Ghost was found alone and hungry in an alley in Chicago. Friendly from the start, he was definitely not feral. He did not have a chip and there were no signs that anyone was looking for him. Like thousands of other abandoned dogs and cats, Ghost was probably a throw away pet left behind to fend for himself on the city streets.
But Ghost had other plans. He chose his humans carefully; walked right up to them as if he had known them forever, helped himself to their chicken sandwich, and adopted them on the spot.
Ghost is one of the lucky ones. He has a family who loves him, showers him with affection, feeds and shelters him to the best of their ability. They belong together, care for each other, and share a bond so strong it might move mountains. Ghost and his family are also homeless.
John, Sarah, and Ghost live in a tent at night and spend their days panhandling in downtown Chicago. I first noticed them on my way to the train each night. Ghost sleeps calmly in Sarah's lap, belly up, as thousands of commuters rush by, cabs and buses rattle and honk while trains screech in the distance. Remarkably, Ghost remains unimpressed and unfazed by the chaos around him.
Ghost remains on a leash and harness at all times even though it is clear he would never stray far from his family. While this is certainly not an ideal situation for Ghost or his humans (especially with winter approaching), this is a cat who loves and is loved. He was abandoned and then rescued by a family who does their best to care for him under difficult, if not impossible circumstances. And such a beautiful and rare bond should be celebrated.
I asked Sarah how people respond to them. Many are kind, some indifferent and a few cruel and judgmental. People bring food and toys and even a carrier so he can now travel safely on public transportation. Several folks have demanded that they give up Ghost, take him to a shelter, or simply surrender him immediately to the nearest stranger. Although I am sure they meant well, these suggestions are not helpful in this situation.
Ghost has a family just not a home, but in this case, his family is his home. Is this situation ideal? No, not for Ghost or his humans. Is it better than the thousands of abandoned dogs and cats who die alone on the streets or in shelters every day? Absolutely.
When I asked Sarah what they need and how others can help, she answered without hesitation - I need a job. She has office experience and in the past has worked in collection departments as well as in other business environments. She's been looking for a long time but without a home base or regular access to a computer it is challenging. She hopes to eventually go back to school and maybe even some day work with animals.
And so, I'm putting it out there into the universe ...if you have a Chicago area business or organization who would like some good karma and want to help keep this family safe and together please email me at thedailypip(at)gmail(dot)com.
I share this story as a celebration of the strength and hope of the human animal bond even in the most extreme situations. Please do not make assumptions or cast judgment on this family. As the old saying goes, don't judge a man until you have walked a mile in their shoes.