Helping Pets of the Homeless

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Grateful Dogs Rescue
    Bix, a homeless dog with a bad eye, was rejected by San Francisco's SPCA, according to Grateful Dogs Rescue, a rival animal-rescue group.

    One woman has launched a very personal campaign - to clothe dogs living with San Diego's homeless.

    Kelly Tomke thought of the idea one November day when she was driving through downtown, headed home to Golden Hill, and she spotted a dog's water dish.

    Tomke had knit sweaters for the three dogs in her life, including her 14-year old poodle Bonaparte The Little General. She briefly considered knitting something for the dogs living with the homeless but soon realized that would be impossible.

    However, older sweaters that Bonaparte wasn't wearing could be reused. With that idea, she started Keep Woofy Warm through a Craigslist posting and a couple of flyers posted around town.

    Tomke's campaign to take used pet items and regift them for the pets of the homeless started slowly. After her story appeared in a local newspaper column, donations started coming in.

    "It's all been good. It hasn't been great, but I didn't know what to expect," she said. "I'm happy something is happening. I'm okay with that."

    She feels dogs help homeless people beyond simply protecting their stuff. "They need something to live for and I guess a pet is it," she said.

    Soon, she found herself collecting more than just sweaters.

    "It's food, it's toys, it's chew toys," she said. The items aren't necessarily new but may be items left by a pet that has passed on or one that has outgrown the sweater or toy.

    "The stuff is useful," she said. "That's the point that I'm trying to bring across."

    Tomke estimates she's received 30 sweaters so far and handles the distribution on her own.

    People interested in donating send Tomke an email and she arranges for pickup. Residents in the North County can drop off donations at Synergy Escondido on 710 East Grand. James Young, Tomke's friend for more than 20 years, offered the site after several donations came in from North of Interstate 8.

    "I think it’s a great idea," said Young. "She’s helping the homeless people and their dogs."

    But Tomke doesn't think she's doing anything that can't be done by anyone else in San Diego.

    "You don't need me," she said, "If you have a homeless group near you, find out how you can help."

    Some may argue dogs have coats and don't need sweaters or blankets but Tomke disagrees.

    "Dogs get cold. Big dogs get cold. Imagine a greyhound with no body fat and no hair," she said. "I know my poodle gets cold and he’s fat and hairy."