Martha Aguel may have lost her job, home and most of her belongings, but through it all has retained her kind-heartedness. She is struggling to make ends meet on the streets of Los Angeles with her two dogs in tow, but that didn’t stop her from helping another dog who was clearly in need.
When Jay Hofstadter’s eight-year-old beagle, Snoopy, went missing, the distraught man hit north Hollywood and plastered streetlight poles with ‘missing dog’ fliers. While he was busy searching, Martha Aguel noticed a dog foraging for food behind the garbage containers at a shopping center. Understanding his desperation, Martha picked up the dog and brought him back to the culvert she is staying in with her own dogs, a Chihuahua named Nina and a poodle named Chino. She rescued Nina when she saw an addict attempt to trade the dog for drugs in a park.
Three days after Snoopy went missing, Jay expanded his search to areas outside of his neighborhood. While he was posting a flier, a passerby told him that he had seen Martha carrying what appeared to be a beagle. After being directed to where Martha camps out, Jay made his way over and was reunited with his missing pup.
Jay tried to pay Martha a reward, but was shocked when she declined his offer.
“She told me she was just glad I had my dog back,” said Jay. “She mentioned that the rainstorm last month had washed away her clothes and other belongings. She said all she had left were her own two dogs.”
He came back with clothing for her, as well as a mindset to find her housing. But for people with dogs, that can be difficult. Most shelters do not allow pets, which forces many to stay on the streets instead of seeking help.
“I heard of one place, but when I checked there’s a five-year waiting list,” Martha said.
She was laid off from her job at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services while she was out on medical leave after suffering a heart attack in 2011.
“I have a retirement plan but I can’t touch it yet,” Martha explained. “I don’t have health benefits until I’m 60 but I won’t get that if I take the money now.”
She was forced out of her Panorama City home after not being able to make payments, and set up camp by the Hollywood Freeway. Before long, California Department of Transportation workers ordered her to move and dismantled her set-up.
“They took everything I had brought from home. Then the flood took all my other stuff,” Martha said. “I’d love to get a job, but for that you need a place to bathe. When you live outdoors you can’t help but get dirty.”
Martha would be willing to do any type of work available.
“I’ll do anything. It would be great to be an apartment manager or someone’s caretaker. That way I’d have a job and a place to stay.”
Flora Gil Krisiloff, an aide to county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who specializes in homeless issues, said she will ask the LA Homeless Services Authority to help. Martha stresses that her dogs must stay with her.
“My dogs are a part of me,” she said. “They become your children. They’re all I have left.”