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By JM Simpson

“Pets are humanizing,” said actor James Cromwell, who added, “They remind us we have an obligation and responsibility to preserve and nurture and care for all life.” 

And this says nothing about the unconditional love expressed by a pet; it can brighten a day.  

Several of the unhoused people in Olympia would likely agree.   

“She is my saving grace,” said Corrina as she stood in a downtown doorway out of the rain holding a cat.  “I’ve been homeless for six years, and I can’t imagine what I would be like now if I didn’t have her and, for that, I named her Grace.” 

Not too far away in The Jungle, Karla said that her dog Buster was protective yet playful.  “I’ve been here for over four years, and I can’t begin to say how happy I’m to have him here,” she said as she stood in front of her makeshift tarp home.  “He’s protective of me, but he’s fun to be with too.” 

Playing with a cat or a dog can take an individual’s mind off of their problems and help place them in the here and now, as a cat named Sugar demonstrated last Saturday morning as two homeless men played with her while waiting for Joyful Hands Outreach to serve breakfast. 

 “She’s the cat for all of the homeless here in Olympia,” one of the men said.  “We found her when she was a kitten, and we’ve been raising her.  And we’re happy to let others be around her.”  Both mentioned they had been homeless for several years. 

 Further down Capitol Way North a homeless man who was eager talk about his dog but asked that we not use his name sat on a bicycle texting on a mobile phone.  Asked about the dog sitting patiently in front of him, he replied that “he’s the best friend I’ve got; his name is Handsome; and he makes me feel good.”  He would not say how long he had been unhoused. 

That feel-good emotion neatly characterized what a man who said his name is Prince, who has been homeless for several years, said a few weeks ago while sitting with a group of the unhoused and a dog named Hollywood.   “You can’t beat this; he just makes the day brighter.” 

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