About Debbie Fan

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So far Debbie Fan has created 30 blog entries.

Street Code

“Active Baby”

Last Wednesday was our day of service for pet owners who live in the Skid Row area. We are still on the corner of Industrial Street and Central Avenue, once a month, with a plastic folding table, some caution tape, and lots of pet food.  Some of the 110 pet owners, (65 dogs and 45 cats) who picked up supplies, are seen by DDR every month because we are their only connection to pet food.

Often, our counselors are confronted with emergencies such as a pet that has been poisoned or one who has been hit by a car. This week, a dog owner (who is homeless) walked his dog to our corner because he heard we might be able to help “Baby Active” who had been stabbed by a man with a knife, and attacked by the man’s aggressive dog.  I wish that I could write that meeting a new client with a pet that had been attacked by a dog, or stabbed was something new to us. It’s not.  Skid Row is an extremely violent place where people are living in survival mode 24/7. Looking at the bloody wounds on the Baby Active’s neck, our counselors remained calm and began calling partner animal hospitals to see if any veterinarian could examine him immediately. Dr. Vasquez at North Figueroa Animal Hospital came to the rescue.  With no appointment, Baby Active was loaded into a car and off they went to the hospital in Highland Park.

It was later that the entire story of how this horrible act happened.  Baby Active was resting inside their tent when an off-leash, aggressive dog broke through the tent and began attacking him. The owner of the aggressive dog pulled out a knife and stabbed Baby Active in the neck.  I could go into more details, and post some graphic photos, but I won’t because this post is not about Baby Active being attacked.  The purpose of my post is to explain to you, our supporter, about the street code and how it prevents justice from being served.  Not only for pets, but mostly for people who are attacked, raped, or terrorized physically and mentally while they live on the streets of Skid Row.  Some of you reading this post may think the people living on the street want to be there, that it’s their choice, but is it?  Despite what you feel about the “Homeless Situation” or as I call it, “The Humanitarian Crisis”, you may think that there is help for anyone who wants it.  Help is complicated, and someone has to feel safe enough to accept it. Using Baby Active’s case, let me walk you through what happened next.

As soon as counselor Amanda texted me that a Skid Row dog had been stabbed, and was taken to the hospital for surgery. I texted her, and then called for more details.  Since we had photos to document the injuries, a veterinarian to document that […]

Loba Lives Here

Sunday morning, I got all of my handmade Pet Clinic signs and flyers together, and headed off to the parks to hang them up.  Over the years, vinyl banners, poster board signs, and lots of flyers, door to door, in targeted zip codes of South Los Angeles has resulted in more than 10,000 community pets being spayed/neutered and vaccinated at our monthly dog clinics with the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association. Prior to COVID we were operating our monthly event out of the Watts Senior Center, planning on staying for two years, like the previous locations.

3 year ago when Lola was microchipped at one of our free dog clinics

Committing to an area, focusing on the needs of the community, we get to know people and their pets very well.  In some cases, we offer their pets a lifetime of support with both food and veterinary services.  We get to know the pet owners like Loba’s “dad” who appears to live in one of  the parks that I visited Sunday morning. I visit this park often. Sometimes I see Loba, laying under the table while her owner plays cards with friends. Other times, she is following behind him, wagging her tail, watching his every move.  Then there are the times that the park seems deserted, no Loba, and I wonder if she is still alive.

A couple years ago, driving north on Compton Ave., I saw Loba sprawled under a truck, as if she had been hit by a car.  Believing what I had feared might happen came true, I assumed she was she was dead. I even wrote a Facebook post so that DDR dog clinic volunteers who knew her would know that she died.  There was no doubt in my mind, Loba was dead, I was sure that I saw her lifeless body.

To my great surprise, who do you think pranced up to our dog clinic, it was Loba!  She was alive, I was shocked.  How could she be alive, I had seen her under a truck, dead.  Since her owner speaks Spanish, a volunteer translated, letting me know, “Oh yeah, she does that when she is hot.” Well, I was so happy and relieved to see Loba alive.  I felt ashamed thinking that my very first thoughts when I saw what appeared to be her “lifeless body” under the truck was, Damn it, I knew that she was going to get hit one day. I should have rescued her. I should have convinced her owner she deserved a better life.

