The strongest bond: homeless humans and their canine companions
For news nerds like me, the name Glenn Greenwald brings to mind news stories about Eric Snowden. That’s because Greenwald, a former reporter for the Guardian newspaper, was one of the reporters to whom Snowden divulged all that classified information about the NSA’s spy programs. So when I read the following tweet by Greenwald: “Our new film and article: How Dogs Forge a Bond With Rio’s Homeless That is Life-Saving for Both,” my curiosity piqued. An issue of national security, this is not, of life and death, it may be.
It turns out that Brazil—where Greenwald, a native New Yorker, lives with his partner—has the second largest dog population in the world. (The United States has the largest.) And many of those dogs belong to the country’s homeless men and women, thousands of whom live in Brazil’s urban centers, like Rio de Janeiro. The dogs, Greenwald writes, “were previously living as desperate, unwanted strays on the street” until they were befriended by their humans, who “care for them as well as, and in many cases better than, the average middle-class family with a pet. The profound bond that forms between them is like nothing else one will find, and is thus deeply revealing.”
The story documents just how strong that bond is, but it’s a story that is by no means unique to Brazil. Here in the United States, the organization Pets of the Homeless estimates that five to ten percent of homeless people have pets, and in some parts of the country nearly 25% do. And many of us have read the news stories of homeless men and women who develop such strong bonds with their dogs that they will often forego moving into an apartment or house if their canine can’t move in with them.
In DOGLAND, I introduced readers to an innovative program out of the University of Tennessee’s School of Veterinary Medicine that is bringing essential veterinary care—including spay/neuter—to Knoxville’s homeless pet owners. Vets for Pets of Homeless Owners (VPHO) is making it possible for these “families” to stay together, and for the dogs to stay healthy.
Accompanying Greenwald’s story is both a short film, featuring a homeless man named Birdie and his two dogs, and an interview with the filmmaker, Heloisa Passos. Greenwald writes that a second story and a second film are coming soon.
Jacki Skole is an award-winning journalist, author and adjunct professor of communication. A graduate of the University of Michigan and Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, she spent a decade as a writer and producer at CNN before turning to teaching. Jacki launched WRITE Now to assist students in writing the college application essays that will chart their future. Read More...