What happened, and my plan to change our lives.
I am homeless with my dog Lucky. Lucky is a very special dog and the love and friendship I have with Lucky is a treasure, something that is very important in my life.
I will not abandon Lucky so that I can live a comfortable life. I (we) are homeless because after my divorce and a perfect storm of events Lucky developed a severe case of separation anxiety that made it impossible for me to work.
I am physically and mentally able. I want to work. For 15 years after my recovery from the accident that resulted in the amputation of my lower right leg, I have worked continuously. For the past 12 years of those years I had enjoyed a comfortable six-figure income working jobs that I enjoyed.
2008 was a bad year for a lot of people. I started living in my van with Lucky that year. I could not have imagined we would struggle for so long. During the time that we have been homeless, Lucky has endured some bad times including several horrific incidents. He was plagued by painful foxtail abcesses, and we managed to fend off attacks by bad people and dogs.
There were two incidents that were really terrible. In the first, he was attacked by two pit bull dogs (intentionally by the owner), while he was on his short leash in front of a coffee shop. The whole attack was captured on video surveillance. The second was even worse, he was abducted and brutalized, he suffered injuries that no dog should suffer, he nearly died.
We came so close to getting out of our dilemma;
After trying to find work that I could bring Lucky to proved futile, I decided to go in a new direction. I had been doing photography as a hobby and discovered that I had been blessed with a gift. Even though I viewed photography as a hobby, I was receiving a lot of compliments.
I did mostly surf photography and my photos were published in many magazines including Surfers Journal, Surfer Magazine, Slide Magazine, Surfers Path, On The Board and many more. My photo of legendary surfer Skip Frye is displayed in bronze on the monument at Tourmaline Surfing Park. Although the circumstances were sad, my photos have been seen on the Today Show.
During the time that I have been without work with Lucky, I have studied and learned more about photography. I 've learned how to do video editing. I don't drink or take drugs so I put my time to good use.
I decided that instead of trying to work as I always did, I would use my gifts for photography and creative energy to earn a living. My plan was to get an economical camper van to live in and for transportation. It would be equipped with a generator so that I could leave Lucky inside while I did the photoshoot. The camper would be set up so that I could process photos and work on my video and other creative projects.
We would have a safe place to live, and the ability to work.
Six months ago, I was ready to get started on my new plan, my new life. With the help of friends, I was almost ready. I was about to get the resources I needed (in cash) and was shopping for a camper van/rv that was equipped to meet my needs. I was ready to acquire the photography gear as well. It was a tremendous feeling, knowing that I was about to become productive again.
I would have a safe and comfortable place to sleep and live. I would have transportation to jobs. I could make a payment to a few people who helped me, people who I owe a lot. I owe them more then just the cash, I deeply appreciate what they did for me. It was exhilarating, knowing that I was off the street, able to work and ready to work toward my potential as a photographer and as a person. I had several vehicles picked out from Craigslist.
Then the unthinkable happened. Lucky was abducted and brutalized in a horrific manner. After I got him back, the medical treatment and hospital costs completely wiped out the cash resources that had been made available to me.
I won't go into details in this post, but I will post a complete account of what happened in a post dedicated to this incident. (Be warned that the details are not for the faint of heart, I am going to write two accounts, one that leaves out the details about the cruelty and the specific injuries...)
He was not doing well, he was suffering. I am leaving out a lot of important details here but, here is the gist of it; After spending nearly $3000.00 at several facilities, I took Lucky to the emergency hospital.
They said they needed to have him admitted for the day to do tests, etc. They required $1780.00 upfront. Of course during the previous 8 days or so a lot of money had been spent. I had thought, "Oh well, there were some older Vanogan vw's that would have to work."
Anyway, I gave them the money, they took Lucky and told me to come back that evening. When I returned, the doctor said solemnly, "John, I am sorry, but Lucky's prognosis is very poor." She started to try to comfort me, I was obviously distraught, and when she spoke gently about putting Lucky to sleep, my heart was filling my soul, my entire being with a sadness that I cannot describe. I felt so bad for Lucky. After everything that he had been through, it was so unfair that Lucky would not live to be happy. It was beyond unfair to him. I had promised Lucky that things were going to get better. I asked the doctor if there was anything else they could do..
She said that they could try surgery but there was less than a 25% chance that he would survive the surgery. She went on to say that even if he survived the surgery we would not know right away if he would regain the functions he needed to live. She went on to say that the procedure would have to be paid upfront, with a minimum deposit of $7800.00. After the cash spent to this point I would be nearly broke.
