A Chilling Walk In San Francisco (blog)

Here are some images I captured with my camera one day here in San Fransisco, CA. The tall building is the Marriott where I was placed in a beautiful room on the 35th floor (4th from the top) with a panoramic view of the city below, the tall hills in the distance and the Golden Gate Bridge peeking between buildings.

San Fransisco Marriott. I’m on the top floor with a large view of the city.

I found that my view didn’t represent the city. I was warned that the streets were filled with homeless, crazy people and the smell of urine. I have found homelessness endemic in many cities I visit especially in the large cities the AAEP holds its annual meetings.

San Fransisco flowers in the park.

There is a small manufacturer of backpacks uniquely made for photography equipment (Peak Design) that was located 1.5 miles from my hotel here. I looked it up on the iPhone map and plotted my walking route down Mission St, right on 9th and left on Hayes to the store. Along the way, no one made eye contact as people walked with the sole purpose of getting past the downtrodden people lining Mission St. Faceless people wrapped up completely in blankets sleeping on concrete in the 50-degree weather at noon. Tents hid other sleepers. Dozens sat in wheelchairs along the street. More sat with friends or alone with their backs against the buildings. I often smelled urine. Two separate occurrences of men seriously screaming profanity to invisible people caused me to give a wide birth and not engage them with my eyes. My hands remained deep in my coat pockets mostly to hide my watch from someone wanting to take it. Eyes remained down or on distant things. My feet moved rapidly coursing around people high on drink and drugs weaving sideways into my path.

Shady people stood in doorways. One young man dressed in a black suit, black shirt, black tie, black shoes with a white face and blond hair guarded a doorway leading to a dark hall lit with blue light. Small stores had big men as bouncers sitting at their doors. Larger businesses had electronic doors or guards stationed inside.

A San Fransisco seagull in the park.

I made it to my destination out of breath and purchased my things. The tax was high. I could have saved money ordering online with no tax and free shipping. The tax wasn’t helping the street people I saw anyway.

When I asked about getting a taxi or an Uber, the staff basically told me that they had become refractory to the plague of their streets. Admitting it was sad, they had no plan or desire to change things. They did advise a different route back but warned me to avoid an even worse area where drugs ruled the neighborhood.

I returned to Market Street which was a bit more upscale and was parallel to Mission Street by one block. The desolate ones there had something the people on the other street didn’t have as much. They had dogs. Lots of dogs and there was a love between the homeless and the dogs obvious to me.

I can work on any horse 5 times my size and quick as lightning and not be afraid because I know them so well. To say I was on double high alert on my walk was an understatement. Looking behind me would show my fear. I walked quickly and realized a woman with leopard tights was walking alongside me as if we were a couple. After a while, I realized she was grouping to add protection through size as we walked. It was subconscious. But with only one more block to go, I relaxed not because I was almost back to safety but for something that surprised me. It was the love of the homeless for their dogs and the dog’s lack of judgment for their humans. That was my lesson and my release from fear. My hope is that there is a compassionate veterinarian helping these dogs. I know they will always be in my thoughts.

Christmas lights in the park in San Fransisco.

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  1. Thank you for writing this. I’d like to add just a couple of thoughts for now. Our fear is misplaced. The homeless won’t start the next war. The homeless aren’t the cause of climate change, etc, etc. And just because hard work and perseverance got us where we are today, doesn’t mean that hard work and perseverance guarantees success for everyone. Perhaps some of us were also luckier.

    1. A very thoughtful comment Barbara. Shock always comes when a normal pattern is interrupted and my daily view of bucolic farm life was interrupted on this walk. Still the love between dog and human shined through. Thanks Barbara.

  2. Thanks for sharing this experience. Opened my eyes to a far bigger problem in humanity. Times must change. I live in a small county in the UK. Relatively lucky down here, but we too have homeless, hungry, drug and alchol addicts and those who have simply fallen on hard times. It could be any one of us, something we should all think about.

    1. Hello to you in the UK! Thanks for following my writings.

      I think most of us “farm folks” are shocked when we go to any city or large town. Most of us prefer horses to humans and can’t grasp the mental condition that allowed the homeless to become homeless. After all we are “barn girls” and “barn boys” who continue to work through adversity (relationships, money, pain). We are inately intolerant of those who don’t toughen up and plow through.

      But as you so clearly state, “There, but for the grace of God, go I”. So many horse owners are coping with life by being in the barn. Some with alcohol and some with drugs but ALL with sweet smelling horse poop! Life is an inside job and the stories we and these homeless folks have written inside our minds is just that – a story. We believe our story because we wrote it.

      I for one am re-writing my story every day so that it matches my true intentions. My prayers are to those who will help the people who are helping the homeless and their pets. Through our moments of including our powerful thoughts, we all can indirectly help all people – and pets and horses and environment and politics – whatever we choose to focus on.

      So grateful to you for reading and commenting. Now lets all collectively make a good thought of helpful intentions to all the homeless and their pets in the world. Thanks! Doc T

      1. Watch Heartland and that gives you some idea of humans struggling who work and live with horses. it takes place in Canada. the series started in 2007 and has been ongong for 11 years.

  3. I also felt as if I was reading a novel. The wonderful photos are a pleasant distraction from the harsh realities of life. As I read this in my home located in the tranquility of the countryside, I realize how truly fortunate I am. Never was or will be a city girl! This world can be a very scary place! Stay safe in your travels, Doc T.!

