It’s true, I’m a dog lover. To be honest, I prefer dogs to people, and I’d say a lot of times, dogs are actually the best people. This is dedicated to the ones I’ve met and spent time with along the way.
First there was Rocky, the Boxer from my childhood. We were about the same age growing up together. We would sometimes hide under the table together when I was around 3 – 5 years old, and I always remember him being there until we had him put to sleep due to serious medical issues, pain and suffering when we were both 10 years old.
I didn’t have a dog for a long time after that, it would actually be 25 more years until I’d have my own, so the next dog I’ll have to mention’s name is Billy. Billy was a little Jack Russell Terrier in Los Angeles who got picked up as a stray, and the young lady I would eventually end up seeing took him in.
The first night this young lady and I were making it together on the couch, Billy ran up behind me and bit me straight on the sack, not too hard but then not too soft either. I naturally jumped out of pain and surprise, but continued my process with a weary eye after that, which he never tried again. I guess for a dog, seeing the rear-view of a spectacle like that could be interpreted as some type of attack, and he was going straight for the perceived source to end it.
In the couple of years I saw this lady, we’d go to the beach together and Billy always really enjoyed it. The waves of the ocean rolling up, he’d run around like a crazy and of course I’d join in and try to race him. To be honest sometimes I would take Billy to run uphill sprints with me as part of one of my workouts, and he always did a good job.
One day at the beach a big German Shepherd ran over to me near the water and started barking at me. Billy came from out of nowhere and ran in between us and jumped at the other dog and started barking, and the big dog backed off and left. Billy was a fearless protector and I admire him greatly for it.
After I ditched my apartment in Los Angeles in September of 2014 and decided to just go camping and live out of my car to save money and work on my online business, I started to get pretty lonely and depressed, traveling from town to town, camping in state parks and getting a hotel room when it was winter or if it was too cold, even one time finding a temporary roommate in Washington State on CraigsList.
I stayed for a week in the mountains just south of Palm Springs in California in the state park there. One day I walked into the local feed supply and pet store to inquire if they had any diatomaceous earth for use on bugs, as at the time I was doing internet marketing and learning all about this natural insect killer for its use on bed bugs. Apparently that’s a big thing and a major issue for people these days so it’s a high-demand market and industry.
When I was walking into the store, a white dog with a big brown spot on his side jumped up at the outside gate next to the store’s entry and barked at me. It was a nasty and startling bark. I stepped back a little bit apprehensively. I looked over and this dog was staring right at me, but he appeared to be smiling and he had a sparkle in his big dark eyes- the look of a benevolent pirate.
The shopkeeper told me they didn’t have any diatomaceous earth, so I said “ok, well how much for the dog out there?”. The lady was a little shocked at the question, but we started to talk and before you know it, I found out the dog was a stray and had been picked up by the business owner, whose main business was making organic beef-based raw dog food.
The owner had been picking up strays and keeping them in his spare room/garage of his shop, since he was a dog lover too and also a former Marine. I met him later that day and we chatted. He agreed to let me have the dog if I agreed to feed him raw dog food (raw beef or chicken) and came back the next day, so I did. He gave me about a week’s worth of his special food which was awesome.
He was very knowledgeable about dogs and what they should be eating. He explained to me that years of working in the veterinary field produced an understanding in him that most store-bought, dried dog food was garbage. It was unhealthy and the cause of a lot of health issues that dogs face, especially in old age.
The funniest part was when he was explaining that raw food for dogs produces the best, most natural dog poop (without odor or lots of gross texture), he picked up some chalky white pieces of something off the side counter and said “see, this is what a dog’s poop looks like when they eat raw” as he held the dog shit up to me. I had to contain myself to keep from busting out laughing, but it was cool to see the guy so enthused and I truly believed in what he was saying.
