Save Princess

Popular homeless dog needs pricey surgery—or may never walk again

Princess, shown here resting while awaiting her $3,000 knee surgery.

Princess, shown here resting while awaiting her $3,000 knee surgery.


Donate to Princess' surgery costs at

Whether it’s the dude with the dreadlocks blasting metal on a boom box outside N Street Café, or the artist drawing on the patio on 20th and J streets, each city block has a local fixture.

Over at Cesar Chavez Plaza, David Hernandez and his puppy steal the show.

“I’m kind of the center of attention,” David touted during a phone chat.

It’s true. Homeless park dwellers, downtown cops, people who work near the park—everybody says they love the outgoing David and his all-white, 19-month-old pitbull mix, a beefy baby whose physique belies the sobriquet Princess.

“Everybody knows her,” said Erika Feyereisen, who works across the street from the park at the federal defender’s office. “Princess is really a beloved animal for a lot of people in the park. And she gives David a lot of support.”

Today, though, the puppy—after receiving some bungled veterinary advice—is fighting for her life. And David might never see Princess again.

Erika and her colleague Dorothy Ballew, who calls Princess “wonderful,” first met the duo last year. Dorothy would bring the pooch food, and eventually even paid to have Princess spayed.

Then, one day six months ago, Dorothy noticed Princess “didn’t seem to be feeling good.”

The problem is that David and Princess live on the streets and walk at least 5 miles each day. Princess was clearly struggling, so he took her to the UC Davis free Mercer Veterinary Clinic for the Homeless at Loaves & Fishes.

The vets offered only bad news: Princess had hip dysplasia.

Mercer assisted in paying for Princess’ medication, but symptoms persisted.

“Then, two weeks ago,” Dorothy said, “Princess couldn’t even get up.”

David’s been homeless in Sacramento going on six years. During the rainy season, he sometimes affords himself an apartment. But not this fall. And, because he has a dog, he and his boyfriend can’t get into local shelters.

David never asks for anyone’s help, he insists. “I do everything on my own.” But when Princess couldn’t muster the strength to rise to all fours, David turned to his friends.

Erika and Dorothy had been taking the dog to its veterinary appointments at Mercer and, according to Erika, the vets recently explained that there was no hope for Princess: The dog would need to be euthanized.

But they wouldn’t accept this fate.

“If this dog belonged to someone who had a home, had money,” Dorothy asked, “would they have said the best option was euthanasia?”

The women asked for a free X-ray, but say Mercer refused.

Finally, the two broke down, took Princess to a private vet and forked over for an X-ray.

Dorothy was stunned: “$530 later and we found out it’s not Princess’ hips at all. It’s actually her knees.”

Surgery will cost $3,000, and recovery is three months per knee. Mercer or UC Davis won’t donate a free procedure, according to the women, and David, of course, doesn’t have anything.

“And even if we repair those knees,” Dorothy said, “she’s can’t be wandering the streets with David.”

The vets and technicians at UC Davis’ Mercer clinic—who did not respond to emails and phone messages for this story—of course do much good for homeless animals.

But when it comes to Princess, the volunteer-veterinary outfit got it wrong, first with the misdiagnosis, then with the suggestion of euthanasia.

Today, Erika still has the dog and is focusing on lowering Princess’ weight while saving up money for the surgery. This week, they launched a Facebook page,, to solicit funds.

Meanwhile, the rainy season is here, and David hasn’t seen Princess in more than a month.

“She used to put her head—and half her body!—on my pillow,” David said. “Now, I have to sleep with one of her old dog blankets.”