Fast forward to Sunday morning in the park off 47th street.  I saw Loba’s owner, or was it him?  He looked older and tired. As I approached him reading our clinic sign, I realized, yes, that’s him, and there was Loba, under the picnic table, curled up in a ball. He called out for her to come, and that’s when I saw that she also looked older, with a matted […]

Doris Doesn’t Need To Be Rescued

8 year old Doris

A couple of weeks ago, a Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA) case worker reached out to counselor Amanda about Doris, an 8 year old Yorkie mix, who we helped before. Actually, this was the third time that Doris’ owner needed our services to support her path of recovery. Doris would need to go into boarding while her owner went into detox and rehab.

When you look at the photo of Doris, what do you see? Are you upset by the image? Do you want to rescue her, and get her out of that box? Or do you see a well cared for dog, who is snuggled in a blanket and placed in a box for safe keeping during her car ride? When I posted this photo on the DDR social media platforms, we received a variety of comments ranging from the assumption that she needed a new home, to offers of fostering. We also received very personal sharing of recovery and how pets had positively impacted, and in some cases, saved the person’s life.

Reading the comments posted on Facebook and Instagram, I can’t deny that I felt defensive, even a little judgmental reading the comments from followers, who thought that Doris needed to be re-homed, was in a bad situation due to being transported in a box, and even speculated as to what type of life she has had with her person. I wondered how someone could question whether she has a “good home”? To me it was obvious: she is well loved and adored. The photo told me everything I needed to know. FYI I have never met Doris or her person. I have never spoken to her over the phone. I know Doris and her person just about as well as anyone on social media knows them. But I could imagine how she felt. I’m grateful that I’ve had an opportunity to learn how incredibly difficult a path to recovery is for anyone, and how it is complicated more by being homeless, and/or without a stable support network.

Like most of our clients who need to go into treatment, Doris’ owner would not have accepted the offer of treatment if she could not be assured that her dog would be in a safe place and returned to her as soon as it was possible. Too often, not providing that assurance leads to pet owners who are experiencing homelessness and struggling with addiction, to stay living an unhealthy lifestyle on the streets.  Not to over generalize here, but I think it’s fair to write, based on many stories that I’ve listened to for more than 20 years, that for the pet owner who is homeless or addicted to drugs and /or alcohol, the dog or cat is their reason to get up everyday, the reason to live, and to try to get clean. It is their pet who offers them unconditional love. Caring for their pet might be their […]

Being Instead of Doing

 

When I think back on all the good work that Downtown Dog Rescue has done for more than twenty years, I’m really proud of the amazing team that I continue to work with, and the other non-profit organizations that we collaborate with to provide services. Too often, I think about what we’ve done in terms of the numbers. When we apply for grants, or appeal to donors for funding, it’s usually about how many services performed, how many dogs rescued, how many pets prevented from entering the shelter system, and the number of pets spayed and neutered.

DDR has rescued and adopted thousands of dogs, facilitated the spay and neuter of tens of thousands of cats and dogs, and prevented more than 14,000 pets from entering one shelter in only seven years. On paper, all of this looks impressive, the work that we have done. However, I measure success differently, much differently than I did when I started this organization. As a result of doing this type of work, and the pet owners and the dogs teaching me what I need to learn on a daily basis, I measure success by the relationships that we build one pet and one pet owner at a time.

Don’t think for a minute that I’m all “zen”, and everything in my world is unicorns and rainbows. It doesn’t take much for me to get caught in the cycle of putting too much emphasis on achieving a goal, a number that represents “a job well done”.  As a people-pleaser in recovery, it’s a daily challenge to just be in the moment, not worrying about how everyone else feels, or is reacting to me.  Just when I thought that I was doing super duper at being present, our monthly dog clinic with the SCVMA was an opportunity to stop, and examine what is truly important.

Due to COVID, our usual clinic locations, public parks still closed, the company that I work for, Modernica, agreed to generously allow the use of the five acre Modernica Factory campus.  It’s amazing, we had so much space to line up more than 100 cars of pet owners, and volunteers. This is how we kept it safe for everyone. Pet owners were required to call our office and make an appointment. Each pet owner was given a reservation time, and we filled out all their paperwork before the day of the clinic. When they arrived, the paperwork was placed on the windshield, the pet owner and the pet remained in their car until they drove up to one of the vaccination stations, where a tech took the pet out of the car to be vaccinated, microchipped, dewormed, and flea and tick meds were applied, all free of charge. We’ve completed two drive thru clinics, and almost doubled the number of cats and dogs served from the first drive thru clinic.

