Community helps homeless man save his dog

Photo Credit: Jasmine Dustin

Charles Gilliam lived on the streets of Los Angeles with his dog Big. Last month he was desperately asking for help to save the life of his best friend. Big is an 11-year-old mixed retriever/terrier breed. Gilliam believed Big would die if he didn’t receive medical care. Animal lover and activist Jasmine Dustin decided to help.

“I met this homeless man sitting on the side of the street not begging for money but asking to help save his dog,” said Dustin. “Instead of collecting money he was handing out the vet’s card.”

Months before Dustin met the homeless man and his dog, Big was a happy-go-lucky pet like any healthy pet. However, Big became lethargic and stopped eating. Worried, Gilliam visited a veterinarian in San Francisco, but unfortunately was told his dog had a large inoperable tumor and the best thing they could do was euthanize him.

Heart broken, Gilliam left the vet office with his beloved companion. He refused to believe there was nothing to be done to help his best friend. The homeless man and his dog kept living on the streets, hoping for the best.

When Dustin met Gilliam, she knew she had to help them.

Dustin convinced Gilliam to visit Pet Care Veterinary Center Chesterfield Square with her. She promised Gilliam she will help him pay for the medical cost somehow.

Dustin took to social media and started to ask the public to help her save Big’s life. She set up an online donation page.

“Charles lives on the street with nothing but his companion Big,” said Dustin. “His dog is very sick and needs surgery.”

On Wednesday, May 8, 2013, Big was examined by Pet Care Veterinary Center.

“There might be an abnormality in the intestine region,” said Alex Tiraki, supervisor for Care Veterinary Center Chesterfield Square. “We are hoping it is just an infection, but we won’t know for sure until Friday when we will do an ultrasound on Big. He has hope.”

Photo Credit: Jasmine Dustin

When Gilliam heard there was a possibility there was nothing life-threatening for Big, he was overcome with emotions.

“He hugged me when I told him there was hope,” said Tiraki.

By then, the donation site Dustin started had collected $300. The veterinary center estimated the cost of the ultrasound at $295, but if Big did need surgery, that would be an additional cost of $1,000 plus any other medicines the dog would need.

Gilliam returned to the vet center with Big for the ultrasound on Friday, May 10, 2013. The exam confirmed that Big was not terminally ill.

“The ultrasound showed that big had no tumors,” said Tiraki. “Big does have stones in his urinary track and has arthritis.”

The stones can be fixed by flushing them out, but the arthritis will need some medication. Tiraki also recommended that Big be put on a special diet to avoid stones in the future.

Big was scheduled to get the stones flushed the following morning, after that, he was free to go back with his owner.

The special diet that Big needs is a prescription diet dog food. This is available at the vet center, but since Gilliam lacks economic resources it would be very difficult for him to buy Big this food.

“Since he [Gilliam] lives on the streets, it is unlikely that he would carry large bags of dog food with him when he needs to move around,” said Tiraki. “If the owner can’t provide the dog with the special diet, he will need to bring the dog in for regular flushings. He feeds Big what he can. Probably the same food he [Gilliam] eats,” Tiraki continue.

Not only did Big get help, but Gilliam did too. Through Dustin’s social media networking, Gilliam was offered a place to live.

On Facebook, Dustin announced the good news to her friends and followers:
“Good news is Charles has a place to stay!!!”

Gilliam and Big’s new home is only five miles away from the vet in South Los Angeles.

Regarding the promise Dustin made to Gilliam, she was able to collect over $1,500 to cover all of Big’s medical expenses. She is also providing Big bags of the special dog food he needs.

“I would love to start helping more homeless people and their companions,” said Dustin. “I think this will be my next venture. There is one shelter here in LA that does allow them to bring in their dogs. I think it would be great to help in some way!”

If you are interested in helping Gilliam and Big you can make a donation directly to Pet Care Veterinary Center Chesterfield Square. You can call their offices at (323) 294-4030, or visit their location at 2009 W Slauson Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90047. You can also donate to Cause4Paws, Los Angeles. Connect with Cause4Paws on Facebook.


