Back then, back in the 80’s the cardboard cities began springing up. Horrifying edifices to an outsider but homes to the working poor. Refrigerator boxes taped to washing machine and TV boxes, making little complexes to house the working parents and the children who were always dressed to go off to school.
The funny result was that the really homeless began keeping dogs. Guard dogs for the heaped up recyclables on their shopping carts and guard dogs for when they slept at night.
Soon it seemed every homeless person had a dog. They were strays only alike in that they were all hungry and underfed.
In LA the issue was noticed. People shook their heads and made tsk tsk noises with their teeth clenched and then kept driving.
In London (The UK one) the Blue Cross (an animal charity, not a GNP gobbling insurance company) opened up clinics around Victoria and other hot spots so that the homeless could bring their dogs in for injections and health inspections. When it seemed that only the really insane were still out there the Blue Cross sent out rescue workers to walk the Strand at midnight to plow through the underpasses and look out for dogs in need of free health care.
My crew started out as 3 people, a tiny little vet student from Acton. She was about 4′ 11″, gold blonde hair she wore in messy ringlets, a round face set off by large studious glasses. I called her Little Doc because I can never remember anyone’s name.
Her over protective boyfriend wasn’t officially part of our crew. He might have made 5′ with boots on. He was friendly enough, but out of his element with us. I could understand him wanting protect Little Doc. She was special enough and probably more than he thought he’d ever deserve.
I guess I was the “muscle”. After a few weeks the boyfriend got bored, or frightened. I don’t know which really, Little Doc told me I wasn’t just protection. I was the only volunteer who wasn’t afraid of the various dogs, and the only one the dogs weren’t afraid of either. Maybe.
Even after she told me that I found it hard to work up the concern to think about it. All I knew was that once a week from midnight until 7 AM we’d start with the Strand. We’d start at the food truck that passed out expired Marks & Sparks sandwiches (the shrimp ones were pretty good)and wend our way through London’s underworld. I’d talk to the dog owners while Little Doc gave them shots and certificates.
Most of the people didn’t trust us, even though we had plastic laminated badges and all that. The vast majority were still anxious to get their dogs looked after. They questioned Little Doc’s qualifications more than anything. I noticed that some of the people had bags of high quality dog food in their squats.
We had not trouble or incidents other than some who were fearful we were there to take their little dogs away.
It wasn’t an adventure; it was work. Some nights there were some adventuresome things that happened but all events just turned into work. But work with dogs hardly seems like work at all most times.
There was a reason I’d gotten involved in all this trekking through the hidden life in London. Back in LA in the 80’s I was working at Zoetrope (nee’ Hollywood General, nee’ Desilu Studios and who knows what in between) I was planning to go down to SIR. Someone told me they were selling off some of their rentals.
I was walking by Gower Gulch. Across the street, under a smog choked tree, there was a homeless guy. When I got closer I saw he had a coiled up rope in his hand and was whipping a dog. I went over and grabbed the guys arm. I wasn’t very gentle. I looked at the dog. He was shaking and cowering, covering his head with his paws. He was about 50 pounds and as ugly a gray dog as you could imagine. He had a bad under bite that gave his face a punched in humanoid look. I didn’t notice at the time but he was thin but not terribly under-fed.
I looked at the guy I was holding. He was squirming but, back then, I was a lot stronger than he was. He was ashen gray under that peculiar plastic sunburn living in the LA sun non-stop can bring. His face and forehead were covered in old peeling scabs. He was dirty.
I told him to knock it off. He told me to f… off surfer boy. I thought that was a weird insult but an insult is an insult so I hoisted him off the ground by his throat and was ready to punch him out when something miraculous happened.
The ugly little dog I was protecting attacked me. He didn’t draw blood but the khakis I was wearing were pretty torn up. He didn’t care about my motives, he didn’t care that I was trying to save him from pain, this sad, ugly beaten wonderful dog only knew I was hurting the only thing that was precious to him.
So this podcast is for all the wonderful dogs I’ve known. I think there’s too much country western in it but they’re good tracks.
Where Has My Little Dog Gone Hoosier Hot Shots
Plenty Of Dogs Lolas
I’m Walking The Dog Del McCoury Band
The Puppy Song Nilsson
Wild Dogs Of Kentucky Nervous Norvus
Barking Up The Wrong Tree Heartbeats
Little Woman Big Dog Frankie & The Pool Boys
Old King Neil Young
Get Down Marykate O’Neil
Hunger Strike Temple of The Dog
Every Dog Robin Zander
Spanish Flea Herb Alpert
Dad Gave My Dog Away T. Texas Tyler
Doggone Fine Roy Loney
Gonna Buy Me A Dog Boise And Moss With A Side Of Hamm
Loving Leash Meyerman
Hound Dog Link Wray
Hound Dog Man Fabian
How Come My Bulldog Don’t Bark Howard Tate
Dog My Cats Wildfire Willie & The Ramblers
Old Blue Louisiana Honeydrippers
Man With Money Fabulous Poodles
The Poodle Dog Song Jimmie Davis
Tiki Dog Razorblades
It’s A Dog’s Life Plasticland
Dog Tired Tash Mints
Fox Chase Earl Taylor & The Stony Mountain Boys
Fox On The Run Sirens
Tennessee Hound Dog Osborne Brothers
Jackson Dog Larry Brinkley
Hot Dog Ohio Express
Dog Eddie Adcock Band
Bull Dog Down In Sunny Tennessee Dock Walsh with The Carolina Tar Heels
Dog Leg Hipbone Slim & The Knee Tremblers
Old Rattler Grandpa Jones
I Found My Best Friend In The Dog Pound Burl Ives