Can you imagine that someone would give up a warm bed to sleep in because the shelter wont allow a little dog? This is the dog. Now you can see why he would choose her over a bed. He is her protector, her best friend, her lifeblood. And she is his.
His name is Albert Grace, and this is Princess, his daily salvation.
I fight back tears each time I think of this duo, with whom I spent quite a bit of time during my trip to Las Vegas in August. They live in the old downtown area, where the old casinos still bring a bit of luck to some. I spent a measly amount of money buying him some bottled water for Princess, gave him some cash and cigarettes, and together, we hung out on the sidewalk, enjoying chili dogs and cokes from Binion's food counter, (which were delicious, by the way.)
Albert and I talked about being homeless at great length, and he shared a few of his darkest moments with me, including his wife dying of cancer many years ago, leading to his homelessness, how he enjoys an occasional shower and bathroom visit at the apartment of a friend, since he can't go in the casinos, and life on the street. "I am person without a home, I am not a criminal. People don't have to be afraid of me. I don't ever ask for money, I just sit here with Princess and we get by. Being homeless is hard, but I have some friends. ..I do have to be careful at night, though, because the bums will sometimes threaten to harm Princess."
The police try to move the vagrants along to keep the area tourist friendly. Like shooing pigeons going to where the bits of food are.
I am not sure whether Princess came before or after his wife's death, but she has been with him ever since. He told me that someone had taken her to the vet recently, and she, too, has been diagnosed with cancer. You may not ever see a more loving relationship than the one between this sweet man and his tiny canine friend.
The street vendors told me they look out for the duo, because they are not "bums" and generous tourists help out with dog food and water. It's true, Albert never asks for a handout. He is only 57, but his years on the street have taken a toll on his body.
My spendthrift trip to experience the lavish decadence of the city that never sleeps brought me instead to the streets where I met the real Vegas. Princess and Albert mark the beginning of probably a year long series about Vegas, called Beautiful People, which will culminate in a show in the Fall of next year.
Look for Albert if you go to Las Vegas, and buy him a chili dog.
The portrait of Princess Grace has been entered into the one word show "Hope" on Ebsqart.com. I invite you to visit the show, see and read my show entry and vote for your favorite!
*This image will be available as a print and on greeting cards, and I am working to make sure the proceeds will directly benefit Albert and Princess Grace, as long as they are still around.