“Trust me” or “trust us” are phrases I have said hundreds of times to countless clients, some of which I am meeting for the first time when they hand over their pet to me or one of our counselors. Back when I was new to this work, I believed that if only I worked a little harder each day, I could improve their lives in a meaningful way. I knew what was right for them. Of course I did! It was so obvious to me or anyone looking at the situation. Why would anyone not want to hand over their pet in order to receive life saving care, housing, or a step forward towards a better life? What used to be so “easy” to understand has grown more complex as the years have passed. Now, I silently think, why should someone hand over their pet to me, to a counselor, or to anyone offering something that is different, new, or an “amazing” opportunity? Too often, clients’ lives have been filled with a list of broken promises, outright lies and manipulation, physical and mental illness, and/or a lack of basic needs being met, resulting in deep and long term trauma. The question for me to ask myself and what I ask our counselors to always consider is, Why should someone want to trust us? It takes more than just courage and access to programs. Sometimes a miracle needs to happen.
Earlier this week I received a call from nurse Josie, who works at the Star Clinic in a Los Angeles County Health Services’ program. Housing for Health has a goal of housing 10,000 of the county’s most vulnerable homeless within ten years. She calls me whenever there is a beloved pet who needs some type of service before the client will agree to go into a hospital to receive medical care. In this particular case, the pet owner had a bunny that was her constant companion and there was no way she was going to leave her bunny with a stranger. The client’s treatment plan had to include safe accommodations and care for “Milky Way”. Boarding dogs and cats while someone is in the hospital is a common service for DDR. We have fosters, our kennel, boarding facilities, and animal hospitals that we partner with. Caring for a bunny was going to involve a team effort. After a couple texts back and forth with nurse Josie, I realized that her client was our client. What a small world we work and serve in.
“Jesus Christ”, the pet owner’s previously-deceased bunny, had been in our Pet Resource Center program for pet owners who live in the Skid Row Community. Noemi had been her counselor and, upon hearing that she had a new bunny, sent me a photo from a couple years ago. She offered to help in any way with Milky Way. Counselor Amanda called the ASPCA clinic to set up an appointment for neutering and then boarding at Ardezz Kennel for two weeks or until his owner was ready to take him back. Now all we needed was a plan to get Milky Way and, thinking the plan through, Counselor Lola offered to foster him overnight before his surgery Saturday morning. Amanda met Milky Way’s owner, picked him up in what appeared to be a bird cage, and with counselor Yesenia’s help, made a pit stop at Petco to pick up a new crate and supplies.
Once nurse Josie was able to convey the plan step-by-step: who was picking Milky Way up, where he would receive medical care, where he would be living, how he would be living, and who was going to make sure he was safe, Milky Way’s felt good about focusing on her own urgent medical care. The day we picked up Milky Way, his owner entered the hospital. This would not have happened without a secure plan for Milky Way. This is just one of the many cases that have less to do with what seems logical to an outsider and more to do with establishing a connection, maintaining a level of trust, and following through with the plan. In turn, this connects us even more to clients who are courageous, despite negative events in the past, pl and shows them to possibly go outside their comfort zone to connect with someone so that their lives can improve. When I write improve, I mean, as according to their goals, not what I think is best or what society thinks they should or should not do. Nurse Josie wrote to me, “Can’t thank you enough.” Reading her text made me smile because I cannot thank her enough for calling DDR, and giving me this opportunity to serve another person just like me, who has what some would call “trust issues”.
When I wake up each morning, I take 10-15 minutes to read passages that will promote my spiritual growth and feelings of serenity. I reflect on all of the many ways that I am grateful for the people and events that continue to bless me on a daily basis. To help another person, who like me loves their pet, and needs their pet to comfort them in an often chaotic world, is my greatest blessing of all.
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