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Die Like a Dog

with his soft warm toung on my cheek
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1 Die like a dog.jpg
Die Like a Dog
by nessie


Tip was a good dog. He was murdered in cold blood by a cruel and heartless man who got away with it because he is a cop. Tip is dead, but not forgotten. He lives in the hearts of those he left behind, and in the hearts of all who love dogs and justice more than they love the cops. Last Friday night, Tip's extended family held a candlelight memorial for him in front of San Francisco's main cop-shop/courthouse at 850 Bryant St.


hisfamily.jpg, image/jpeg, 499x264
When Tip was murdered, one of his human companions became quite understandably hysterical. Her name is Janet. She wasn't trying to hurt anybody. She was just screaming. She couldn't have hurt anybody if she wanted to. She was recovering from hip surgery, and was only able to walk with a cane and great difficulty. The cops wrestled her to the ground and restrained her. In the process, one of them broke his own sunglasses. So Janet was charged with assaulting an officer.

When I heard about this, I made it my business to be at the so-called “Hall of Justice” at 850 Bryant St. when Janet showed up for her first hearing. I interviewed her and two other witnesses. I have refrained from publishing it until now because I didn't want to jinx her case. Eventually, a judge threw the case out, but not before the ordeal had extracted time from Janet's life, and caused her a great deal of worry. As the SFPD take such joy in reminding the people they bust on bunk charges, you can beat the rap, but you can't beat the ride.

Some people would consider Chuck, Janet, and Dusty to be homeless people. Actually, they are vehicle dwellers. Their home is on wheels. The day Tip was shot, they were parked close to a dog park, along with a number of other similar vehicles. It is technically illegal to live in a vehicle on the street in SF. The loophole is you only have to move every 72 hours. There are several communities of vehicle dwellers in SF. They comprise a couple hundred individuals. They tend to look out for each other. They have to. The police push them around. All too often, the police murder their dogs, just because they can. All too often, the police also murder dogs who are companions of the truly homeless people, the ones who live on the sidewalk and under the bridges. While this happens fairly often, it is seldom if ever reported in the media. On the rare occasions that a middle class dog and the police tangle, it's news for days. Ask Max Castro, of San Francisco's Sunset District, or the Smoak family of North Carolina.

There are said to be ten to twenty thousand homeless people in SF. My guess is there are a lot more, and they just hide. There are a great many other people who are technically not homeless because they couch surf. My guess is based on personal experience. Giving away 1600 pounds of food every Thursday morning for six years in the eighties brought me into contact with a lot of hungry people. They included homeless people, couch surfers, vehicle dwellers and just plain poor people who have somehow managed to still hold onto their rooms and apartments. There are many of different kinds of poor people. They have little in common but poverty. But that's enough. Poverty is a full time job. Among the homeless, women are in the majority, a lot of them with children. You don't see them because they hide.

Back in the day, many vehicle dwellers drew a class distinction between themselves and the people who sleep in the bushes. Consistent and uniform persecution by the police has eroded this attitude by blurring the line between them. So has the increasing number of people who can’t afford to pay rent. Real estate speculation and Bush’s recession have made rent an unaffordable luxury for even many working poor. Then there’s the cops. If they tow your vehicle, it’s gone, and everything you own with it. you’re “kicked to the curb,” as the saying goes, and have to start over from nothing. None of Tip’s friends draw the distinction between those who live on wheels and those who live on their feet. Poor is poor. All poor people are in ever so slight variations of the same predicament. All are persecuted by the police. So are their dogs.

When you think of homeless people, you tend to think of disheveled winos, begging on the street. They are the ones you see, because they are the ones who don't hide. They are the tip of the iceberg. Far more common are people like Chuck and Janet, who are neither disheveled nor substance abusers, and their friend Dusty, who despite the moniker is clean and well dressed, and who is in recovery.

Tip was Chuck's dog, or rather, Chuck was Tip’s person. Chuck is Janet's significant other. Dusty is often their neighbor. Chuck, Janet and Tip were a family of three. Now they are just a grieving couple. For a living, they scavenge scrap metal. It pays only slightly better than welfare, and takes up a lot of time. But you don't have to punch a clock, or take orders from a boss. To some people, that's worth more than money. Scavenging is good exercise, too. It keeps Chuck in shape. I wish I looked as healthy as he does. The guy is built like a line backer. His size alone made the point in the narrative where he breaks down be a particularly heart rending moment. I gave him a big hug when it was over.

My connection with Tip is my friend Jane. Chuck saved Jane's life once. She made friends with him and Janet. Tip made friends with her. He was a very friendly dog. He made many, many friends. Most were poor. That's why he died the way he did. Rich people's dogs don't die this way.

Jane can't keep a dog where she lives, and she can't afford to move. She has a real deal on housing, and in this town, that's not something one walks away from. Rent is very expensive here. When you have a deal, you stick with it, or you have to leave town. New rentals are through the roof.

When Tip was alive, and Jane was feeling depressed, she would borrow Tip and they would go walking. He always cheered her up. Sometimes she borrows my dog for the same reason. Dogs are good for this sort of thing. Mammalian emotions are contagious, and it is very easy to make a dog happy. A dog can feel much greater happiness than its little brain can hold. The rest spills out, and gets all over whoever is nearby and has feelings. They act as a sort of amplifiering happiness reflectors. If you are so devoid of feelings as to be unable to share a dog's happiness, you're a psychic cripple. Get help. If that doesn't work out, you can always get a job with the SFPD. They hire people like you. You'd fit right into their culture.

For years, Jane tried to introduce me to Tip, whom she assured me I would like a great deal. She told me all about his personality, and how smart he was, and all the tricks he did, and how many friends he had, and how friendly he was, and how much people liked him, and how much I would like him, and when would I come and meet him? But I always kept putting it off, and now it's too late.

I'll never get to see him catch a tennis ball on the fly and drop it into the wire panniers of a moving bicycle. I'll never get to see him run along side and untie the cyclist's shoelace as he ran. I'll never get to see him lift from Jane's shoulders the crushing weight of depression that medication could never touch. I'll never get to shake his paw or rub his belly or feel his soft, warm tongue on my cheek. He's dead and gone, murdered in cold blood by a cruel and heartless man.

But he's not forgotten. He lives in the hearts of those he left behind, and in the hearts of all who love dogs and revenge more than they love the cops. -nessie
 
 

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