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Romeo Is My OWN

By Sherri Beachfront Lewis

August 13, 2010

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Driving across Los Angeles on a Friday afternoon to get to the west side where I trust the vet care, I call their emergency from my car. "We'll be waiting for you Sherri," they said. Romeo was taken in. He was in very bad shape. They said they needed to do exploratory surgery since he was badly bruised on his belly, an area I hadn't even seen.

Romeo gets a special visit from Dab the AIDS Bear!

Romeo gets a special visit from Dab the AIDS Bear!

Then the payment issue comes up. "You will need to make a deposit." I knew, having had dogs live into old age, what we were talking about. "How many thousands of dollars is this going to be? Is it under $10,000?" "Yes, but we will need a deposit," she said. We agreed on the amount of the deposit to get things going and the running bill began. "We will be taking him into surgery immediately." the vet said. "We'll give you a call when he's out of surgery." I'm a mess.

Romeo's progress was good and he was released to me with instructions for all his various medications, painkillers, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory meds and the collar -- every dog's nightmare! Amazing, 3 days in the hospital, over $5,000 later and counting, and he was home with me. But I have no name of the dog owner, no dog and I am frustrated and frightened at how little protection you actually have, that it is just all an illusion. My building security, the LAPD, Animal Regulations, it's really up to us, the community of friends and animal lovers and activists. Sunnie Rose, Executive Director of The Life Group L.A. created a page for Romeo to raise funds for his vet bill. (You can also read the full version of Romeo's story and get updates on his health status there)

Let's just go home now!

Let's just go home now!

I wish Romeo's recovery were a straight road. But it was not. After a few days of missing his personality, not being himself and calling the vet several times a day asking, "Is he acting like this because of the meds?" "Is he in pain?" "Fear?" "He's just not himself." They said, "You know your dog best." "If you think something's wrong with him, bring him in." So I did. It turned out he had a severe infection in the wound on his leg. He had to have another procedure to have drains put in to remove the fluids. "The good news is he has no fever which is good," the doctor said. "You got him here before he became toxic."

When I finally get Romeo home, I'm overwhelmed and feel unqualified. He now needs warm heat packs for 10 minutes on his wounds several times a day. I'm freaked. But Romeo is calm, and I never hear him bark. I miss my jumping barking dog. Not a sound. I want my dog back. My perfect beautiful little dog. Then I remember. He could have died. He could have lost his leg and his life. I'm blessed to have him here with me. Tubes, blood and all, lying on his disposable dog pads that need to be changed frequently as his drains run the nasty fluids out of his body.

Four days later Romeo has his appointment to remove his drains and some of his stitches. The clean surgical cut that once had dark purple bruising is now pink and healed. Amazing.

Romeo, drug and pain free.

Romeo, drug and pain free.

Romeo is happiest when he is out and surrounded by people. The hands he used to fear at the vet are now his friends, all of them. He loves everybody, but is terrified of the sound of any dog, small or large. That, I'm afraid, will take some time and some work re socializing him.

Currently Romeo is no longer in pain but still needs his warm compresses several times a day to keep the fluids moving out of his leg. The dog's owner is yet to be found. Baja Fresh on Sunset could be liable.

For many of us, especially in the HIV and LGBT communities, our pets are our children, members of our family. Like Romeo, some of us have been rescued by our communities -- and some of us have been rescued by our own dogs! I want to thank my good friend Shannon Von Roemer, owner of Bark n Bitches, for hosting Dogs Without Borders Rescue Group where I found my Romeo, who rescued my broken heart and continues to teach me every day about courage, love and healing.

Now where the heck is my OWN show already?!

