What if you were forced to leave your home and you could only take one belonging? What would you take? For most pet owners, it would be their animal.For the homeless, the choice between living in a shelter and living outside is an easy one, most shelters don’t allow pets.
That’s why many homeless decide to live on their own, because they can’t live without their pets.
One woman is making it her mission to help those people and their animals.
Ann-Marie Johnson’s passion has always been helping animals, but when she saw a Facebook post from a local outreach group of a homeless man with his dog, she found herself asking the question, who is taking care of his dog? That’s how she started her own outreach, in the woods of Prince William County.
“This is a long walk,” says Ann-Marie Johnson, as she hikes through the brush. It’s a hike, but she knows it by heart. She also knows everyone who lives there, especially those on four legs.
“Hi Sasha,” Ann-Marie says as she greets the galloping Chow-Newfoundland mix. “That’s the big bear, she is my baby.”
“As you can see, Sasha is very well fed,” Ann-Marie says. “We’re going to put her on a diet, right Janet?” Ann-Marie says as she nudges Sasha’s human, Janet Hennige.
Sasha and Janet call tent city their home, they have for several years now. “Basically I sleep on a little sliver of the bed and she owns the queen mattress,” Janet says as she points at Sasha.
Janet works odd jobs for the necessities. “Well number one, if it came down to me or eating, Sasha is eating, I’m going without,” Janet says. That’s where Ann-Marie comes in, several times a week, year-round.
“Do you have flea and tick medicine?” Ann-Marie asks Janet. “Yup, good on flea and tick meds,” Janet replies.
As Ann-Marie walks to the next camp, she is almost immediately greeted by another smiling face. “Babygirl! This is why I do this, this right here. She’s my reason,” Ann-Marie says as she rubs the dog’s ears.
Babygirl is a special case. “She has a massive growth on th eback of her foot,” says Ann-Marie. “They’re talking about possibly amputating, possibly that toe.”
The vet bill for that operation could end up being about $2,000. Ann-Marie is raising money now to make that happen, and have another much-needed surgery. “Babygirl is getting ready to get spayed!” That’s another part of Ann-Marie’s job, education, and why it’s important to spay and nueter.
“Come here Aqua, say hi Aqua!” Ann-Marie says as she picks up one of Babygirl’s puppies. “She is a blessing and she is adorable but no more, there’s too many out there.”
After all, Ann-Marie has her hands full as it is, just next door, where Dwayne Greene lives with his best friend, Zeus.
When Ann-Marie completes her rounds, she opens up shop in the back of her car for the humans, and animals. “I’ve got socks and water and food for Babygirl,” Ann-Marie says as she hands out supplies.
The debate over the homeless having a pet is one Ann-Marie doesn’t get into. She’s not here to judge. “It’s what keeps them going, once I got to know them and that was it,” says Ann-Marie. “If I could help them keep their animals and keep them out of shelters, that’s what I’m going to do.”
To donate to help the dogs, visit Ann-Marie’s rescue, http://www.bobbiespitrescue.org/.