So, my newfound dog and I left that day, hopped into my white 3 series BMW and headed down the mountain. My new dog was not fond of the car ride, sitting in the front seat and bouncing around as we headed down the mountain. I would eventually name him Printz, a play on words for the word Prince and Prints, as he had a few distinct markings on him, being part Dalmatian and part hound, and I thought well “we’ll leave our footprints all over the world” which is a song I was listening to at the time by Tiesto,. Also, technically by calling him Prince that would make me King, so it all sounded good to me.
What’s really interesting is that Printz and I would eventually end up back in the first coastal town of California where I tried out my voluntary homelessness that first night in late in September 2014 in Arroyo Grande, and while driving along the streets there, I saw a street named Printz and thought it was an apt conclusion to a chapter in my life.
When I lost Printz in May of 2018, I spent several months after that on drug benders and basically coming a thread away from giving up on life altogether. I had lost my best friend and my brother, who in many ways was even like a son to me. He was my world. All my plans of escaping what I believed (turned out, correctly) to be a coming social upheaval/unrest situation in America came to a crashing end as I lost whom I considered was my only real family in this world.
I believe that I will see Printz again and be with him for eternity, so for now I just had to find a reason to live life again and realize even my own life is not my own, and that I have no right to end it because it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to.
I could probably write books alone on my adventures with Printz: the good times, the bad times, the fun times and the hard times. Maybe I will someday, but for now, that will have to wait.
After Printz’s disappearance, I found myself looking for reasons to live, to help anyone, to feel better, to feel something- anything. I eventually created an opportunity where I gave my time and energy to visiting and creating resources for language study as well as buying school supplies for a bunch of kids at a very small school on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
For the next few months, I tried to help out the best ways I knew how, and the teacher at the school was able to use the learning materials I produced to sell to her students as well as hang the reference materials up in her classroom. I was proud that the educator at a school saw the value in it- and used it to make money off of too in order to support her school and keep it open.
Some time went by but my travels in Asia had concluded and I set off to Russia. In Moscow I looked up animal shelters and saw there was one located about 5 miles from my hotel/apartment and very close to their main media center there, where the “Telecenter Tower” is located. I went there to volunteer one day hoping I could get to walk some dogs and show them some love.
Volunteering at the dog shelter in Moscow was tough psychologically and emotionally, but of course it is a million times worse for the dogs there than it was for me. This is simply the nature of locking up stray dogs and putting them in little holding cells most of the day. They may rarely see grass or trees. All they know is that they were locked up and are being confined. Some are angry, most are scared and confused.
I couldn’t help but feel strong sadness for these dogs. I wanted to express to them “You did nothing wrong to be here. There’s nothing wrong with you.” So I just tried to show them as much love as possible, walking up and down the lines of dogs and talking to them, saying hello, giving them treats and petting the ones who’d allow it.
The animal shelter being Russian, the dogs had some interesting names. In one cell there was a big dog named Beethoven who looked just like the dog from the movie Beethoven. Beethoven’s cell mate was a Dobermann Pinscher named, can you guess? Shakespeare. Shakespeare rarely came out of the cell even when the door was open as he was afraid- understandable. Beethoven would come out but he didn’t like me too much after one day I tried to give him a hug on the trail when I was walking him. I think he thought I was a perv or maybe going to try to harm him, but we never got along after that.
There was another dog, a pretty old black and grey wiener dog mix named “Baba Ninu”, and she always had a sweet countenance and appreciated treats and being petted, but she didn’t want a collar and didn’t want to go for any walks. Another dog’s name was “Hercules” but he was one of the dogs that was really too scared of most people, but I worked on trying to reach him until he’d eventually let me give him treats and pet him.
My favorite of all was Bart. He was a midnight black dog of mid size, his breed I honestly have no idea but he looked like a small wolf. Bart, who I would later refer to as “Chernij Bart” (Chernij meaning “black” in Russian) because it sounded cool and it was like calling him “Black Bart” (the pirate), was one of the most special dogs in the whole shelter.
