Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Street Dogs of South Central

Streets Dogs of South Central
Today, as part of my "What the Gays are Watching on YouTube" series, a trailer for a documentary I found aptly titled Street Dogs of South Central.

This is a feature film produced in part by Animal Planet and Lions Gate Television.  It tells the tale of Elsie and her puppies as they weather the streets of Los Angeles.  

The reason it is particularly dear to my heart, is because my dog Charlie is from South Central. In fact, Charlie looks a lot like the star of this film - what we call at the dog park the LA Ubiquitous Black Dog (a hodge-podge of the popular dogs in this town, all watered down - lab, pit, terrier).

pictured, Elsie with her pup

The mug shot they had on file for Charlie at the pound was inauspicious to say the least.  She did not enjoy being roped and grabbed from the street (and named Rufus by the handlers at Animal Services). I spent four hours the first day downtown going through all the dogs very carefully. At the end of the day, I asked them to print out a photo of "Rufus" to take home. I put the photo on my coffee table that night and pondered as my then-girlfriend noted, "That dog looks psychotic and rabid".

My best friend Dale was just as helpful. "Why are you getting a dog from the South Central Pound? Don't you know it'll be diseased?"

My second day at the pound I noticed most of the dogs from day one were gone, including Charlie's cel mate, a rottie. A mother dog and all her puppies that I had played with were also euthanized as well as 25 six-toed cats. All were from disease.

The handlers and workers were all really great, and I could tell they were doing their best. After going through all the cages, playing with the dogs I finally decided on Rufus, who I quickly renamed Charlese Furon.

Well, first, my friend was right. Charlie came home and proceeded to be deathly ill for 5 days. I don't even think I can recount her first bath.  Or should I say her first 12 baths including a de-flea and a de-tick by a very squeamish me.  Suffice it to say, she was disgusting on arrival.  I won't even tell you how many ticks I pulled off of her.   Meanwhile, she could barely even stand in the bath tub she was so sick.

pictured, Charlie and I a few months after adopting her.

She stayed on the floor, wheezing, oozing for a week. I thought I was going to lose her as she eventually couldn't even stand.  I had to carry her out to use the bathroom. Poor thing was not leash trained and scared of her own shadow.  On our first walk, she jumped when she stepped on a dried leaf and barked at a rock.

When she finally stood up and recovered from whatever doggie plague she had, the first thing she proceeded to do was to attempt to kill the cats. So I had to buy a muzzle. It was an interesting 5 weeks as I attempted to curb her cat-eating instincts whilst considering the thought of finding her a new home.

I thought getting a full grown dog would mean no house training. I was wrong. I had to teach her everything. Luckilly, she was a quick learn. Charlie was profoundly obedient and attentive, although always quite sad and petrified. Her particular traits included a total fear of humans, although completely socialized and friendly with dogs. You also could not raise your voice to this dog. To this day, a gentle "no" is all it takes. She is strangely sensitive and she will curl up with her tail between her legs in a corner if there is any anger or conflict around (which is some times trying when I take her to work with me at a film production office!).

pictured, Charlie stars in SHELTER with Brad Rowe

Charlie is also always happy. I don't think I've ever had a happier dog. Her energy is just amazing. So good spirited, so gentle. She is a big hit in the neighborhood, and at all the offices I've taken her to. She was even a star in my last film, SHELTER.

Now that she is no longer scared of people, she loves them. She especially loves little children and babies. Charlie has an incredible memory, and if she sees an old friend after months (or even years) she gets so excited, barking and wagging her tail.  

As for the cats, she tolerates them. Both mine sleep on her every night and she doesn't seem happy about it, but they all coexist. My one cat has a strange Pepe Le Pew love for Charlie and tends her groom her, carefully licking her from head to tail. Charlie just has that frustrated look and puts up with it.
(as I'm typing this, the cats are currently curled up against the dog at the foot of the bed)

There might be a moral here. Oh, I got one of these street dogs - something thrown away by our society - that is now one of the biggest joys of my life. Just having Charlie's energy in the house, around me all the time is just a wonderful, peaceful and loving addition to my life.

pictured below,  scenes from Street Dogs of South Central.

It's been five years since she was on the streets and now Charlie loves going to coffee houses, hanging out at the office, making new friends and she's even been on several vacations and work trips with me (so far she's been to San Fran, Palm Springs, Santa Barbara, Idlewild and the Santa Ynez wine country - I've basically snuck her into the finest hotels in SoCal). When I let her, she is also a big cuddler.

The one strange thing I've noticed is that she doesn't like carrots. In fact, I can't seem to feed her anything healthy. After some experimenting, the only people food she'll eat is blueberries and tomatoes. What the fuck?

To find out more about Street Dogs of South Central, visit http://www.myspace.com/elsiedog

As always, please get your dog from a shelter or rescue. PLEASE! I can't believe in this day and age with all these poor creatures being killed, abandoned, starving I have to type the words "Don't buy a pure bred. Don't buy from a puppy mill. "

Seriously, since the first six months, my dog is healthy, has no behavior problems, needs no special training or diet. Completely low maintenance and lovely to boot.

Mutts also live much longer, and because of a bigger gene pool, suffer far less medical issues.  Don't you want a companion that'll be with you a while!?

This is all just proof that these dogs don't belong on the street.  Dogs are only here at all because humans bred them to be companions.   So it boggles my mind that as a society, we can have a disregard for life like this.  As much responsibility as we each can take, as they say - each one, teach one - or in this case, each one, adopt one.

If the above video made you sad, here's a happy one. A street dog from South Central playing in our pool with her friends and the neighbor's cat Virginia.  As you can see, she now gets along with the feline.

My friend Lydia recently adopted a Ubiquitous Black Dog from the shelter. Lucy had many of the same shyness issues, but is coming out of them nicely. Here she is with Charlie playing in the Encino park. Once again, a far cry from the streets.

An interesting note, black coated dogs and cats are the least likely to be adopted. Once again, very odd.

If you'd like to help out the dogs of downtown LA, please visit http://www.downtowndogrescue.org/about.htm. Even if you're not adopting, you can always buy a calendar or t shirt to support them (or make a donation).

2 pithy remarks. Click here to Comment:

TheWeyrd1 said...

Due to my allergies I could not adopted just any dog. I was definitely considering a dog from a rescue for Bichons, but they warned that many of the this type of dog in the rescues had either behavioral/emotional issues or significant health challenges. So I got a puppy instead. Of course, I have to do the house breaking thing as well as go with less sleep while the puppy whines about being in a create and away from me. I've been told this is temporary though...I hope so. My lack of sleep and my appetite is being affected currently. I'm looking forward to lower maintenance days.

Good Sit said...

Well said, JD. Glad you and the cats are enjoying a spectacular life with your "pound puppy."