John Abshire has been living on and off the street for about 20 years. He’s a Navy vet and has a mental illness that keeps him from getting a job. He now lives in some woods beside the Katy Freeway near Taylor Street.
From left to right: John Abshire, his pit bull mix Ginger, and Kellye Leboff. Kellye and Cory Leboff regularly visit John Abshire and his pit bull mix Ginger, who live in woods by the Katy Freeway.
With him at all times is 2 ½ year-old Ginger, a tan pit bull mix.
“Friend of mine asked if I wanted a dog, so I took the dog, man. Just wanted a friend, man.”
That was about two years ago. He says he now can’t imagine ever being without Ginger.
“Aw man, I don’t know what I’d do. I’d probably go crazy. I’m already crazy enough.”
Of course, owning a dog when you have barely enough to eat yourself can be an additional challenge.
And that’s where Jurassic Bark Rescue comes in.
“When we got full here and we couldn’t take any more dogs into the house, we thought, what could we do?”
That’s Kellye Leboff. She and her husband Cory started Jurassic Bark out of their home in Missouri City in 2010. A year later, the couple launched the Hungry Homeless Project.
“My sister and I were driving around town and we saw some homeless people with dogs. I’m like, you know, I can’t take any more dogs in here, in the house, but I can help you. You have a dog, I can provide veterinary care, I can spay and neuter, I can provide food. And that’s how it started.”
Cory Leboff with Jurassic Bark Rescue unloads food for the homeless and their dogs.
Kellye, Cory and Kellye’s sister Guideon Grafton now go out several nights a week to check on homeless people and their pets all over the Houston area.
And while they’re at it, they also pass out blankets, food and water to really any homeless person they see.
They are helped by a growing network of supporters they communicate with over Facebook.
“We started to get to know the guys and the guys with dogs said, you know, my friend over here doesn’t have any dogs but he needs blankets. Well, you know what, I can do that. Go on Facebook, I said, hey, got some homeless guys who need some blankets. All of a sudden, my garage is full of blankets.”
Kellye says another challenge for those homeless people who have dogs is that they can’t bring their four-legged friends into shelters because they don’t accept pets.
Scott Arthur is with Houston’s Star of Hope Mission. He says homeless people can benefit greatly from dogs for their companionship and protection. But he says the Star of Hope shelter is at capacity and there’s just no room for pets.
“We have, you know, 40, 50 people sleeping on the floor every night, so we really can’t worry about kennels or pets or dogs at this point. We’re worried about our fellow human being.”
Because of that, homeless dog owners like Joel Toscano will rather sleep on the street every night. For them that’s the better alternative to giving up their best friend.
“I got food. I got dog food. I got blankets. I got a tent. I got a little stove, and I got a little heater. Me and my dogs are fine.”