Street Stories

Weblog of Seattle minister to the homeless Rick Reynolds, Operation Nightwatch

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Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

Caring for human beings seems like the best use of my time, homeless or not.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Lost family member

Homeless people are attached to their pets, just like the rest of us. When a dog dies, the whole camp suffers.

But what happens next is tragic. How can you properly dispose of the much-loved remains?

Last night someone in a homeless camp asked me if I could help in any way with the cremation. "Let me find out. Call me in the morning." I had to think about it. I got no idea what a cremation for a pet would cost. And wouldn't it be better to spend that $100 (or whatever) on the human needs I'm facing every day?

I started musing about the importance of pets to people who have lost nearly everything: home, jobs, friendships, sense of self-worth. But through thick and thin, a dog will provide comfort, loyalty, structure, and some level of accountability even though the rest of a homeless person's life may be spinning out of control.

The grief is real. I have to help. 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The best place to contact regarding pet remains would be the Seattle Animal Shelter (and it may be a Department of Health/sanitation dept. issue). However,the veterinarians I have known are usually as sympathetic to the suffering of humans as they are to the suffering of animals (as far as economically possible). It is worth a try to look up "private euthanasia" (individuals that will travel to the pet, instead of vice versa) if that is ever needed.

If a pet is suffering or in need of care, it also never hurts to call a veterinary office to explain your pet's condition an your homeless situation and ask if there is anything they could do. [Please remember that veterinarians are required BY LAW to conduct a physical exam of the animal (which is always a separate cost from shots), and they may not have as much economic leeway as they would like...] However they do like to see an animal remain healthy and well-loved, so call a few and see if they can offer a free exam, even if it takes a little discussion of care & condition during the visit.

Although they can be very busy, many veterinarians would rather have an honest owner who follows instructions and tries to keep a pet comfortable and healthy - rather than an owner who buys an animal as a status symbol, leaves it alone, and wants the veterinarian to make it behave. I hope knowing this helps.

Also, during the yearly health fairs for people at Seattle Center, veterinarians also volunteer to look at pets. Unfortunately the next one is not scheduled until October 2017, but they are worth knowing about:

8:41 PM  

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