Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Jeanette's Story


This is Jeanette. She is homeless. She lives in her car with three dogs and a cat. I saw her today, for the second day in a row...in two separate parts of town!  But, today, when I saw her, I was getting out of my car and she asked me for money to help her get gas. (The meet up today was random. She didn't see me yesterday. I just noticed her because I saw the dogs in her car.) Because I randomly saw her two days in a row in separate areas of town, I felt like it was fate for me to talk to her.

I said, “are you homeless?” She said, “yes”. I’ll admit I was a little nervous, but it was daylight and we were in a public place. I was just drawn to the fact that she had three dogs in the car. It was like I was destined to talk to her. Destined to hear her story. I then asked her, “do you have food for the dogs? If I give you money, I want to make sure you will buy food for the dogs”. Then, she showed me that in her trunk she had a huge bag of dog food that someone gave her. That made me feel better.

I asked her how long she had been living in her car. She said it had been a month. She went on to say that her mom died and the executor took control of the house and she can’t live there anymore and she had to move in to her car. The title of this post, “Jeanette’s Story”, is a play on words. It is her story. At least it’s the story she told me today. Whether it’s true or not, I’ll never know. She is homeless, no doubt about it. At some point, how she got there, doesn’t matter.

Did I give her money? Yes, I did. But, before I did, I asked her if I could take pictures and share her and her dogs on my blog. She got really nervous. I knew that her fear was centered on the dogs. I told her, “don’t worry. My pictures and story about you on my little blog will only be seen by a few of my faithful readers. No one is going to come and take your dogs. I’m not about that.” She said, “ok. I just worry so much that someone will call the police and they will come and take my dogs”. I then said, “those dogs are your family. They are what you live for everyday.” To make her feel better, I then told her that I heard somewhere (which I have) that the most well adjusted dogs are those that live with homeless people. The reason is that they are with their pack all day long, every single day. They have a purpose everyday and have one leader to follow. She said that people keep telling her that she should take them to the pound, but “they are all I have”.

I asked her where she sleeps. She said, “everywhere, anywhere I feel safe”. She sleeps in her car. I asked why she didn’t go to a shelter, at least at night. She said, “because the dogs can’t go and I won’t leave them”. She said she was scared to go to a shelter and leave the dogs in the car because she’s scared someone will call the police about the dogs being left in the car and they will come and take them away." So, I just sleep in the car.” She turns the heater on for while when it gets cold. 

 Jeanette with 4 year old Baby.

I went on to meet her three family members. (I never saw the cat.) They were the most excited, sweet and loving dogs I’ve ever met. Two of them, Frankie and Daphne are puppies (who will eventually get big!) and the other one, Baby, is a 4 year old mix. I took pictures and a little video (posted below) and then I sensed I needed to move on. I looked at her in the eyes. I wanted her to know that I “saw her, heard her”. She is real, after all. I then said, “Jeanette, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. There are all sorts of Catholic charities you can turn to. That’s what they are there for. They won’t try to take your dogs away. They will just help you, even if you just need someone to talk to.” At that point, she got tears in her eyes. I was surprised by that. My words touched a nerve...got through somehow. I said, “God bless you. Be safe” and I left. She said, "what's your name?" I said, "Kimberly". 

 Puppies, Frankie (look at that tongue!) and Dabney.

 Crazy puppies!

 Dabney's sweet nose.

 She was a character! Look at that face. She had to know she was killing me!

Here's a video of the puppies.



I have to say that, as I left, the tears hit me. I cried. I’m not sure why. A part of me felt so sorry for the dogs. I just wanted to take them home. Part of me felt sorry for her. She’s living in her car with nothing to her name, but three dogs, a cat and a pink crocheted hat. At one point, she was someone’s baby girl. Now, she’s so down that she has to approach strangers and beg for money.

 I know what some would say to me. She could be someone who chooses to be homeless. She could be a drug addict or 5150 or both.  But, she’s a human being and those dogs are her life. I can remember times growing up where my parents were hurting for money and they were probably only a few paychecks away from living in their car with their two dogs. Believe me, those dogs would have been in that car with them! They loved and lived for their dogs and being homeless wouldn’t change that. Being homeless wouldn’t have changed who they were inside. Being homeless doesn’t change who Jeanette is on the inside.

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