How to outfit a homeless puppy and her owners?
July 3, 2010 11:53 AM   Subscribe

Please help me put together a care package for a homeless puppy and her young owners.

Let me preface this by saying, I am a sucker for dogs. I make it a point to give at least a dollar to any panhandler with a dog.

The past couple days I've seen these two older teenagers sitting on the sidewalk (in NYC) with a little sign about how they are trying to get off the street, etc..etc... The first day, I walked right past them. The second day I noticed that they had the cutest tiny puppy in their lap and my heart melted, so I gave them a dollar. On the third day I went into the grocery they sit outside of and got them a bag of puppy kibbles and a $10 gift card. They were so incredibly grateful and we chatted about their dog and they let me play with her for a little while. Then later in the day I saw them again and they had a couple of grocery bags filled with drinks and food so I know the card didn't go to cigarettes and magazines.

I want to do more for these kids and their dog. I can't afford to keep giving them substantial monetary handouts but maybe there is something in my home that I can share with them? Some of the ideas I've had are small toiletries (purell, sunblock, toothbrushes, etc), clean t-shirts, wet naps to clean themselves up, books, an old dog purse that their little one would fit into, things like that. I'm also not opposed to bringing them some groceries but I don't really know what would be best for them nutritionally (peanut butter maybe?.) And then I realize that they probably don't want to go carrying a bunch of stuff around anyway. What sorts of stuff would benefit them without being too much of a burden?

Also, are their specific questions I could be asking them to try and help them find the real resources that are available to them?

Note that at the moment I'm not really looking for answers telling me that my money is better spent on a shelter or program. I want to help these specific kids.

Thanks all.
posted by mrsshotglass to Human Relations (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Why don't you ask them what they need?
posted by halogen at 12:03 PM on July 3, 2010

Best answer: Are there low-cost vet clinics in your area who might be willing to give/sell you a voucher for vaccines for the pup?
posted by corey flood at 12:10 PM on July 3, 2010

Best answer: The toiletries is a great idea. Maybe you could put that stuff in a couple of backpacks so they can carry it around? Maybe some canteens for drinking water?
posted by cazoo at 12:13 PM on July 3, 2010

Best answer: Every pet store in the world that sells food has little 3 oz sample bags of food. Go to a pet store and ask if they have a bunch to spare and explain what they are for...any pet store owner or employee will sympathize and load you up. They may have some that are expired or about to expire, or are for foods that have been discontinued or they don't sell so they will really have no need for the sample bags. They're more useful than big bags of food because they're single use, they stay fresh, and they don't leak kibble in whatever bag they will use to carry them around.
posted by vito90 at 12:58 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hook them up with a homeless support organization (here's one, I'm sure google will find many more depending on the exact location)
posted by HuronBob at 2:04 PM on July 3, 2010

oops, hit post too soon.. The goal is to get THEM off the street, not support the life style they claim they are trying to get out of...

You are being wise to not give them cash, but, you are, if you think about it, enabling a life style that isn't the most healthy for them (living on the street, pan handling)

And, I be a bit cynical here, but, if I was homeless/on drugs/an alcoholic/your dysfunction here I would NOT solicit help by proclaiming that I'm going to use the help to live on the street/score some pot/buy a bottle/continue the lifestyle.
posted by HuronBob at 2:07 PM on July 3, 2010

I am going to be cynical here because I live in Portland where street kids routinely steal dogs to help them get money out of nice people like you. Please check your local animal shelters and make sure no one is looking for a lost puppy before helping these kids out.
posted by haplesschild at 2:12 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would give them "Puppy Perfect", a great book about raising a healthy, happy, and well behaved puppy. No matter where the dog came from, it's theirs now, and everyone wants the puppy to have a happy life. That's a lot more likely if it is well behaved and if its owners have a reference guide as it grows. I took countless books out of the library when I got my puppy, and 'Puppy Perfect' was by far the best one. It may be a more significant financial investment than you wanted to make, but maybe you could find a cheap copy on Amazon. Either way books last and last and it may even be beneficial to future puppies.
posted by whalebreath at 8:47 PM on July 3, 2010

Response by poster: @haplesschild - now that story really bummed me out. i'm going to be optimistic here and assume the pup is not stolen. They told me she was only 6 weeks old, which makes me think that the bitch was also on the street.

thanks for the suggestions all. i think im going to find an old backpack and put some toiletries in it along with some print outs about outreach programs and a metrocard with a couple rides on it. i'll also look into finding a local vet/pet store who can help me out with shots and food.

i'm also going to try and balance whatever i spend on the kids with a donation to the nyc aspca. this way i can help more than just this one puppy. and we've got a bunch of old blankets and towels that i think our local shelter could use.
posted by mrsshotglass at 10:45 PM on July 3, 2010

Many years ago, I befriended a homeless woman who had a dog - an enormous rottweiler. It was a goofy, friendly dog, but my friend told me that when she slept in parks at night, the dog pretty much guaranteed her safety from strangers. It also made it much harder for her to find a place off-the-streets to live; she refused to live anywhere without her dog (and most shelters wouldn't allow someone in with any pet).

While my friend had ample addictions and significant mental illness, she always - always - made sure her dog was in good health. The dog went to the vet when it looked even a bit unwell (the vet provided a discounted service but my friend would panhandle for the money). My friend went without food, at times, to make sure her dog was fed.

What I'm saying here is that yes, there are people who have dogs (and other pets) for the sole reason of making money - and there are also people for whom an animal is a well-loved companion.

I'd advise that you stick to providing things for the dog - small (easily carried) bags of kibble, toys, a new leash, collapsible water bowl (easily portable). If the kids are really concerned about the dog, they'll be pleased to receive items that are useful and, if you ask, they'll likely tell you what they really need.

Hooking people up with resources is ALWAYS a good idea. Our local SPCA gives food to homeless pets - in those aforementioned easily-transportable bags. Another agency allows people with pets to be inside their warehouse on really hot days (so animals don't end up with heat stroke). Accompanying the kids to a few agencies, if you have the time, can be really helpful - many homeless people are quite accustomed to being treated poorly by "mainstream" people and thus avoid some of the agencies/people who can help. Advocate for them a bit.
posted by VioletU at 8:32 AM on July 5, 2010

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