President’s Day.
(Graphic: T-shirt design by Punk Rock Dogg)
Posted by jwoestendiek February 14th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adoptions, baltimore, baltimore animal rescue & care shelter, barcs, cats, companion, dating, discount, dogs, love, my dog is my heart, punk rock dogg, romance, shelter, special, true love, true love special, unconditional, valentine, valentine's, valentines day
Here’s Ben Stein, on CBS’s Sunday Morning, with some advice on how to get through the recession — or just about anything else.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 8th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ben stein, best friends, cbs sunday morning, comfort, divorce, dog, dogs, economy, friend, get a dog, ill, jim bellows, life, lonely, love, shelter, support, unconditional, where's my dog