There was never a moment of doubt. I knew that I had to try. No matter what the outcome, I must at least try for Lucky. We were so close to being in a better situation. It did not seem fair to just let him die, while I went on to thrive. I gave then the money. There was a long, stressful night after surgery. He survived the surgery.
I waited three long days while Lucky fought to recover his ability to have bowel movements, and regain the use of his hind legs from the paralysis he had suffered. He survived! The total costs was all of the money I had for the van and photo equipment and debt payments. And I still owe close to $3000.00 that I will, that I must pay.
All of this is told in detail in a video I am making, It was an extremely stressful series of events. At each critical moment, I just barely collected the funds. After I got him back (I had already mourned him for a day as I was told he was dead) from Animal Control, I was carrying him on my bike for the six mile round trip to the veterinarians office, and he was getting worse. I will tell the whole story in detail in a video I am making about our odessey called "Lucky's Smiles and Trials."
Nothing that bad has happened since, but he seems to be suffering even worse from the monotonous spirit robbing day-to-day- grinding down that we receive on a daily basis, living on the streets in a marginal existence in the grip off a homeless condition from which there seems no positive change and no escape.
I wanted to finish the video before I launched this project (I am using the library to work my projects), but things are getting harder and harder for us. Luckys smiles are fewer and far between. I get the feeling from him that he is tired of the grind.
I am worried that the huge old Mac Pro desktop that I have been toting around is going to crash. I carry it (42lbs) into the library every day so that I can work on my projects. Thats 60 yards each day. I know that it wasn't designed for this abuse. The data drive failed to show yesterday. It came on when I rebooted, but I thought it wasa over...I thought it happened again. I had my original project almost done and computers failed. The dirty, dust-filled conditions I was working in did them in. I am in shock, it looks like its happening once again...
I could not have imagined that this much time would pass before things would change.
The primary reason for my homelessness is that I could not work and leave Lucky at home. His whining and crying are very annoying. I want to work. I am physically and mentally able to work. I have always liked work. After my recovery from the accident that resulted in the amputation of my lower right leg, I had worked continuously since 1993. The main reason I cannot work is my dog Lucky and the separation anxiety he suffered after my divorce. There was also a perfect storm of events and setbacks that occurred during this time, but the situation with Lucky is the main reason.
The Good Times
The early years were with Lucky were marvelous. Life was very good. I was doing very well at work in real estate finance, earning a good living. We enjoyed Lucky and he loved his life. Luckys walks, Doggie parks and dog beaches. We were fine.
Those were good times. During the four years before my divorce, Lucky was a happy camper. I started photography as a hobby. (I had discovered that I had a gift for photography, my photos were published in many magazines, my website received 3.5 million hits/over 1 million page views in one year, my photo of surfing legend Skip Frye is in bronze on the monument at Tourmaline Surfing Park more on all of that later ) I shot photos, I went to work, no worries. He was always happy to see me when I came home, but nothing out of the ordinary.
The Winds of change
When my ex-wife and I separated, she left the state to live with her family. At first I did not think this would be a problem. I thought that he would adjust. Bottom line is his barking and crying is an unacceptable nuisance to fellow tenants and neighbors. I tried taking him to work with me in my car to see clients. My boss found out and gave me the choice to lose the dog or lose the job. I agree that it was not appropriate from my employer?s point of view, but I could not get rid of Lucky.
The Heavy Entropic Bombardment or S=KlogW
After I made the decision to keep Lucky and ?lose my job?, I thought that I would be able to find work because of the excellent production history in my resume. The real estate crash had begun. Even though I originated real estate loans for a living. I thought I was going to be able to make it work. I may not make 150k+ like I did previously, but even if I earned half as much I would be ok. The real estate market crash was followed by the worst recession in x-amount of years. I did find work in a job related to real estate lending, which allowed me to bring Lucky to work. Until they too succumbed to the recession and went out of business after a few months.
My ex-wife graciously offered to come and take Lucky. I did not want to give up Lucky. However it made sense. I thought that if I worked for a while and built up a little reserve I could get Lucky back when things were more secure. I agreed that that was probably the best thing to do. She came to San Diego and took Lucky.
Unfortunately, he was so despondent that she brought him back. She did not want to see him suffer the way he did. I was very happy to have Lucky back, and I thought that I would find a way to make it work. I tried for a while to make some cash selling photos but with everything from car problems to camera and computer problems photography could not work at that time.
Here is a list of facts and factors;
*I worked continuously for 15 years earning a comfortable six-figure income.
