Our homeless friend Carol is passing to the other side and I wanted to share a bit of her with you. Carol lived her last many years in her car and gutted out trailers. She had a passion and deep love for her animals and that kept her out of shelters. If you have ever donated to NC Pets of the Homeless you made a difference for those loved animals. Thank you.
When I first met Carol, I was horrified. I mean, her car. It was a rolling dump truck filled with everything one might discard. You would see a few usable items but the overwhelming items were junk. Newspapers, containers, canned stuff, clothes, anything and everything. Surprisingly, it didn’t smell or from what I recall it didn’t smell.
I remember finding her in the old Safeway parking lot. She had a big note on the car window. Something about that she was OK and not to call the police.
I would ignore that and often call the police and ask them to do a welfare check on her. They were very familiar with her and would always check on her and let me know she was OK.
How anyone could be “OK” in those conditions one wonders, but then one only has to work with the homeless long enough to know it can be true.
Back to being horrified.
The first time I witnessed it and called the police I was sure they would tow her away and take the animals to the shelter. When that didn’t happen I visited regularly enough to get to know Carol and Max her dog. Her cats were never too social.
I formed a friendship with her that over the next years would evolve and the context of our relationship would repeat itself over and over.
At first, she was well enough to come to the pet food giveaways on Sunday. Carol was one of our first clients when we first started Pets of the Homeless. At that time we only gave out dog food. Not soon after we started with cat food.
Then over the years and the distance with places she lived and eventually her health, she would just call me and I would meet her at my house. She always asked me to deliver. I never would but she never held it against me.
Once, her son bought her a new/used car. When she rolled up and it was all sparkly clean we all gathered around and admired it with her. I think she was really proud of it.
It wasn’t long before it was filled with junk. She would pull up at my house and then she would open the car door and cans of peas and corn would fall out. Bottles or paper would be shifting and leaning out the door. Often there didn’t seem a place to put the pet food. She would lean into the car, throw items around and like magic a space would appear.
Her dog Max and I loved each other. He was always there, amongst the junk. Content. Happy. Often causing a ruckus and barking. The cats were tied to a leash and non-pulsed. I never was sure how they coped.
I never want to shrink people into just a “homeless” person. They are just like you and me, talented, joyful, clever, rich in life experiences, funny and smart.
Carol never, ever failed to start talking in a rapid run on sentence manner, telling me every transgression that had happened to her and who was stealing her money and how she was kicked out of one place, then another and how her social security check was held up in a legal issue of epic proportion.
She always had a glimmer of hope I was going to give her some money. But, when I would bid her goodbye with a hug and didn’t produce any mullah, she lovingly wished me well and off she went. I always admired her for that.
I didn’t know Carol’s joys other than her pets. I didn’t know the Carol that had hobbies or interests. Things that made her life whole. I only knew her from her troubles and her deep love of her pets. I know there was a Carol that lived and loved life despite her bleak situation. I am sure she was full of life and had interests and experiences that were interesting and valuable. I never want to shrink people into just a “homeless” person. They are just like you and me, talented, joyful, clever, rich in life experiences, funny and smart.
When people like Carol die you wonder if you should have done more. I know I wish there were more services for people like her. In the end, I don’t think we failed Carol. I think we failed each other.
Carol was responsible for her heartache and we were responsible for not having a clear path to aid her as she spiraled to her demise. It is hard watching people die living in substandard conditions.
In her death let’s be alive in encouraging a solution for homelessness, especially those with pets.
- Patti Galle is Founder of Nevada County Pets of the Homeless, an organization dedicated to working with people and local organizations in our community to collect pet food and supplies for pets of the residents of Nevada County, CA. Our pets become family and they deserve no less. In times of stress and instability, sometimes a pet can be the beating heart we rely on for emotional support. Having a pet helps people get through one more day, providing support, protection and warmth during the nights.