(Cara Bayles for boston.com)
Some former residents of a Pine Street Inn transitional home will be honored this month by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Like many at the shelter, they have struggled to overcome trauma, abandonment, and distrust.
But the group being recognized at an Oct. 21 dinner at the Kennedy Library in Dorchester is truly a breed apart: at least 10 dogs who lived alongside men at the shelter's Stapleton House who were themselves beset by chronic homelessness.
More than a year ago, house manager Barbara Davidson brought in their first canine ward, Brady, through the All Dog Rescue program, when one resident of the South End dwelling was having trouble adjusting to his new home.
"Living on the streets, there are certain behaviors you learn. You have to try to defend yourself, you have to be on your guard," Davidson said. "People who have lived on the street know you have to show that someone cares. They try to understand the dog, rather than just training it. They don't judge them."
All of the dogs that have stayed in the house have since been adopted, and many have overcome severe behavioral problems left over from their lives on the street. Billy, the mutt who currently lives in Stapleton, is a scrappy, energetic 2-year-old with a missing tooth and scars from a fight he started with a mastiff.
Stewart Thorpe, who's been living at Stapleton for almost a year, says with some admiration that Billy pulls at the leash during their walks.
"These dogs are a lot more intelligent than people give them credit for," he said. "They realize that this is a good environment, and they certainly appreciate all the caring people around them."
There has been a steady parade of dogs since Stapleton started fostering, ranging from a Jack Russell terrier named Jackie O. to a pit bull mix named Charlie.
"It's kind of a metaphor. A lot of these individuals have had difficult lives," says Pine Street spokeswoman Barbara Trevisan. "The men and the dogs have really formed a real bond, an understanding. Some of the men will take the dog for a walk, and when you have a dog, people tend to gravitate toward you. So it helps the men regain a connection with the community."