Wednesday, April 19 - 7:00 PM
Chautauqua Community House
$10.00 ($7.00 Concert Member)
It’s a common sight in Boulder and other cities: A weary-looking man stands at an intersection, backpack at his feet. Curled up nearby is a mixed-breed dog, unfazed by the passing traffic. The man holds a sign that reads, “Two old dogs need help. God bless.”
Homelessness and stigma go hand in hand, and nowhere is this more apparent than pet ownership among the homeless. From nasty looks to outright insults –“you can’t even take care of yourself, you have no business having a dog!” – homeless pet owners use a variety of strategies to deal with the constant judgment.
In “My Dog Always Eats First: Homeless People and their Animals,” Leslie Irvine describes these strategies as she interviews dozens of homeless people on their relationship with their pets. Her findings are sometimes surprising, especially when it comes to the widespread belief that homeless people couldn’t possibly be responsible pet owners – a belief not backed up by reality. In this book, Irvine tries to discover what animals mean to the homeless people who “own” them. Much like those of us who have homes, the homeless are also deeply attached to their pets, considering them both family and their best friend, and going to great sacrifice to care for them (even giving up housing for themselves in the case that pets are not welcome). Through qualitative research, Irvine gives us a glimpse into how homeless people provide for both themselves and their pets, and shows us how despite our prejudices, homeless people’s pets often really do eat first.
About the Author:
Sociologist Leslie Irvine broke new ground in the study of homelessness by investigating the frequently noticed, yet never fully explored, role that animals play in the lives of homeless people. Leslie conducted interviews on street corners, in parks, and under highway overpasses to understand the benefits and liabilities that animals have for the homeless, as well as how homeless people feed and care for their four-legged companions. She also weighs the perspectives of social service workers, veterinarians and local communities. Her work provides a new way of looking at both the meaning of animal companionship and the concept of home itself.
Leslie Irvine is professor of sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her books include “If You Tame Me: Understanding Our Connection with Animals” and “Filling the Ark: Animal Welfare in Disasters.” “My Dog Always Eats First” was a Colorado Book Award finalist.