My Dog is My Home: The Experience of Human-Animal Homelessness in Theory & Practice is a breathtaking new exhibit, still in production (and due this August), focusing on the bond between homeless individuals and their companion animals. The unique exhibit, which will be displayed both online and in a yet-to-be-secured space in Los Angeles, already boasts an afternoon’s worth of viewing and reading material via its blog. A project of the National Museum of Animals & Society, My Dog is My Home examines the human-animal bond from the vantage point of homeless humans coping with living on the streets, and also looks at the struggles these folks face in finding housing and getting access to social services.
The exhibit’s Research Intern, Emma Newton, explained to me some of the challenges that the subjects of this exhibit undergo. “Because it is difficult for social services to accommodate the unique needs of these families, homeless inter-species families are often excluded from receiving services such as housing,” she said. “We have collected interviews from homeless individuals with companion animals living in L.A. to obtain an understanding of the lived experience of these individuals.”
Though the stories being collected center around L.A., there is a national context to My Dog is My Home, too. NMAS is collaborating with organizations that work with the homeless — such as the ASPCA, The Rose Brooks Domestic Violence Shelter, Lifelines, and The Stewpot — to collect artwork, photographs, and videos that people have created telling the story of their companion animals. Emma went on to explain, “We are also taking a national view by discussing […] the difficulty in accessing shelter in the context of natural disasters and domestic violence.”
As an extension of the exhibit, NMAS is also working on a literature review of the same topic, which will be presented at conferences around the country this summer.
Though it’s still being created, My Dog is My Home is already causing quite a stir, concurrently awakening people to compassion for animals and humans, and reminding each of us of the inexplicable and powerful bond created between dog and human. Among NMAS’ calendar of events includes several presentations throughout California focusing on the exhibit.
There’s even a Hip Hop/Punk/Hardcore Music Show benefiting My Dog is My Home coming to NYC on May 11 at 8 p.m. “The benefit concert is also raising funds to create a service fair for homeless individuals and companion animals,” said Emma, “to connect them with social services that have the capacity and ability to service these families’ unique needs.”
According to the Facebook invite:
All too often it is the people in most dire need of understanding and companionship who are ignored — scorned by their fellow humans. Many homeless people turn to nonhuman companions for what is likely their first stable and positive interaction. This mutually beneficial relationship not only has therapeutic effects, but it also offers both of them a real sense of family. Sadly, people in these relationships are commonly denied access to the few services that are available precisely because of their unwillingness to abandon their loved ones. The money raised at this benefit goes to some of the only researchers in the country who are on the ground examining these cross-species relationships, and improving the lives of all involved. This money will help fund an exhibit to bring attention to, advocate for, and provide direct services to homeless people in L.A., one of the cities with the largest homeless populations in the U.S. The fact is that animals often treat our society’s outcasts far more humanely than most of us do.
For more information about My Dog is My Home and the NYC fundraiser, don’t miss Emma Newton’s interview on Dispatches from the Underground.