Before each clinic, I say the serenity prayer […]

Drive-Thru Food Drive = More Pets Spayed and Neutered

 

I wanted to share a great event that we participated in on Saturday, a free dog and cat food drive thru, hosted by council members Wesson and Harris-Dawson, for South Los Angeles pet owners in need.  With our friends at Watts Project, DDR was able to sign up 67 pets for spay/neuter + vaccinations, who otherwise, might never have learned about the free resources to get more cats and dogs sterilized.

When we first received the event information, it was presented to us as partnering to help pass out food, which is wonderful, but doesn’t have a lasting impact.  Don’t get me wrong, for some pet owners, who are in dire financial situations, a free bag of pet food makes a big difference that month, but what about long term?  Giving out free supplies and food without resources to me doesn’t make a lot of sense.  When I write resources, I mean more than handing someone a flyer, a business card, telling them to call an office, or contact a person, etc, which often never gets done. Why? Because, as I often say to new volunteers who can’t understand why pet owners don’t spay and neuter their pets when it’s free, my reply is,”Life happens. ”

Getting a pet spayed or neutered when one may not have housing at the end of the month, or enough food to feed their children until the first of the next month, is not going to be top of the list of things to get done.  Plus, even free sometimes isn’t free.  The surgery is free but the vaccinations are not, and the vaccinations are required. A dog license must be purchased to get the free surgery.  All of the sudden the free service is costing $20 or more, which may not seem like a lot of money to you, but it’s the difference of paying the phone bill, or getting the phone cut off for many of our clients, and a mobile phone is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity to stay connected to opportunities, and more.

Back to the event, set up in a parking lot, cars drove through, food was picked up, DDR and Watts Project volunteers asked each pet owner if their pet was sterilized.  Of the 100 pets who received food, 67 needed services.  Not all of them needed surgery, some were sterilized, but needed booster vaccinations, which we will be provided at our drive thru vaccination clinic next Sunday with the SCVMA volunteer veterinarians and techs.  We will also partner with Spay4LA, who will have their mobile clinic parked and offering free spay and neuter surgeries.

Through ongoing community events, partnering with other non profits, we continue to spread the message about the importance of spay and neuter, as well as providing pet owners with a resource, right in their community, called the Pet Support Space.  At […]

Urgent – My Baby

I wanted to share a case with all of you, that really touched my heart on many levels.  It all started when I read an email entitled “Urgent – My Baby”. As you can imagine, I receive a lot of urgent email pleas, usually from people trying to re-home their dog, or asking DDR to rescue a particular shelter dog.  As a form of self-care, I limit the amount of messages and the types of messages that I will read.  This one appeared to be something different.  Jennifer, Baby’s “mom” was desperately reaching out to anyone and everyone who could help her redeem her Chihuahua named Baby. The fees totaled $385, and every day that Baby remained in the shelter, the fees increased by $50. I immediately thought about what this dog owner was going through, as someone who did not have the money to get her dog back.  Then, I checked myself, thinking, this dog is Orange County, I have to set boundaries, and just because someone is homeless and loves their dog doesn’t always mean the dog is better off going back to the owner. I had nothing but this email to prove to me that Baby’s case was different.

Even though I was going on a hike, more self care, and I told myself that I was going to be one of several that would donate, I replied back to Jennifer, asking her how much money she had raised, where in Orange County was Baby impounded, and to please send me her phone number so that we could talk.  Within minutes, I received a reply.  We talked, and within a few minutes, I knew from a lot of experience that the fees were accumulating faster than she could raise funds. With a very limited income, some recent health problems, which was the cause of Baby going to the shelter, she did not have any money raised.  From what I could hear, her network of friends were in similar situations to her current situation.  She went on to tell me she applied to other dog rescues and programs, and I was the first one that had gotten back to her.  I have to admit, I had a tinge of regret for getting involved as soon as we hung up.  I knew that this wasn’t going to be an easy case.

