It's a common sight on the streets of downtown Portland and especially on the bus malls: groups of street kids with one or two dogs in tow, sprawled against a wall or on benches, hanging out with each other of hitting commuters for change. Who knows their reasons for being in the position they are in . . . choice . . . eviction . . . abuse at home? They manage because they are young and resilient, not yet having to worry about life-threatening health problems, caring for a family, paying for a house or car, or the other many duties of a mainstream lifestyle. I like to think that many of these kids will land on their feet; they are survivors. However, when they adopt an animal, can they meet the responsibilities of providing proper exercise, innoculations, licensing, and health care for this creature that depends upon them for its mental and physical wellbeing? Maybe so, probably not. I wonder how many of these "mascots" are abandoned when they become ill or inconvenient.
It's not healthy or natural for a dog to be forced to sit in the hot sun on the sidewalk of a bus mall for hours at a time or to be fed on scraps of food scavenged from dumpsters and garbage cans. Of course it's not healthy for a human being, either. But human beings can apply for social services or get some kind of work, however poor . . . a dog cannot. It's dependent upon the person who owns it.
In today's Oregonian, columnist S. Renee Mitchell addresses the "problem" of what author George L. Kelling calls, the "will-nots" of street people, into which - in her opinion - most street kids fall:
"The 'have-nots' are temporarily homeless and their problems can be solved with social services. The 'cannots' are veterans or folks who suffer from mental illness or substance abuse. They deserve compassion because they cannot fix their own issues. The 'will-nots' are street hustlers by choice."
While I think that Mitchell is being simplistic in assigning all street kids to the 'will-nots' category (there are obviously some who fall into the other two categories as well), anyone falling into any of the three categories and barely able to manage for themselves should think long and hard before taking on the responsibility of a pet.
Mitchell OREGONIAN Column:
Oregon Forum asks: How would you solve the problem? (discussions)