Central Arkansas will experience a few more near-freezing nights later this week. The weather is becoming dangerous for the local homeless population, but some homeless people say they cannot go to a shelter because of their family members.
Most local shelters have policies that prohibit guests from bringing their pets inside with them, to the dismay of Mike Miller.
“You shouldn’t have to give up your children to go into a shelter,” he said Tuesday.
Miller was referring to his Chihuahua, Spanky. “I don’t know if I’d have made it this far without my sidekick, here,” he said, while holding his dog inside his jacket. “I’ve had him since he was six weeks old. And he’s five now, and I’d be lost without him.”
Miller said he and Spanky have always been inseparable, but more so since they have been on the street the last six months.
“He watches out for me,” Miller explained. “He’ll sleep inside my jacket, you know, and underneath the covers. And if he hears something, he’ll raise up. But he’s not like any normal Chihuahua. He don’t yap-yap-yap-yap. He only barks when it’s necessary. If somebody get too close to him, he’ll let me know.”
Pastor William Holloway, who runs the Little Rock Compassion Center, said most shelters do not accept pets because they may have diseases that would make them a health risk.
“You get a dog up there, a strange dog, around 100 people, maybe 150 people, a lot of times, that scares animals,” he mentioned, “because there’s so many people trying to reach over to pet it, or something, and the dog may end up snapping someone.”
Pastor Holloway has a couple dogs that he lets walk around the shelter’s offices, so he says he empathizes with homeless dog owners. The Little Rock Compassion Center offers a concession that he says is rare among shelters.
“We have a cage here that we can put them in,” he stated, “and we can put them up in one of our areas where it’s cool. You know, in the summertime, it’s cool, and in the wintertime, it’s pretty warm.”
Staying in different parts of the shelter does not work for Miller and Spanky.
“I’m bipolar and I’ve got anxiety,” he said. “He helps me with that. And he has separation anxiety. If I go to leave the room for two minutes and he can’t find me, he goes nuts.”
Miller and Spanky sleep in motels when they can, and outside when they cannot. For them, a cold night together is better than a warm night apart.
“When it’s cold like this,” Miller said, “he spends most of his time in my jacket. He’ll stick his head out and say hi to everybody. You know, he never meets a stranger. I’d be lost without him. I really would.
“He’s my best friend, my companion, my sidekick, and my protector.”
Holloway believes that, if shelters had the money, they would create separate spaces where homeless people and their pets could stay together.
“I think, eventually, someday, they will,” he stated. “But right now, it’s a money issue, too, to have all them kind of facilities. And it’s a safety issue, so we’ve gotta be very careful how we spend our money.”