homeless man with his dog

‘I can not give him up’: Greensboro man experiencing homelessness chooses dog over housing, much-needed surgery

A dog is truly a human’s best friend, and Donald Dickerson is willing to sacrifice to keep his canine companion. The two became closer over the past several months when they faced homelessness together. “Every day he looks at me — I know I am loved. I named him Duude because that’s my dude. We have a close, close connection,” said Dickerson. [1]

The pair has lived at a campsite in North Carolina woods. Dickerson actually had an option to reside in a better home, but many places have a no-dogs policy. And he’d rather keep his friend. “I could have already had a place to live, but they wanted me to foster my dog. I’m not doing that,” he said.

Unfortunately, Dickerson suffers from some health issues that make his living situation even more difficult. One of his knees is swollen and has made walking a struggle. “It’s painful. I have to walk on this hill every day,” he said.

I cannot give him up

Donald Dickerson and his dog Duude. Image Ctedit: Fox8

Despite needing partial knee replacement surgery, Dickerson’s procedure has been postponed because of his living situation. “When the doctors found out I was homeless they said we have to postpone it until you find a place to live because someone has to come out and take care of you,” he explained. 

However, he hasn’t been able to find a place that will also take Duude. And if the surgery means he has to lose his dog, he’d rather go without the knee replacement. “I cannot give him up… If I have to be homeless and go without my surgery and continue to go through the pain, I will, cause I will not leave him,” said Dickerson.

Lane Miller befriended Dickerson after passing him on Wendover Avenue on her way to work every day. “I have been seeing this gentleman almost for the last year. I could see his smile through the mask — OK, and that’s probably what did it for me.” She was touched by Dickerson’s selflessness. “It takes that special individual because they care more about anyone else than themselves.”

So Miller tried contacting organizations and agencies to help him. “I was upset to know he didn’t have a place to go but he was approved for surgery, so I started reaching out and I hit a lot of brick walls.” [2]

Read: 10 Examples of ‘Anti-Homeless’ Hostile Architecture That You Probably Never Noticed Before

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Homelessness or not, “I’m not giving him up”

The Volunteer Center of the Triad in Greensboro is working to find the pair home. But in the meantime, Dickerson created a GoFundMe page in August, hoping to raise a thousand dollars “to get funding for a motel room that’s animal friendly so that me and my dog can be together.” He explained that he and Duude were living in a campsite in the woods. In September, he updated the page explaining his knee surgery was postponed until he found a place to live. Today, people have donated over $43,000. [3]

“If it wasn’t for [Duude], I would have given up. If I have to continue to be homeless, and not get my surgery, I will do that because I’m not giving him up,” Dickerson said.

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Read: Formerly Homeless Man Moves Into the First 3D-Printed Tiny Home

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She saved me as much as I saved her

Pets have helped many people with physical and mental issues. They tend to calm their owners, which can help alleviate pain and reduce stress. In fact, “pet therapy” can help people recover from/cope with a health issue or mental disorder. For people who are down on their luck, for instance, experiencing homelessness, pets can decrease loneliness, reduce depression and anxiety, and improve their outlook on life. [4]

For instance, Heather from Seattle was depressed after her parents kicked her out. Then she noticed a group of guys yelling at a dog who was in distress. Heather’s boyfriend bought the dog and they named her Poppy. Heather started to take better care of herself, applying for food stamps and getting on a housing list. She didn’t want to risk going to jail for a petty crime and losing Poppy. 

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She wakes up so excited every morning and gets so happy about the littlest thing, like rolling around in the grass or even just the weather being nice,” Heather said. “Seeing her like that reminds me to stay happy for simple things too. In my mind, she’s a little angel that saved me as much as I saved her.” [5]

Helpful resources for those experiencing homelessness with pets

If you notice a person who is experiencing homelessness with pets, you can help them by giving them the number and address of the local animal shelter. They should be able to provide contact info for vets who offer low prices or donate their services, information about pet care, a list of homeless shelters that allow pets, in addition to pet food and supplies. [6] 

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Keep Reading: Shipping containers used to build LA housing complex for the homeless

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Sources

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  1. “‘I can not give him up’: Homeless man chooses dog over housing, much-needed surgery.” Yahoo News. December 4, 2021
  2. “Homeless Man Chooses His Dog Over Housing And Much-Needed Surgery: “If I Have To Be Homeless And Go Without My Surgery And Continue To Go Through The Pain, I Will, Cause I Will Not Leave Him”. Nashville News Hub. Lamar J. Hopkins. December 6, 2021
  3. “Help after knee replacement surgery.Go Fund Me. Donald Dickerson. August 15, 2021
  4. “Pet Therapy.Healthline. Anna Giorgi. September 19, 2017
  5. “Homeless people on their pets: ‘She saved me as much as I saved her’.” The Guardian. Candice Pires. June 16, 2018 
  6. Tamar Love Grande. “How to Help Homeless People With Pets.” Petful. September 20, 2011
Sarah Biren
Freelance Writer
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender.
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