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Downtown Dogs
Catcher (left) and Daddy (right) with their people, Francisco and Mercedes; both dogs later came into DDR

Instead, Tuttlemondo and “Miss Lori, the dog lady,” as Weise became known, brought services to those who needed them. They delivered food, took dogs to the vet, bought some from abusive owners and housed them in kennels that Tuttlemondo built behind Modernica. They solved the licensing problem by providing their business address, and paid the fees to license more than 300 dogs. Today, Josephs is one of only two Skid Row clients. While they continue to work with the homeless, there are far fewer Skid Row dogs, thanks to their successful spay/neuter campaign.Gradually, DDR’s focus has shifted to low-income owners in Watts, Compton and South Central LA.

But Weise still keeps an eye on Skid Row, where she often brings dinner to Josephs, who walks unsteadily as the result of an old gunshot wound. Josephs now lives in an alley, in a fenced industrial yard. His new outdoor “spot” has a bed, running water, TV,DVD player, a microwave— and plenty of space for his adopted “kids,” Twiggy and Lizzy (mixed breeds), and Freeway (a bouncy Pit Bull).

“I don’t know what I’d do without ’em,” Josephs says.He finds it easy to explain why so many have crept into his fold over the years:“I got some kind of magic with dogs.” He has rescued hundreds,Weise says.“And he’s a lost a few too,” she adds gently, giving him the dinner she has brought.

“You need to call Social Security,” he reminds her. “I will, I will,” she assures him.

Risky Business
One day in 2003, as Weise was walking by a business near Modernica, the owner called out that he had found a dog for her. He led her to a beautiful blue Pit Bull chained in the yard.

By now,Weise was very familiar with her canine client-base.Most were Bully breeds, raised on street survival. Some were trained fighters. All were unpredictable.

She called Tuttlemondo, and together they walked “Blue” to the factory, where their dog Sinbad greeted him. In a flash, Blue went from calm to crazed, lunging so violently at Sinbad that they knew he would kill him. Jumping in,Weise and Tuttlemondo wrestled Blue into a kennel. Locked inside, he exploded, spinning and rocking the frame. The powerful dog then tore a hole in the military-strength kennel, nearly ripping off the door.

Shaken, they rushed him to a vet for boarding, and wondered if it was time to quit.

That same year,Weise’s husband of 14 years moved out, unhappy with her new “calling,”which entailed a seven-day, riskfilled work week. Her beat now covered some of the most dangerous streets of South Los Angeles, where several Skid Row clients had found housing. Weise and Tuttlemondo had a kennel license and nonprofit status.But a huge challenge remained: The dogs were uncontrollable. And unadoptable. There had been fights to the death. Their decision to keep the dogs separated only deepened their distress. Weise was plagued by fears of fights and of failure. Then a law was passed prohibiting the homeless from sleeping on the streets.As their owners were arrested or forced to move on,more dogs were in need of rescue.

One afternoon, a friend convinced Weise to take Blue to meet “dog whisperer” Brandon Fouche of Canine Communications. Arriving at his South Central LA facility, she was surprised to see a pack of Bully breeds playing together. Fouche, a fit black man in his forties known for whisking uncontrollable dogs off to the mountains and returning them transformed, asked her what her dog knew. “Sit, down, heel,” she answered. Fouche told her, the animal shelters would be far less crowded.Aggression is among the 10 reasons dogs are abandoned in Los Angeles, according to data compiled by rescue organizations. Come back in two weeks, he said, and Blue will be running with the others.Weise didn’t believe him. Still, when she saw Tuttlemondo, she told him how inspired she was by the meeting with Fouche. Perhaps it was a turning point.

Two weeks later when she arrived to retrieve Blue, there he was, romping with the pack. “I had tears in my eyes,”Weise recalls.

They brought more dogs to Fouche for rehabilitation. His methods, which focus on the dog’s nature as a pack animal who craves order, help poorly socialized dogs “learn to judge their own aggression,” Weise says.

Sheila Pell is a journalist and contributor to The Bark.

Photography by Douglas Hill

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