Homeless man chooses his dogs over housing

Dec. 23, 2010 at 6:23 a.m.

Delmar Litchfield prefers to live in his red pickup truck before giving up his companions, Duke and Roja. His dogs go everywhere he does, but it has been a challenge to find an affordable housing where he could also take Duke and Roja.

Delmar Litchfield prefers to live in his red pickup truck before giving up his companions, Duke and Roja. His dogs go everywhere he does, but it has been a challenge to find an affordable housing where he could also take Duke and Roja.

Delmar Litchfield knows all too well that home is where the heart is, even if that home is a red, 1992, single-cab Toyota truck.

Since moving to Texas from Mexico in March, the homeless Litchfield can't find employment or housing that he can afford on his Social Security check and that will allow him to live with his two large dogs.

As a result, Litchfield, 69, said he and his dogs have no choice but to live in his truck.

"Of course things would be easier without them, but I wouldn't want to be without them," said Litchfield, whose voice began to slightly tremble underneath his white Yosemite Sam-like beard as he discussed his pets. "I'd go nuts without these dogs."

Litchfield, who rescued Rojas, a 5-year-old Doberman pinscher, and Duke, a 4-year-old mastiff and chow mix, when they were puppies, refuses to give up the dogs in exchange for better living accommodations.

"They are like my children. I call them my kids. They just happen to be canine," said Litchfield, who has no close family members who are still living. "They eat before I do, and they have all their shots."

Litchfield said he fled Mexico to save their lives.

A longtime California resident, Litchfield moved to Mexico in March 2001 after getting fed up with the corruption of the U.S. real estate market, he said.

Before his international move, Litchfield held jobs as a machinist, construction worker, superintendent of public works, oil driller and even served in the Navy for two years, but it wasn't until he got his real estate license in 1970 that he felt he had finally found the right career.

"I was making three times more than I was as a machinist," said Litchfield, who said he was the top-selling agent at his firm for four years in a row and averaged an annual salary of $120,000 a year.

Eventually, Litchfield said, he went on to open his own real estate firm, Del Casa Corp.

A search of California Department of Real Estate records confirmed Litchfield received his real estate license in 1970, and it expired in 1979.

His life soured, however, when his affiliation with an escrow company resulted in his arrest for grand theft. He contends he didn't know the company was engaging in shady practices.

Although he said he was innocent, Litchfield said, dwindling savings and poor representation from a court-appointed attorney led him to take a plea deal after spending six and a half months in jail.

He moved to Mexico shortly after his release.

A search of Riverside County, Calif., inmate records and a search of Texas Department of Public Safety records did not yield any information on Litchfield's criminal history.

Litchfield said he lived a good life in Mexico.

While in Mexico, he took steps to get back into the local real estate business.

He also acquired Roja and Duke.

Litchfield said he saved Roja from a friend who was going to put her to sleep because of her infestation with the mange, but Duke found him and Roja a year later.

"He was a walking skeleton when he first started coming to my yard. I would feed him then put him back outside the fence, but he kept coming back," said Litchfield. "One cold night, I found Duke on my back porch and he had such a sad face so I told him 'OK, you can live with us too.' "

Life in Mexico soured, too, however, when drug cartels began to make life unbearable for all Mexico residents, but especially for American expatriates.

"They were finding Americans dead at the dumps all the time," said Litchfield.

It was not until Litchfield himself became the target of an extortion attempt, though, that he knew he had to leave Mexico to save the lives of his little family.

"They demanded half my income," said Litchfield, who said he quietly moved many of his belongings back to the U.S. before packing his dogs up in dog carriers and fleeing the country for good. "I knew if I didn't pay, they would kill the dogs to intimidate me into paying. They have no respect for animals."

Upon his arrival in South Texas, Litchfield said he had his sights set on coming to Victoria, which he had fallen in love with after a visit many years ago.

"I love this place," said Litchfield. "Here, people of all races do things together. I was really pleased with that. In California, you never see people of different cultures socializing."

Since settling in Victoria, Litchfield said, he has fallen into a routine of taking the dogs to exercise and play twice a day at the park, spending time at Starbucks and the public library to use the Internet; sleeping in the parking lot of a local truck stop and eating at Christ's Kitchen, where he has already made an impression on many people.

"I look at it like he chose the dogs. He wanted to be with the dogs. That's his whole family," said W.K.Brooks, one of the founders of Christ's Kitchen. "I don't blame him so much for that because that's the only family he's got. I never see him without them."

From what he knew about Litchfield, Brooks said he appeared to be a friendly guy.

When Litchfield is not socializing at Christ's Kitchen, he occupies himself by working on his new website, Amerspeak, which allows people to voice their opinions on what is right and wrong with America.

Alas, the luxury of showers are not included in Litchfield's daily, weekly or monthly schedule.

The high cost to use the showers at the YMCA and the truck stop where he sleeps and the inability to use the Salvation Army's showers, make it impossible for homeless people with dogs to take regular showers, said Litchfield, who has not had a hot shower in seven months.

"A hot shower would be nice," Litchfield said.

Litchfield, who lives by the motto, "Don't ever quit," said he continues to hold out hope that things will work out here in Victoria.

"I really would like a place in the country, on a gravel road and no traffic so the dogs could run around," he said. "I would just like a place I can afford to rent with my dogs."

Until he finds a dwelling that fits his criteria, Litchfield said he would continue to take solace in the fact that his family is still together.

"I consider myself to be wealthy, but I guess that depends on what you think wealthy is," said Litchfield. "If this article came out and someone offered me a million dollars for each dog, I wouldn't take it, but I would talk to Roja and Duke and let them know if I was going to give up $2 million, they'd better start being good dogs all the time."



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