Edinburgh’s homeless and pets in TV documentary

John and dog Chloe are two of the stars in the TV documentary. Picture: Complimentary
John and dog Chloe are two of the stars in the TV documentary. Picture: Complimentary
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A GROUP of city homeless people and their dogs are the stars of a new TV documentary revealing the important role pets play in the lives of those on the street.

Sleeping Ruff is a 30-minute film which captures a glimpse of nine homeless people from the Capital through their relationships with their dogs.

Filmmaker Susi Arnott set out to tackle the prejudice of everyday people towards the homeless and their pets.

She teamed up with city-based Stephen Blakeway, from Vetwork, a national charity working for appropriate animal health services, to seek out street dogs and their owners for the film.

Ms Arnott said: “The way homeless people have such close attachments to animals was something I hadn’t considered. It seemed like a lot of people were prejudiced, myself included, when it came to homeless people and animals.

“Stephen had told me that street dogs are often healthier than many ‘sitting room’ dogs, for example. When I heard that I became convinced that this was a film that needed to be made.”

During the film it becomes clear through interviews with the nine homeless people that each holds their dog’s health in the utmost importance, even above their own.

One homeless person would only go to hostels or shelters where dogs are allowed and another said he would turn down a house if dogs were not permitted, preferring to sleep rough and keep his animal safe.

Stephen said: “Talking about their dogs allowed them to open up about their lives in a way they probably wouldn’t if they were just talking for themselves.

“I occasionally bump into some of them again, sometimes with their dogs, which is particularly nice, and it is always good to see them and catch up.

“We hope the film will lead to more hostels taking in homeless people with pets. Sleeping Ruff has become one of the things I am most proud of – perhaps because it is a simple strong story that just presented itself and we just went ahead and made it.”

The film is to receive its TV debut in a bid to raise awareness for homelessness in the Capital in the run-up to The Rock Trust’s annual Sleep Out event in Festival Square on November 7.

The Rock Trust helps young people between the ages of 16-25 in Edinburgh and the Lothians who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The charity’s role is to advise, educate and support young people to enable them to build the personal skills and resources required to make a positive and healthy transition to adulthood.

Alexander Kann, general manager of the Community Channel, said: “I am delighted to have this opportunity to share Sleeping Ruff with viewers.”

The film will be broadcast on the Community Channel on Saturday November 2 at 8pm.

Our companions and our consciences

THE film features Alan, who reckons he’d be in jail if it wasn’t for his dog Holly. He said: “She keeps me on the straight and narrow because I spend my drinking money on food for her. She’s like my wee bairn now. For some people who don’t have families, their dogs are their only company.”

Chrissie, who is searching for her runaway dog, Crow, said: “I prefer dogs to people. They protect you on the street, barking to warn the owner. There’s an unconditional love that you get from your dog. l’m going to hunt the country till I find him.”

Another said: “I’d turn down a house if the dogs weren’t allowed.”