Thursday, November 12, 2009

Working like a dog to make it work

Kristina Van Vorst is worried she won't be able to afford to keep her dogs, so she hit the streets with her handmade sign to plead for help.

As the American economy continues its steady collapse into itself, people’s livelihoods are being swallowed by the implosion.

Each day, jobs are being cut, houses foreclosed, bankruptcies filed. Shelters and makeshift tent cities are overwhelmed with trying to house the homeless.

And that includes animal shelters, where donation dollars are dropping as intake numbers are climbing. Animal guardians are surrendering their beloved pets because they can’t even afford to house themselves.

So when I saw 35-year-old Kristina Van Vorst on the street clutching a cardboard sign begging for services—not money—so she can afford to keep her two dogs, I had to stop and inquire further.

Kristina moved to Bellingham, Wash. three years ago, and at first she scraped by working as a nanny. But by the time the family’s children grew out of needing her services anymore, the economy had already began its plummet. Now she picks up odd jobs: landscaping, tutoring, cleaning. Kristina’s live-in boyfriend is lucky if he makes $30 working half-days for a temporary day labor employment agency.

To add to their financial strains, her boyfriend’s father also lives with them, and he’s afflicted with Alzheimer’s.

Kristina needs money to license her two rescue dogs. Three-year-old Calla is a Rottweiler-pit mix who had been beaten with a skateboard in Nebraska. Two-year-old Solonas is a pit hound mix who was relegated to a backyard before Kristina adopted her. Calla also needs to be spayed to reduce her licensing fees, and both dogs need vaccinations and special food.

By the time I encountered her, Kristina’s panhandling hadn’t panned out. She had only collected $5 and a turkey sandwich. But I put the call out to rescue groups I know in the area, and they are already working to help these girls stay together.

Calla is well-behaved and friendly.

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