  4. San Francisco has always been a troubled city in one way or another and I’m sure it it much worse than I saw it 10 years ago. Our world is sad and broken and the beauty of friendship between the people on the street and their dogs is heartwarming and yet a burden at the same time in that the dogs too do suffer and are asked to work hard emotionally to support their humans. Glad you found beauty there Doc. We have much to be humbly grateful for hm?

  5. What a scary experience,I worked in Paterson,NJ as a OR nurse,it was the Ghetto,
    I was afraid to park my car.When I was called in at night,after time the locals called me Nurse Rochelle,you say Why because it was the knife and gun club!

    I truly love the pictures you take,what a geat photographer

  6. I understand your concern and your wariness of the homeless. I have the same problem, whether in Yakima, WA, Portland, OR or Seattle, WA. However, there are groups, some even 501c3’s that brave these areas, we try to avoid, strictly to provide services for their companion animals. Homelessness is hard, and for many it isn’t a choice and with the right resources and contacts they will eventually be back in a home and in 2-3 years, back on their feet. Mean time, they have their pets. They can hardly afford to feed themselves but they care deeply for their pets. These people who provide this service, most who have been in their shoes, go out in the darkness, the rain, the heat, and the cold to provide leashes, food, dishes, water, and often times arrange for vet treatments. Other times the dog or cat may need a simple nail trim. Other times it is bigger than that. These people feel they can trust no one except these loyal creatures. I get it! I am the same way. I trust my 4 legged companions far more than a 2 legged person. The companions love unconditionally! They provide comfort and solace to these broken people. Yes some have mental health issues, some just made a bad choice at one point in their lives and there are the ones who work and work and work and the pay check just isn’t enough to cover the rent. But these people truly care for their 4 legged companions. This is not the most ideal life for any of these soles, but the 4 legged creatures, are sometimes the only ones that can make street life bearable. I am sure there are organizations in other cities who do the same work. But I am connected with one who works tirelessly in Seattle to help homeless pets. As I mentioned before, she goes out and walks the streets and gives out dog/cat food, bottled water, dishes, safety lights and poo bags. She sometimes can connect the people with resources to help the people and not just the animals. Sometimes the person realizes a life on the streets is not a life for his 4 legged companion and they surrender the animal to this organization. Sometimes it is medical care the animal needs and this fine woman makes the arrangements to help the animal. She herself was once homeless and she understands. She also fights a horrible disease, cancer. Yet it is her calling to help these animals. Often times all she can do is cry with the person as getting the animal to a vet is impossible. Because of her personal and tireless efforts to help these people she doesn’t have much time for fund raising. She has organizations throughout her area she covers that donate dog coats and food and toys and treats. Sometimes she gets special requests for tie out trolleys and crates. She has an amazing vet that works with her, but often times she reaches the set financial limit with the vet and until that bill is paid down he won’t treat any more of “her” animals. I understand to some degree why the vet does this. Especially if you watch shows, like Pitbulls and Parolees and find out that they run near a million dollars in vet bills per year. Obviously this organization is no where near that amount, but it is difficult and sad when she can no longer help the pets because she doesn’t have enough funding. Some other services she helps arrange are free grooming days by professional, mobile groomers, spay/neuter, discount vaccinations clinics and hospice for dogs near end of life, boarding for those who do not want to surrender or because they are nearing a point where they might be close to being back on their feet. She also helps provide boarding for those who are able to work but are reluctant to leave their dog/cat unattended in the homeless encampment. Which I totally understand. You never know who might be passing through or if the drugs the guy is selling looks tempting enough that the friend “sells” your dog while you are at work. So my point is, do not assume a homeless person with a pet is being mean by keeping the pet. Secondly, if you can, find an organization like the one I am connected with and donate or volunteer. There are other alternatives to walking the streets, if that isn’t your thing. Help fund raise, talk to other community members and set up a food drive or foster a pet for someone who needs time to regroup. Some are even looking for help with their pet so they can go into rehab. Again, this is never something you enter into willy nilly. Taking on a person’s pet who is homeless or going into rehab is a big responsibility and many questions need to be answered before I would feel comfortable. Like who pays for the vet bills? What happens if the person abandons the pet with you? It isn’t exactly like you have legal recourse. So again, if you would like to help in something like this, do it through an experienced organization. If you want to help my friend, she runs Seattle Dogs Homeless Program.
    Dr. T I apologize for high jacking your post on your trip to San Francisco, but it seemed an appropriate place to share.

    1. Thanks for this. It was way out of my normal day experience and I asked people if there was care for these pets. Glad to know that there is.

  7. this is happening all over the country in big cities. No more middle class, only the weallthy and the poor is what will be left now. Mostly poverty is what we’ll be experiencing.

  8. The beautiful pictures are in such contrast to what you witnessed on the streets. The middle ground, whether it be in life style or what one thinks is appropriate for horse dentistry is shrinking. I felt like I was reading a novel, loved it. Looking forward to seeing you in March.

    1. Not right now. Just too busy with floating and other projects. Maybe thinks will change in the early part of 2019 after some projects get completed. For instance we are re-doing the entire Horse’s Advocate site and truying to get a podcast off the ground. Yikes! I’m only human (grin).

    1. It didn’t used to be like this in San Francisco. People can’t afford to live there anymore…..only very wealthy people or people who have lived there for decades and have their home paid off.