Bart was very reserved, as he was scared and not very trusting too. But he was one of the dogs there that could tolerate going for a walk out in the nearby park and he really enjoyed it. Many of the dogs at the shelter won’t even go for a walk outside even if you tried because they either don’t have a collar and/or won’t tolerate being put on a leash because it scares them too badly. But Bart, a complex soul, would go for a walk with you and his demeanor would totally change from quiet, scared and reserved to free and happy.
I’d take Bart out and we’d walk, but there was this one portion of the park where there was a long line of ground in between two parallel rows of trees, usually covered in fallen leaves so it was nice and soft. I’d always bust out into a sprint when we got to this part and Bart would happily race next to me, running fast until we got to the end and started walking again.
I think one of the tragedies of modern day dog ownership is that owners don’t run with their dogs enough. Dogs are great runners and will show you up with just how far and fast they can run, and they also make fantastic training partners.
One day after a run, I took Bart back to his cell and just chilled a moment. Bart started gulping down water as it was a hot day and Bart was not short on fur by any means. I knelt down to pet him and sweet talk him a little. He was sad but appreciative.
One of the paid workers there, mostly migrants from Kazakhstan who looked to be a few hundred years behind the rest of civilization and actually lived on-site in makeshift mobile home/bunk rooms, was sitting about 10 meters away, looking at me and Bart. He started snickering arrogantly and laughing at me, or Bart, or both of us. I guess in Kazakhstan they think it’s silly to love dogs, and this guy was throwing off some bad vibes. I didn’t appreciate it, but Bart appreciated it even less, and Bark started growling and barking at the guy.
Amazing. Bart was telling the guy to f*ck off basically, that Bart appreciated me hanging out with him and the friendship we had. It’s cool how dogs are able to feel compassion more than some humans and tell someone where they can go if they are hating. It was a sad day for me when I had to leave Bart.
Another dog I met that actually lived outside of the main dog cell block and with the handicapped or severely injured was an elderly dog whom the older lady volunteers at the shelter would eventually re-name in my honor- or maybe it was to make fun of me a little- Patrick.
Patrick was quite old and had trouble walking but he could do it, though it took him some time. I don’t know what kind of dog he was, but he was maybe the Russian version of some type of Labrador/Shepherd mix, orange-brown in color, and very pleasant and peaceful in demeanor.
I’d give Patrick lots of petting, treats, and hugs. I’d even take him for a walk in the park and he could manage, though sometimes after a short walk he’d be ready to return to base. That’s okay, I’m just glad I got him out of the house.
I did that for a little over a month before I had to leave onto St. Petersburg. My main goal was just to show the dogs some love. I didn’t have a dog any more, but maybe I could still make life better for a dog in a shelter. My hope was just to make them feel a little more normal and a little better, and maybe bring them some cheer.
Leaving was sad for many reasons, but especially the idea that I’d tried to help these dogs but now I had to go. For me life would continue, but for them they’d be stuck and have one less friend there advocating for them and trying to make them feel better. It was a depressing thought.
I was very surprised when about 3 months later, I woke up in Lithuania to an email from one of the volunteer ladies from the shelter. She informed me that Bart had found a home and been adopted. I was so surprised and grateful. You think when you leave after volunteering at an animal shelter, “Did I really do anything to make a difference? Did I really help the dogs or do anything real?”
But then one of the coolest and most deserving dogs at the shelter gets a forever home, and you understand that maybe you did help to make one dog happier, more peaceful, less stressed and maybe help bring them back to life, and that on days when you’re one of the only volunteers there, you’re helping the dogs maintain sanity, and eventually a person will come by and see a special guy like Bart and want to adopt him.
If all I did was help one dog, then it was worth it. I’m really grateful to God and the adopting family, may they be blessed. I hope Bart will hang out with me and Printz in Heaven. I think it will be a good time. Oh yeah, Beethoven got adopted too, even though he hated me.
