Kevin and Go Away’s relationship is still a budding one, having been in each other’s lives for less than half a year. Kevin was living at Tent City 5 when one of his neighbor’s dogs had puppies. “[They had a dog], seven puppies, two adults, and a kid in the tent, so that just wasn’t cutting it,” he recalls. Some of the puppies had already been given away to other residents when Kevin had his first encounter with Go Away. “You know, she just brought [Go Away] out and I mean she was like so little, you know, this defenseless little animal. So I got her and she was five weeks old. I’d unzip my coat and stick her inside there to keep her warm.” “Now she’s too big to fit there anymore,” he adds on with a laugh.
When reflecting on the differences in his life since he’s had her, the first thing that pops to Kevin’s mind is having to learn what places will allow her in. “Well there’s certain places I cannot take her,” he says, “so that business just lost my business.” Some of the places he’s run into this problem include community centers, grocery stores, convenience stores, the YMCA, and with appointments like recertifying his food stamps. Kevin expects that some of these barriers would be lessened if he is able to get Go Away certified as a service animal, but he feels like his only option would be to pay for something online since he doesn’t have any kind of doctor he could talk to about getting a letter saying Go Away is an emotional support animal. Even though Go Away is not considered a service animal for Kevin, sometimes he feels like he has no choice but to take her in to some businesses. “There’s been places like Safeway, places like that, that say only service animals allowed” he explains, “I’ve taken her in there because, well, I’m not gonna leave her tied up outside, somebody would walk off with her.”
Although he’s noticed barriers such these, Kevin says the best thing about having Go Away in his life is the companionship. “She helps out with my depression,” he says, “helps out with some anxiety issues sometimes.” One of the roles she plays in his life, Kevin says with a laugh, is “body-warmer.” “She’ll curl up with me at night. Usually she’s like up around the back of my legs. And that ain’t too bad, but then she’ll get to where she’s gotta stretch all out and, like, push me off the bed. I’ll wake up and reposition her and reposition myself. Yeah I consider her a good friend. She’s always with me, no matter how bad or how good I treat her, she still loves me the same. What do you call it? Unconditional love.” On one particularly long night trying to get back to camp after buses stopped running, Kevin really noticed her friendship. “I took a walk with her, a long walk with her the other night,” he recalls, “And she’s my little companion. My little road dog, you know. I’d stop every now and then and she’d hop up on my lap, lick my face. And I’d tell her, come on girl, we’re almost there, come on, we can make it. I don’t know whether or not that’s psyching myself up to continue walking, or [for her]. Yeah, I consider her a friend.”
Another one of Kevin’s favorite things to do with Go Away is to take her to the tennis courts near Tent City 3’s current host site and play catch with her. “It gives me a break from the daily drama,” he explains, “it helps me relieve the stress to just get out and away from it. Work off my aggressions by throwing the ball as hard as I can.” Afterwards he feels relieved, he says – “almost as good as taking a hot shower… almost."
The reason why Kevin says Go Away helps with “some” anxiety issues is that he’s also found that, in addition to relieving some parts of his anxiety, she also creates some new things to be anxious about. “She helps with my stress levels,” he explains, “but sometimes she stresses me out me out beyond being able to, just – sometimes she’ll get really rambunctious, being a puppy, you know. Test my patience. Yeah she definitely does that, but any kid does, really.” As a puppy, Go Away is deep in her biting phase, and whether it’s Kevin’s shoes or things she finds lying around the tent, she’ll go for it. “[She’s] gotta tear up something,” he says, recalling a recent event, “She got a hold of one of my used foot warmers so there’s stuff scattered all over my tent, on my bed, on my floor.” “But you really can’t discipline her,” he adds, “because it’s within her reach – don’t have much room in a tent.” Kevin admits that training Go Away has been the most difficult part of having her – “Training her to stop listening to other people, training her to stop biting, training her to stop jumping up on strangers. To stop chasing after leaves out into the street – she’s already done that two or three times with me. She’s very demanding with attention.”