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See Also
10 Things You Can Do to Enhance Your Emotional Well-Being

Reader Comments:

Comment by: juana (denver co ) Wed., Sep. 8, 2010 at 12:55 pm UTC
In moments like these is where we should unite and look out for each other. Someone should had gotten an ID from the owner. I pray to God that someone did; because I trully believe the owner of the dog should help with the bill.
Also please do not hate pit bulls they are beautifull animals. I have a pit bull and little dogs as well.
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Comment by: Merlin (Asia) Sat., Aug. 28, 2010 at 11:32 am UTC
Sherri, go back to the place where the attack happened and put up a notice for witnesses who may know the pit bull owner and try to find him to foot the bill and take action. This is NOT the time to let things be. The pits can kill other dogs in future.

Be strong Romeo. Love everywhere will keep you strong and heal you well. Kiss.
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Comment by: Henry (NYC) Fri., Aug. 27, 2010 at 8:26 pm UTC
Hang in there, Romeo, you have a GREAT mom!

Sherri, two words: you rock!@ I was in a similar situation as what you describe when I saw a dog making a beeline toward mine in a way that did not seem "right." I was able to nip it in the bud and nothing happened but it could have ended badly. I just left a donation.

PS: I was diagnosed 2 years ago and doing great. When I came across you online when I was obsessing during those first few months it really helped me cope and gave me hope that there IS life after HIV. You inspire me, thanks.
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Comment by: Erin (Los Angeles) Thu., Aug. 26, 2010 at 3:34 pm UTC
I am so sorry your dog was hurt by an irresponsible pit bull owner. Pit Bulls are amazing and beautiful dogs, but unfortunately many of them have bad owners - I stress this because it is not the breed that is bad. I wish all dog owners would be repsonsible, maintain control of their pets at all times and comply with leash laws. I also wish there was more enforcement of the leash law!
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Comment by: Julia M. (NYC) Sat., Aug. 14, 2010 at 7:43 am UTC
Its amazing how much joy Romeo brings into the world. Stronger laws need to be in effect for owners of attack dogs and pit bulls. Just as we advocate for bully-free schoolyards and classrooms for kids, we need to ensure bully free zones for our pets. The owners of the pit bull should be held responsible, in the same way that a parent should be responsible for a child, as you could have gotten hurt rescuing Romeo in this situation.
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Comment by: Dab Garner (Wilton Manors, Florida) Fri., Aug. 13, 2010 at 5:05 pm UTC
So glad Romeo and you are both doing better. Love the pic of Romeo being comforted by Dab the AIDS bear. I know how upset I would be if something happened to one of my kids.
We are honored to have you as one of our Ambassadors of Hope. You did a fantastic job on CNN!
Keeping you and Romeo in our thoughts and prayers.
Wishing you both health, hope and happiness.
big bear hug,
Daddy Dab
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Sherri Beachfront Lewis was diagnosed HIV positive in 1987 after a routine blood test for her marriage license. She was one of the first women to be diagnosed with HIV in the United States and still be alive and well. In the past 20-plus years, Sherri has worked with and coordinated numerous HIV/AIDS research and advocacy efforts. She's been a columnist for Arts & Understanding Magazine, a national HIV/AIDS publication, highlighting the stories of women living with HIV/AIDS. She has graced the cover of POZ Magazine and been featured in the Washington Post. Sherri has performed with Sheryl Lee Ralph and Patti La Belle at DIVAS Simply Singing, and with Broadway CARES/Equity Fights AIDS in her hometown of New York City.

Sherri recently reclaimed her entertainer's identity as Sherri Beachfront, an 80s pop diva, as the host of Straight Girl in a Queer World -- a series of 60 podcasts for Here! Networks in which she interviewed a wide range of fascinating guests between 2007 and 2008. Download and listen to Sherri's podcasts!

Become friends with "Straight Girl in a Queer World" on Facebook!

Speaking engagements: Sherri Beachfront Lewis is available to speak to groups. Contact Sherri about speaking at your organization or event!

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Interviews With Sherri:

Former Pop Star Sherri Lewis Talks About Living With HIV (October 2009)

This Month in HIV: Tips and Tricks for Coping With HIV/AIDS (November/
December 2007)

Washington Post Profiles HIV/AIDS Advocate, Singer Sherri Lewis (December 23, 2008)

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