“LIKE many others, I’ve previously been guilty of being in a hurry and walking past those homeless on the streets. Five years ago that all changed. It was June 2013 and, being a big animal lover, a post flashed up on my computer from a rescue organisation appealing for help to find the dog of homeless man in the Sydney CBD called John.
I opened the post and immediately recognised him as I’d seen John and his dog Carrie in Pitt Street Mall many times.
Some young boys had walked past John and started kicking Carrie, so the dog escaped, running up George Street in fear!”
On learning about John’s story, what struck me was that he couldn’t find a bed in a shelter or any other form of accommodation, because none allowed dogs.
John had been searching for some days and had made up signs, but Carrie was nowhere to be found. I offered a reward, and, as it turned out, Carrie was returned the next day.
I introduced myself to John the following day and that afternoon rang three organisations for the homeless to ask why, in this day and age, we can’t somehow accommodate a homeless man and his little dog. Despite my suggestion that pets are like family, I was shocked when the response from all three was that it was easier to put the dog down. I researched the issue and found that it was well documented that numerous people in the Sydney CBD chose to stay on the streets at night because they have a pet that cannot be accommodated.
I found a facility at Camperdown that provided a room that allowed pets, but the waiting list was beyond my life span. Then I tried searching for a garage that could be rented out and accommodate a mattress and bed, again to no avail.
I sat with with John and Carrie at the end of Pitt Street Mall, witnessing first-hand what they went through every day. I was amazed, saddened and at times angry at the abuse people gave John, and frequently me, for talking to him.
I had given John jackets and clothing for him and Carrie, but then a week or so later, he would be cold because, as he put it, young people would bash him and at times steal his stuff. John spoke to me at length one afternoon, of his career building Olympic swimming pools and how back in his working days he never would have thought he would end up on the streets alone.
As I could see John’s health deteriorating, I put my phone number on Carrie’s lead, in the hope that if anything happened to him, someone would make sure Carrie came to me. That call came on March 22. A dog rescue had Carrie after finding my phone number around her neck, however John’s whereabouts and condition were unknown. I took Carrie home and subsequently found John in a critical condition in RPA Hospital, needing an
operation, but with no one to sign the surgical consent form, his health was deteriorating rapidly. John needed to be operated on, so I became his legal guardian, signed the consent forms, and he was operated on successfully.
He’s now off the streets in a nursing home near me, with yours truly as his guardian. Carrie, myself and my dog Sammy visit a few times a week. He has his own room, three meals a day and is being well cared for – and I’m so proud that I fulfilled a promise I made to him that he would never die alone on the street.
CLUBSNSW LEARNING & DEVELOPMENT EXECUTIVE