The Streets - June 2010

a column by Paulette Lewis


Four-legged friends in the 'hood

This article is dedicated to all the animals in the hood - yes, I am talking about the four- legged ones.

My best four-legged friend in the ‘hood is a pitbull. That’s right. Someone that always has my back, that is happy to see me, and that gives me endless, unconditional love and protection, is a pitbull named Boss. I don’t have to change his name to protect his identity because I’m not going to reveal who owns him, but he is awesome. To me, anyway.

The minute I step onto the scene Boss becomes my dog. He comes to me and stays by my side the entire time. He stands next to me, walks with me, and lies at my feet when I sit down. He automatically gets in between me and anyone that gets too close to me. He’s one of the best dogs I’ve ever, well, co-owned.

I don’t know why he takes to me so well, but I’ve always had a good relationship with animals. It’s not hard to make friends with some of the most notorious dogs in the hood with a little love, a few treats and a lot of respect. When I first met him I thought he would probably eat me alive. He has huge feet, strong jaws, and is super fast so outrunning him would be a joke.

I absolutely love Boss. He’s a good companion and protector. He growls when the situation doesn’t feel right to him or there is danger. He has instincts I trust, just as I do my own dog, Jack.

For years, I’ve taken my personal dogs, Jack and Jill, who are Beagles, with me as I do Urban Success, my youth intervention and mentoring program. I believe it is very important to teach kids how to treat and care for animals at a young age. It was a surprise to me when I began taking Jack and Jill with me how many kids and adults as well do not interact well with animals. You can’t put a water bowl eight feet away from a dog on a six-foot chain. Animals have to eat every day. They need shelter and should be treated with kindness and care. They are great to have, but also a huge responsibility. I’ve done a lot of education over the years on how to be kind to animals, and Jack and Jill have been a huge part of that. They’re very tolerant and mild-mannered so they’re great with kids. So much so, that I’m proud to announce that Jack and Jill were voted “number one dogs” in one particular neighborhood!

There are certain fields I can’t work in, such as working with the homeless population. I’d need to build a 50-bedroom house because there is no way I’d let any of them go back out onto the streets. I went to a dinner for homeless people once and cried the entire time. I had to leave. It breaks my heart. I’m also not the kind of person who can work in the field of animal abuse. You don’t want to know what I would do to people who abuse animals and I can’t incriminate myself.

So, moving on…don’t get me started on dog fighting rings. I’d like to staple their heads and send them back in. It boils my blood. So I take a preventative approach - education and exposure.

My dog Jill is just sweet and small and everyone likes to pet her. Jack can hang out with the guys. But, there are guys he doesn’t trust and he lets me know. I depend on his signals. He has ways of communicating with me. For example, I brought one guy in particular around and almost immediately Jack hiked his leg and peed all over this guy’s shoes! He was right about that guy, so I didn’t feel bad for long.

I trained Jack and Jill to respond to my commands in sign language and Russian so they wouldn’t get distracted out in the field. Jack knows he is on a mission and does a great job. Jill, on the other hand, usually doesn’t know what is going on, she’s just happy to be there, and thanks to everyone for coming. I joke all the time that she is A.D.H.D – has attention deficit. No one told me Beagles have so much energy!

It’s been a great experience using my dogs to introduce people to animals, and while I’ve met some dangerous, vicious pits in my work, I’ve experienced the better side of them, too. I take each animal I meet on an individual basis. To be honest, I don’t understand why those footprint-sized Chihuahuas aren’t on some kind of dangerous breed list. They think they’re the size of a Doberman.

One of the most dangerous crews I’ve ever worked with owns Boss. He knows to protect their family and their crew. Luckily, that extends to me.



As a side note, I’d like to take a moment to share with you why I haven’t written much this year. I became a mother in January and it changed my life in so many ways. Urban Success has slowed down quite a bit. I work with a core group of kids and have not been expanding due to time constraints - being a mother is a 24/7 job! But I am very thankful for my daughter. She is amazing and by far the best gift God has ever given me. I need to crawl along in my mentoring work for a while as I take care of her, but it won’t be long until I am back up and running so please keep reading and supporting RED! And I will write what I can when I can, like now, as my daughter naps in my lap. She’s my little miracle and I am absolutely obsessed with her. I still can’t believe she’s mine. What a wonderful God I serve.

I am still available to speak and answer email so send me your questions or comments!



For more information on columnist Paulette Lewis’ work, or to schedule her to speak, email her at Paulette is an innovative gang interventionist.