In October of 2019, I was staying in a hotel on the east side of Minsk, Belarus in the area known as their version of Silicon Valley, which at the time of this writing, is under a bit of pressure considering the political climate in the country. The hotel was just like one of the others I had previously stayed at, same floor plan, layout, and everything- probably a relic of communism. You’ll find that in former communist countries some of the buildings, the toilets, and the rooms in the buildings are all the same.
The hotel had a nice inclusive breakfast of hard-boiled eggs, oatmeal, cold cuts and sliced vegetables and fruits, as well as unlimited coffee. The coffee machine even worked some of the time. To be honest, the paid fare in the evening from the kitchen was best, and more than a few times I ordered the “Dranniki”, which are potato pancakes with grilled meat, mushrooms, and plenty of gravy.
One morning I went outside in the adjacent parking lot with my jump rope for a workout. I did my usual routine of 10 sets of 1 minute reps wearing 2 pairs of socks, no shoes (believe me, it’s easier that way). When I was finished I walked over to the sidewalk and sat down to stretch. When I looked up, there was a large dog sitting about 10 yards from me, interested in my presence and looking at me curiously, but alertly.
Well sh*t, I’m screwed, I thought. The dog hadn’t quite signaled friendly intentions, but I stretched out my arm and lifted my hand up, still seated on the ground, fingers facing down and palm towards me, to let it know I was friendly and going to let it give me a sniff.
It approached very deliberately and slowly. I didn’t know if it was going to bite me or be receptive. Fortunately it came up to me, sniffed, still looking a bit solemn, and decided that I wasn’t a threat. She was a large shepherd type dog, blackish-grey in appearance, and appeared to be very independent, meaning the type of being who has been on their own for a while, if not mostly psychologically and emotionally.
I tried to get her to play a little bit, but she didn’t seem all that interested. Like many dogs who are strays or who balance their time outdoors and sleeping in a parking lot with a security guard shack, she seemed to have been through some hard times.
I made it a point to bring her some food out a few days later after breakfast, sneaking out some hard-boiled eggs with me. I fed them to her, but she spit out the egg whites and was only interested in the yolk. Well, it wasn’t much, but I decided I’d bring some cold-cuts next time. We walked around the area a bit, exploring the slightly wooded area in the rear of the hotel.
We walked over to the parking lot and I met one of the attendants, an older man who was pretty friendly and cool. I asked what the dog’s name was and he exclaimed “Princessa”. That was a nice name for her, I thought. Seeing how she liked to just sit or lay on the ground between cars in the lot, I thought she could use a blanket or something so I bought her one when I was at the Belarussian equivalent of Wal Mart that week and bid farewell when it was time for me to jet.
In November of 2019, I was in Kiev, Ukraine staying at an interesting hotel, to say the least, on the west side of the capitol of the country. You had to walk through a practical maze, both up stairs, then down stairs, within the same building, just to get to your room. There was no 24 hour front desk either. Before you actually got to the building’s entry, you had to walk down an alley way that fed into a back parking lot where there was a garage that would be open during the day for car repair, with a small security guard post in the corner. At the opposite end of the lot was a dog house and a large dog chained up who stayed outside every night, even during the freezing cold, did not get walked or much attention from what I could tell, and would bark angrily at anyone who passed by. The security guards, a couple of old guys, would treat you like a criminal when you walked by.
I felt really sorry for the dog so one day when I was shopping for food I bought him a big long sausage/salami roll. When I arrived in the lot near the hotel entrance, I stopped and started reaching into my bag as the dog barked at me, but then he stopped curiously when I told him “I got something for you”. One of the old men ran out and started yelling at me, questioning me. I can’t remember what I told him, I might of half-ignored him and half-smarted off to him, but I took the metal retaining piece off the end of the roll of meat and slid it all the way across the lot like I was bowling, and the dog looked to be as surprised as can be. He slowly walked up to the meat and began eating it. He never really barked at me much after that, but I felt really sorry for him anyway and made sure to point out on my hotel review of the business that someone was guilty of animal neglect and I didn’t recommend anyone else to stay there since they are ok with animal cruelty.