I cut my hike short so that I could speak to someone at the Orange County shelter about what it would really take to get Baby back with his mom. After being on hold for 20 minutes, it was now 1:30, the shelter closed at 5:00 which meant Jennifer had to get over there now.  When I called Jennifer, telling her to go to the shelter and that DDR would pay all the fees, as long as she agreed to use her free spay voucher, she was ecstatic, and very grateful.  However, she wasn’t […]

Remembering Larry

 DDR supporters, I want to share a story about a very special dog named Larry.
It was the fall of 2009 when I first met Larry – chained to a phone pole with no shelter, no water, and no hope.  He was one of over 100 “rescue dogs” on a large “kennel property” in South Los Angeles run by a Diane B. Carey and her non-profit, South Central Stray Rescue.  Diane was later prosecuted on animal cruelty charges and lost her ability to practice law in California, all due to this case. Thinking that I was helping an overwhelmed good hearted rescuer who was in over her head, I soon realized that this property, and everything that was going on, was a far more complex situation. Later, DDR would become involved in prosecuting the people involved in running this operation.
Each weekend I would volunteer at the “rescue” situated in an industrial area off Central Avenue.  As I arrived, I would hear the barking and smell the filth of uncleaned makeshift runs. Some of the dogs were chained to non-operational motor homes and others were grouped in areas with very little, if any, space to exercise. Surely this was illegal.  Wow, did I have a lot to learn.  I quickly discovered that the kennel requirements for the City of Los Angeles had not been updated since the 1950’s.  Other than the chained-up dogs, this organization was not breaking any laws.
This case became my life for six months. My mission was to get every dog off the property and into real rescues and foster homes one dog at a time.  DDR had an amazing group of volunteers who also dedicated their time to get the dogs out anyway they could.

Some of the over 100 dogs that we rescued off the property.

 

Photo taken of Larry right before he was rescued

Larry was the first dog that I felt deeply connected to. I met him on a Saturday morning and when I saw his pleading eyes, tears flowed from my eyes. While the situation was emotionally overwhelming, I somehow focused on getting Larry out and into my car.  I was told by the man working at the kennel that Larry was a “problem dog”  because he had too much energy and constantly wanted to jump the fence.  Offering to take Larry off their hands, no one at the facility objected.  So, Larry was riding in my car, back to our old DDR kennel on 7th Place and Santa Fe.
Larry thrived at our kennel and was quickly adopted by a wonderful woman who promised to always give him the space he needed and to love him forever.  She kept her promise, and we stayed in touch over the years.  In fact, after she adopted Larry, she married, had a beautiful baby daughter, and adopted a companion dog from DDR that […]

Phoebe – A story of hope

Phoebe

 

Last Monday, I received a Facebook message from the son of a dog owner who wrote, “Please help me I’m desperate. I barely had just under enough for a consultation and no vets would take me. I checked all over the place.”  Thankfully, he didn’t wait for my response via Facebook Messenger, he called our Pet Support Space Office, and was able to speak directly with one of our counselors.

4-year-old Phoebe had been hit by a car. Phoebe’s owner and her son were homeless, living in their vehicle when Phoebe accidentally got out of the car.  Upon finding her lying on the pavement, the son knew Phoebe was seriously injured. With no money and no support from family or friends who could loan him money, he started reaching out – calling animal hospitals and checking prices. He even started a Facebook fundraiser to try to save Phoebe’s life before finding DDR.

DDR counselor Amanda learned of the severity of Phoebe’s injuries and immediately arranged for Phoebe to be examined by a veterinarian.  Thanks to the generosity of our friends at Animal Wellness Foundation, we were able to get treatment for her injuries and three days of hospitalization.  The total cost for her hospitalization and care was $612.  We paid $400 and the Animal Wellness Foundation covered $212.

Upon releasing Phoebe from the animal hospital, it was a difficult decision for all of us to make to let Phoebe return to her family because she still needed continued care, but her family was more than capable of administering medication and keeping a watchful eye over her.  My first thought when I listened to Counselor Amanda explain this case was to take control, insist Phoebe go into a foster home while she recovered, or have another round of medical boarding.  We worried about the heat and how they would manage. However, trusting that her family loves her and only wants the best for her, we remained open to the plan of her going “home”. But, I wanted to know more. What led them to becoming homeless? Are they looking for housing? Is it fair to put Phoebe back with her family when they are living in a car during this heat wave?

When I work directly or indirectly with a pet owner who is trying so hard to do everything right, and I can see how dedicated they are to their pet, I consciously have to remind myself that the pet owner(s) will allow change when they are ready for change. We can provide resources and options and when they are ready for the change to come into their life, DDR will be there. It’s not my responsibility to fix their problems or to impose my idea of what is best on them, because what I think is best, may not be the best solution.

After Phoebe went back to her family, they truly did the best they could considering the situation they were living in. They realized they needed […]

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