From mid-1988 to spring 1989, I was a social worker at a medical clinic in the South Bronx. Entries from my diary follow about the neighborhood dogs.
9/28/1988 – I saved yet another poor creature from the cruelty of life on the streets. Tootsie (I named her) walked into our clinic today. A beautiful dog – young healthy and friendly. Maria and I dropped her off at the ASPCA drop off site this afternoon. I hope she’s adopted to a loving family but she probably won’t be. I already had two dogs and lived in a studio. Maria had two dogs as well. We did the best we could so Tootsie wouldn’t suffer on the mean streets of the South Bronx. ASPCA case #309556
11/17/1988 Saw two stray dogs. My heart breaks every time I see them. Each and every time. The cruelty surrounding me is hard to bear. Some days I feel as if I’m going to break apart. I reach inside and look for strength to carry on. I honestly don’t know how I make it.
The day before Thanksgiving (1988) my heart goes out to all the neighborhood stray doggies. You eat garbage left on the streets. You drink water from dirty puddles and hide under parked cars to stay dry when it rains. When it is cold outside you try to stay warm inside abandoned buildings. I’ve seen drug dealers throw you out because they don’t want to share the space. Every day of life on the Bronx streets prolongs your agony.
11/25/88 – I saw a group of crack dealers walk into the empty lot across the street from our clinic and hang a stray dog to its death. The dead dog hung from a tree for two days in full view of passersby. I felt sickened and disgusted.
12/5/88 – Maria my co-worker found this dog on the streets. She was kind enough to drive it to the ASPCA who performed animal control at the time. Case # 322418. The dog was probably put to death but that was better than the savage life on the South Bronx streets.
12/6/1988 – On my way to work today I passed by two stray dogs. I had two cans of dog food in my back pack. I called the ASPCA rescue service when I got to work but the chances they were picked up were slim to none. Pet overpopulation overwhelmed the South Bronx.
12/8/1988 – Those two dogs were not picked up by the ASPCA. One of them was there today – I fed him. The other skinny frightened one was gone. Sorry I didn’t get to feed her. Later in the day I passed by the same spot. I saw “Red” a neighborhood stray, a local resident admitted to dumping. He looked sad. And it was cold, very cold. Maybe Maria and I will be able to rescue him tomorrow. It hurts my heart.
12/9/1988 – Another dreary day in the South Bronx. I saw three stray dogs this morning. It’s cold and it is expected to snow. It is beyond my comprehension and perhaps I will never understand how people can abandon dogs (and cats) like this. I need guidance to keep going in this job. I cannot do it alone.
12/13/1988 – It’s bitterly cold the last few days. I took a walk today at lunch and fed some stray dogs during that hang around Burnside Avenue. They sat together – shivering. I fed them and looked for others.
12/15/1988 – Another unfortunate dog crossed my path today, case #315492. I took a walk at lunch to find “Red” but instead found an emaciated sick stray. I fed her then took off my belt and used it as a leash. I walked to the corner and caught a cab. The driver was hesitant but then changed his mind. The dog puked in the back so I hid the miss by sliding the dirty mat under the back seat. As soon as we arrived at the Manhattan ASPCA, I threw the puke-laden mat on the street, paid the fare and ran inside. I had called Maria my co-worker and asked her to cover for me by saying I was on a home visit. Dog lover Maria did me the favor.
12/19/1988 – I hate seeing stray dogs. Today I must’ve fed 6-8 strays. They look so pitiful, so sad and so very hungry. I hope that all those people who abandon dogs realize the suffering they cause. People often make me sick.
As an animal lover, working in the neighborhood was too overwhelming. I quit in March 1989.