In January of 2020, I found myself just outside of Belgrade, Serbia in Zemun staying in a small 3-room house on a family’s property. The house was very small and not well-insulated or heated so I usually wore long pants, 2 pairs of socks and 2 jackets on top of 2 shirts while I was there.
Sure, it’s winter in Serbia and I’m freezing my butt off in this house, but at around $24/night it allowed me a lot of privacy and a place where I could work on music for a month.
A large, golden-colored Labrador/St. Bernard mix named “Medo” and a husky from next door would come and visit me regularly. The female Husky was hyper aggressive and likely insane, and she would constantly bother Medo to the point where she wasn’t playing at all, but just trying to attack and bother Medo to the point where she could get all the attention. She would also snap at me and would escalate if you tapped her on her nose for being too aggressive, so I would try to avoid dealing with her when possible.
I would let Medo into the small house I was staying at to get away from the Husky and to hang out with him a little. There was also a screen window on the large kitchen window in which a hole had been partially scratched or chewed out, and the hole only got larger in the month I stayed there. See, I had to open the window whenever I cooked meals because the kitchen had no other ventilation, so sure enough just about every time I made food old Medo would show up and perch his front paws up on the window sill and bark and look in, trying to get a sniff and hopefully a bite.
Me being a softy, I would throw a few bites of the egg, ham and chees omelette or the hamburger in the cheeseburger and Brussels sprout casserole I would often make out to Medo, and he would eat it quickly with delight.
What’s funny is the hole time, I didn’t even know it was the neighbor’s dog. I thought it was the property owner’s dog, but nope it belonged to the household next door. The fence on the property was only partial, and the property owner let the dogs run free back and forth to do as they chose. The owner’s dog would sometimes come down, an older, medium-small sized dog, but it would constantly get attacked and bothered by the crazy Husky most of the time.
Medo would check on me when I woke up, as I’d often share bits of a banana with him which he really enjoyed, and he’d come back in the afternoon to play some fetch with a stick. Then of course he’d make an appearance at dinner when he could smell what was cooking.
I started calling Medo “Honey Bear” as in Serbian, “medo” means honey and he was about as big as a bear, plus he was always up for some banana slices and he was pretty affectionate, though play time usually resulted in him wanting to gnaw anything in his face’s vicinity. This usually included the blanket on the bed in the spare bedroom of the house when I would sit with him and chill in there, and of course my arm when my hand was near his chompers.
One Saturday night he came over late and I was drinking Scotch. I am not really a big drinker but usually once a week in Serbia I’d down a bottle of Johnny Walker Red between a couple of nights as my only real form of partying. Old Honey Bear showed up and we hung out all night drinking, snacking away and just goofing off outside in the patio. Ok, I drank, he didn’t, but still.
3 am came around, and I was sleepy and tired so I just stumbled into the main bedroom to turn in for the night. Medo followed me in, but I said “sorry buddy, you can’t sleep in here”, so Medo just went to the spare bedroom and got into bed and went to sleep all by himself. It was funny because I woke up at about 6 or 7 am and thought maybe I should let him out of the house to go back to his family because they might be wondering where he was. Still it was humorous to me that Medo and I had been hanging out drinking all night and he just crashed at my place like a couple of regular dudes when it was time to sleep, and there was no lengthy decision making about sleeping arrangements, it was just sort of normal and happened.
It was sad the morning I left Serbia too, as Medo came around early that morning when it was still dark and my ride was picking me up to take me to the airport.
Dogs are incredibly sophisticated and sensitive, he saw me packing up my bags and getting ready to walk out the door and I could tell he knew I was going away, or that this was different from all the other times I had left the grounds and gone through the gate only to return a few hours later. There was something about his spirit that morning that revealed his concerned awareness of me leaving which touched my soul.
I got down and gave him a big hug and told him “I gotta go. God bless you buddy, I’ll see you in Heaven, Honey Bear.”