  1. Anonymous says on  05/14/2013 at 10:03 pm


  2. Anonymous says on  05/14/2013 at 10:10 pm

    This is quite the touching story with a really good outcome. Question: how did Mr. Gilliam get from LA to San Francisco?

  3. Anonymous says on  05/14/2013 at 10:10 pm

    What a beautiful story! It feels so good to help someone in need, but to help someone’s pet? Wow! “To see with one’s heart, surpasses any beauty the eyes can behold.” , that’s what this story makes me feel!

  4. Anonymous says on  05/14/2013 at 10:17 pm

    I am love this story, thank you for helping this man and his best friend

  5. Anonymous says on  05/14/2013 at 10:17 pm

    I wonder if the vets gave them a bit of a break?? Probably not.

    • Anonymous says on  05/15/2013 at 9:15 am

      I am a vet in WI and we provide discounts to service dogs, as well as pro-bono work for the community police dogs. In this situation, I would have provided services at cost or pro-bono. I just don’t understand the mentality of the medical (and some Veterinary) communities that make kids with cancer or service dogs have to beg for donations to cover the mark-ups for treatment. Work-up and blsdder surgery would cost me $100.00 in materials without charging for my time and material mark-up.

  6. shriya says on  05/14/2013 at 10:20 pm

    God bless you you are an angel. …..

  7. Anonymous says on  05/14/2013 at 11:04 pm

    You have some typos you may want to fix but it is a heartwarming story.

    *Your article reads, “Dusting convinced Gilliam to visit Pet Care…”. I believe you mean Dustin.
    *Your article reads, “Instead of collecting money he was handing out the vets’ card.” I believe you mean vet’s card. If the card was for a practice and a single card was used by every veterinarian in that practice then your usage is correct. Either way, I had to read the sentence several times to understand it, likely because my mind connected to vets (as in veterans).
    *Your article reads, “The donation site Dustin started, had collected $300.” You do not need that comma.

    • Anonymous says on  05/14/2013 at 11:34 pm

      Thank you to the grammer police for pointing out the flaws in the writing – instead of commenting on how wonderful the story. Get a life.

    • Anonymous says on  05/15/2013 at 1:17 pm

      Really are you the grammar police now? get off your soapbox and find something better to bitch about or do something about it!

  8. Anonymous says on  05/14/2013 at 11:51 pm

    No shit. Get a life Grammar ass. Great story

  9. Anonymous says on  05/15/2013 at 12:40 am

    we too are dog lover and we also had 2 dogs one a very sickly dog when she was still a puppy but she survived all her ailments coz we love dogs

  10. Anonymous says on  05/15/2013 at 1:17 am

    What bothers me is the original diagnosis by the first vet? How wrong could this be… and how often does it happen? Such a great story, bless!

  11. Tammy says on  05/15/2013 at 8:38 am

    What a wonderful story!!! We really do have people that care for one another in this wild world we live in….Beautiful outcome!!!

  12. Anonymous says on  05/15/2013 at 8:48 am

    What a wonderful person you are to help this gentleman who served our country, with help for his dog, God will truly bless you. What bothers me is the fact that this gentleman risked his life for our freedom and is living on the street. I am glad he has two special friends in his life. Shame on the government!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Monica says on  05/15/2013 at 2:24 pm

    When I saw this story on FB I immediately donated to help this man and Big.

    How thoughtful and beautiful that Jamine took the time to do what she did and this man’s dog did not die needlessly.

    There are Angels that walk amongst us.

  14. Steve Northey says on  05/18/2013 at 4:58 pm

    Please send me a subscription to Life with Dogs.

  15. Steve Northey says on  05/18/2013 at 4:59 pm

    Please send a subscription to Life with Dogs to me.

  16. thank you to everyone who donated any money tothis wonderful man and his dog.he certaintly has angel on earth as well as angels in heaven!!!!!!!!!!

  17. What a great story! Thanks for sharing. Must feel so good to help someone in need like this.

  18. John D says on  07/09/2013 at 7:16 pm

    This is such a GREAT story! Great job! Love your heart!

  19. I am homeless with my dog in Daytona beach,Florida and need help .We need a home and love . My name is Tonie and my dog is buddy

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