Villager Voices: Healing from Houselessness

Charlie’s Story

by Hunter Burkett

I opened my eyes when I heard voices seemingly coming from every direction. I was weak due to dehydration, hunger and heat exhaustion, but I knew my person wouldn’t leave me…right? When someone unzipped the tent I went into preservation mode – launching and biting at any hand coming near me until all but one shadow went away.

The remaining shadow sat in front of the tent and fully unzipped it. Quickly and covertly, I planned my escape routes. Little pieces of what would become my favorite treat ever – roast beef – were tossed in my direction. I was so hungry I would have eaten broccoli at this point. I’d heard stories of humans tricking us with food…not this pup…not today…nope!


I may not have been as surreptitious as I planned because, the next thing I knew, I was outside the tent and right in front of the guy who was calmly talking to me and feeding me. What was his motive? Could I trust him? I knew that going back into the tent would lead me to suffer the same fate as my best pup friend who’d died there last night. My next step was a physical and emotional one: I decided to leave my old life and focus on going forward.

Have you ever been the victim of emotional terrorism? Take my advice – it’s exhausting! The facade I was struggling to maintain – depicting me as more of a Rottweiler or German Shepherd – began to dissipate as my new reality set it. Involuntarily, my whole little body started to shake until the most wonderful thing happened. You know, the roast beef guy? I didn’t even realize he was still there. He kept saying he wasn’t going to leave me, just like the last humans who never returned to our tent. But this was different.

Something deep inside was whispering that this human really wasn’t going to leave me. There were people all around telling him that I was a lost cause. “Just put him in a kennel and then off to the vet” (which every street dog knows means sleeping with the fishes).

The guy looked at me and through a mask said, “What do you think, nugget? I am in the market for a new bestie, and I’m thinking you might be in need of a change of scenery. I promise that if you choose me, then I’ll choose you every day for the rest of our lives. You’ll have your forever home.”

I have yet to master the whole talking thing, so I did the next best thing and climbed into his lap…accepting his proposal but laughing to myself thinking, “This guy has noooo idea what he just signed-up for! I’m bat-sh*t crazy!”

That was almost a year ago and, I’ll be the first to admit, it hasn’t been all green pastures and rainbows. What I do know is that my human is the most important person in my whole life. He loves me unconditionally. Trust me, I’ve tried EVERYTHING, but he’s still here. We were lucky to have found each other.

I still have a lot of trauma to unpack, and sometimes I take it out on my human, or anyone else around (oops, sorry). But, for the first time in my life, I know that I’m in an environment where it’s safe to finally start healing without the fear of emotional re-injury. If I ever figure out how to speak English, the first thing I’ll say will be to tell my human, “I love you. Thank you. And I choose you everyday, too.”