Some of that attention Go Away demands can be met by virtue of living in a community like Tent City. “I can ask anybody – any of the older campers that have known her,” he says, “and I don’t mind that she gets the attention, cuz, I mean, I can’t constantly pay 24hrs a day attention to her, you know. I have to have me time.” Although having multiple babysitting options for Go Away is something Kevin appreciates about living in Tent City, another aspect of communal living that he has struggled more with is that there are lots of people trying to discipline his dog or offer feedback on how he’s caring for her. “Sometimes it’s kinda hard when you got 10 people, 10 or 12 people telling her what to do,” he laments, adding, “that’s why I have different terminology for her, so somebody just can’t come up and say ‘sit!’. Well, my dog’s not listening to you because it’s used to my commands. And people don’t understand that – it’s like, well, she’s not listening to you because you’re not me.”
Kevin hasn’t always been a Tent City resident since having Go Away in his life. After an alcohol-related incident got his girlfriend barred from Tent City 3 on their one-year anniversary, Kevin left camp with her and Go Away. They took up sleeping in a park near Seattle’s zoo, Go Away in tow. “I left TC3 for about three weeks with her, and her and I had my tent that I’m in now. We were out in Woodland Park, we was up in there camping out. And nobody bothered us, nobody came by and said oh you can’t be here,” Kevin recalls. Without the fences and security desk of a Tent City, Kevin got to appreciate another role that Go Away played in his life - guard dog. “We had Go Away the whole time, and she was pretty good security,” he says, “she was a pretty good security dog. Anytime somebody would come by or walk past our tent, she’d start barking. And like I said I you know, people giving me bags of dog food, treats, blankets, a leash.” Kevin eventually landed back in Tent City 3 and he and his now ex-girlfriend, who moved in to Tent City 5, share custody of Go Away.
Kevin got all of Go Away’s vaccinations taken care of at PetCo, but he says he doesn’t feel like he has a place to take her for ongoing veterinary care. “I’d take her probably to the closest vet and end up going into debt because I don’t have the money to pay them,” he says with a shake of his head. As for getting her fixed, Kevin was glad to get a tip from another Tent City dog owner that there was a lady at his church who had offered to pay for spay/neuter procedures. “I definitely would like to get her neutered,” he says, “because I don’t want ten little Go Aways running around biting my ankles. One is bad enough!” Later on, when describing her breed, Kevin jokes “She’s a herding dog. And then I wonder why I got marks on the back of my legs.” As for her other needs, Kevin says that he gets plenty of food and treats either through donations to Tent City or by flying a sign with her. “I’d be out flying a sign with her and people would give me a bag of dog food – had somebody hand me a $16 bag of dog food and she tore into it like it was crack or like it, you know, candy to a kid,” he recalls.
When it comes to flying signs, that’s another difference Kevin has noticed since having Go Away in his life. “I notice people – like, they’ll take to her before they’ll talk to me. They see her and say ‘Ohhhh what a cute dog!’ or ‘Ohhhh what a cute puppy!’ or something to that effect. And they just look at me like 'Eh, whatever,' like I’m the lowest scum on the face of the planet.” As hard as that can be to see, flying a sign with Go Away has also meant for money coming in for the two of them. “If I [don’t] take her out there with me,” he says, “usually I’d get like $10-$20 bucks, but with her I get like $30 or $40, so I have noticed difference in money.” Sometimes, being out there with a sign has provided exactly what he needs for her, too. After growing too big, Kevin describes having to cut Go Away out of her first harness because it couldn’t expand any further. But shortly thereafter while flying a sign with her, a woman drove past and said “Hey! Would you like a harness for your dog? I think I have one here that would fit her!” and sure enough, it did.
When thinking about the fact that some people will automatically judge him for being homeless with a dog, Kevin says “They don’t know me, they don’t know what I’m capable of. I’ve had a hard life – abusive parents to abusive girlfriends.” “And now I’m being abused by my dog,” he adds in jokingly. “But yeah, you don’t know me, you just assume. And that don’t make me look bad because I know what I’m doing; least I hope I do. I’d just have to say get to know me better before you judge me. Get to know me better before you judge how I treat my animal. I at least have the responsibility of taking care of her, and making sure she’s fed and cared for, and I do the best that I can for her.” Looking down at Go Away basking in the sun next to his feet, he adds in, “You can see she’s a happy puppy.”