*My ex-wife and I had Lucky for 4 years without a problem. I went to work and -came home without any issues.
*The real estate crash and the recession happened at the same time that?
*I got divorced.
*Money that was owed to me was not paid.
*My long time accountant/tax prepare passed away, his ex-wife took over his -practice and did not properly file my taxes/deductions.
*My prosthetic leg broke down, and without a job or income I had no insurance. The previous year I made too much money to qualify for low income programs so I had no leg to walk on.
*My computer crashed, so I had no way to process and properly store photos I was shooting. I may have made at least some money I with my photography. The crash of my computer effectively ended that possibility.
*I never received a pink slip for the van that I used for transportation and living quarters. It was ultimately towed after I received a zillion tickets for invalid registration.
I want to take this opportunity make a few things clear;
I did not suddenly "break bad", and decide that after 15 years of making good money and enjoying a good life, that I no longer wanted to work. I liked nice things and I liked earning money to pay for them.
My situation is not due to drugs or alcohol. I do not drink alcohol. Nor did I at any time. I don't take drugs. I used to smoke weed, but I decided that it was not something I could do anymore. However, I try to have empathy for anyone who is homeless, without judgment. I try to be good to everyone I come into contact with.
I want to work. I am physically and mentally able to work. I have always liked work. The main reason I cannot work is my dog Lucky.
Several people have commented on my situation pointing out that I choose to live the way I am. If I chose to have Lucky euthanized, I would be able to go to work.
I have come to the understanding that there are a number of people feel this way. Lucky is just a dog and therefore his life is forfeit. The logical and responsible way to deal with the situation is to remove Lucky humanely and get on with my life. If this is your way of thinking about the situation, you are entitled to your opinion. It does not however meet with my view of my relationship and responsibility to Lucky, my beloved dog ? friend and companion.
Therefore, because I will not take that option, I choose to live the way I do. That is true. I will not kill my dog in order to return to a comfortable life.
If all of my efforts fail I will be ok as long as I tried. As long as I try the best I can to improve our living conditions by any and all means available such as crowd funding sites. My goal for the first project at GoFundme.com is to acquire the means to earn a living, (gear and transportation) and at the same time have a place to live with Lucky.
The next project is one that I have planned for some time now. All of the proceeds of this project will be allocated to pay debts that I have incurred. Some of the debts are to individuals who have I owe and there are also debts that I owe to the people who helped to save Lucky's life and provide sustenance for him through some pretty tough times.
It is a creative project featuring museum quality limited edition prints of Legendary surfer Skip Frye at Swami?s during a large swell and beautiful Santa Ana Conditions. The publisher has already printed the edition; Skip has personally signed them all. I have the complete project set up for Kickstarter.com including an amazing rewards package and a lot of additional photos of Skip.
I have almost completed the video about what happened to Lucky and I.
In the video, I go into detail about what happened after Lucky's abduction. Part of the story is that. The doctor told me that Lucky had less than a 25% chance of surviving the surgery.
Even though the Veterinarian said that the chances that Lucky would survive his surgery were low, I knew that I had to try. If he did not survive, I would be ok knowing that I tried the best that I could.
I have the same philosophy about all of my endeavors. If I try, if I do the best that I can, I will be ok with the results. If the results I hope for do not happen and I try the best I can, it will be ok.
The worst that is likely to happen is that hopefully Lucky with live a long life. I will try to make him as comfortable as possible. He will know that he is loved and appreciated. We will do our best together. We will continue to struggle with the myriad minor day to day problems of homelessness. We will be hungry. Sometimes we will not eat. We will suffer insult and injury to our bodies and souls that come with this life. I will love Lucky, and he will love me.
One day, Lucky will die, I will go back to work. Work is easy. Usually a workday is no longer than 12 hours. The result is a paycheck and money in the bank instead of hunger and discomfort. Not working and being homeless is 24 hours-a-day hard work. The constant harassment by cops and creeps is to say the least unpleasant. The list goes on, from hygiene to hunger, rats and rain, exhaustion and shame.
I want to thank everyone for their support. Many people wondered what happened to me, where did I go? To keep this as brief as possible, I have listed the events that evolved into a perfect storm that resulted in my current situation.
My current situation is this: I live in my car with my dog and all of my stuff. The back seat is stuffed to the ceiling with my photos, etc. I have bucket seats so I sleep upright in the drivers side and Lucky has the other seat.
I am not able to work due to the fact that my dog has severe separation anxiety and cries like he is being tortured when I try to leave him somewhere while I work.
Things keep getting progressively worse...
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