Sheila, 54- Sacramento, CA

“It had to take my dogs death to realize I didn’t want to be homeless anymore. Cause it could’ve been me. I wish it would’ve been me instead of JJ.”

“Practically all my life I used drugs and alcohol. I had a really great job working at Walmart and the drugs and alcohol got in the way. I lost my place and ended up homeless. I lost everything. Same old story, but I never thought it would happen to me. That was the worst day of my life: when I had to sleep in the back of the store, on the concrete, on a sleeping bag- which was what I had.

I was on the streets for almost 4 years. I’m not going to say I got comfortable, but I just got really strung out on drugs and alcohol. And because I’m a female, and I already felt like somebody was watching me all the whole time cause I was always by myself. I set up booby traps throughout my camp to keep me safe. I just didn’t care about anything anymore. I would panhandle and dumpster dive to provide for myself and feed my addiction. I hated to panhandle. But when I did, I had to be drunk already, or high. I wouldn’t hide anything, I would do it right outside the liquor store.”


“I decided I had enough when someone set fire to my camp one day. My dog JJ and I were running and the guy  I was with ran back through the blackberry bushes around the flames just to grab the alcohol in his backpack. That was when I realized I needed a change. The second fire was two weeks later.

The day I went to the AOD (Alcohol and Other Drugs Services) the ranger came up and told me I had to tie up my dog. While I was there this lady interrupts the class to tell me there was a fire on the river. I could see her face and already knew.”


“As we drove to the river and I saw where the smoke was, I already knew. It was my camp. It was my JJ. Two years of being on the river, and the only days I tie him up there is a fire. The fireman told me they saw a dog running around that looked like mine so that gave me some hope, but I think he ran back through the fire as I called his name.

He was so badly burnt. His eyes were burnt open, his nose was peeled up. It was something I wish I never ever saw. Firemen brought him to me. He was crying. He was still alive. Right there I was just thinking: Why? I could’ve gotten help before, but I just decided I wanted to be homeless because it was comfortable.”


“It had to take my dogs death to realize I didn’t want to be homeless anymore. Cause it could’ve been me. I wish it would’ve been me instead of JJ. He was my best friend. I never had a dog that loved me so much. Poor JJ. July 28th made it one year. They cremated him for me and they didn’t charge me one penny for anything. I am really thankful. I have JJ with me. He’s on my bed. He sleeps with me every night.

At Saint John’s, I’m six months and eight days clean and sober. It’s a wonderful feeling. It’s an amazing feeling. I didn’t realize I could go all this but I’m still recovering. believe in God and couldn’t do it without Him and His guidance. I’m going to graduate high school and get my diploma. When I move on from here I’m going to the pound and getting another rescue dog too.”

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