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Downtown Dogs


Now Barker faced a new struggle with Boxer. She called Weise, and an intensive training session began. She walked Boxer, whom she describes as “a very angry, confused, undisciplined dog,” up to six times a day.Weise waited for a call for backup, but it never came. Today, she says, the difference in Boxer “is like day and night.” He can play with other dogs, and likes some people. She admits that, “without Jo, he would probably be dead.”

To assist with his deprogramming, Barker had him neutered.When Boxer returned home after the surgery, Dekota was ecstatic. That’s when she knew Boxer could stay. “Dekota had accepted him, even with all his bullying vigor,” she says.

They now live in a house in a rough South Central LA neighborhood, where Boxer is learning trust and stability—no easy task, considering his rough beginning. Pit Bulls, Barker says, have especially keen memory retention.To get such a loyal but strong-willed breed to take a submissive role in the family means “controlling a very dominant framework within that type of dog.”

She says he is slowly learning about “other people’s blankies,”her canine code for people in their yard behind their fence. She also mentions a toilet paper fetish and the “modifications” he made to her best wool sweater.

At night, things are easier. Boxer loves to snuggle and “pretends he is a rotorooter crawling under the covers.” She credits Dekota for calming “this devildemon.” He’s finally grasping the difference between what’s okay and what’s harmful, says Barker.

Boxer’s strong urge to protect the home he finally found isn’t altogether unwelcome for a woman living alone in one of LA’s toughest neighborhoods.“He loathes crackheads, heroin addicts and obnoxious drunks,” she says. He also dislikes people who approach them too quickly, especially at night.“He is my bodyguard and house protector,” she says, confessing her belief that it has something to do with the distinct coloring on his shoulders— in the shape of angel wings.

Weise, who sees dogs with similar markings all the time in her work, has a more earthly view of the 70-pound Pit Bull. “Everything Jo has is special,” she says. “She loves that dog.”



Sheila Pell is a journalist and contributor to The Bark.

Photography by Douglas Hill

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