Finding the Right Homes for Retired Hounds in the Delaware, Maryland, D.C., Virginia Area ...and Beyond!
The Holiday Hounds Bring Christmas Cheer - part 3by Ron Powell
~~With little fanfare
He subtly guided
It seemed so mundane,
I was thinking about my latest assignment, which was 'write an article,' and the deadline I had was fast approaching. My boss is a real hard case. She said I had to write a story about ‘something uplifting because the Holidays are approaching’ and to have it in 'sometime this week.' I should complain to my union rep about it. I mean, how can a man cope with working conditions like this? It's nearly inhumane. I'm probably even going to have to wake Bo up from his 4th nap of the day. Still, I figured I owed it to the good citizens of this city to do my very best, no matter how bad it was for me personally. Righteously, I changed out of my pajamas and got ready to stick it to the man by finding a story to write. Now, where did I put my sneakers? Oh yeah, Bo is sleeping on them.
Bo and I headed out into the bright sunny day, which also happened to be a little windy and a bit too brisk for my taste. Bo even had his winter coat on - it looked like newsprint. A small conceit, but Bo liked it. Sometimes, when I have a story due and I can't find a good scoop, Bo and I just wander the city. Usually we find something or someone will strike up a conversation and I'll get a lead. It's not exactly combing the morgues for stiffs or getting hot on the trail of The Wett Bandits, but it worked well enough that Bo and I have won several awards and folks are starting recognize the Reporter and the News Hound. Doors get opened, who am I to close them?
Anyway, it being a Monday morning, I headed over to Bo's favorite coffee shop. It was his favorite because the owner has a large supply of dog treats and fawns all over him. It's my favorite because it has coffee, the owner is a real nice lady and it happens to be exactly between the two worst intersections in the city for traffic accidents. What can I say? It's good for business. When we arrived, sure enough, there were a few cops helping to clear out a minor fender bender nearby. I grabbed 3 coffees, let Bo get some treats and, after thanking the owner and paying the tab, we meandered over to a good buddy of mine on the force who was working the scene.
I handed him and his partner a coffee and said, "What do we have here, boys?" They both chuckled a bit and my buddy tells me it was a simple Monday morning accident. Nothing to write home, or an article, about.
"What, no drugs in the trunk or someone trying to flee the scene?" I asked hopefully. What the heck, sometimes the story isn't immediately obvious.
"Nothing of the sort. Thanks for the coffee, though. You're a good pal, Ernie." My name isn't Ernie, but he always calls me that, because I'm 'always on the front lines, like Ernie Pyle.' Sometimes I call him Flanagan, for that Irish Beat Cop feel. That's not his name either, nor is he Irish, but he likes old detective movies as much as I do, so it's kind of our thing. "I'll tell you what, though, I got a line on a story for you, if you want it. Just the other day, I was working the Mall parking lot. Some guy mugged a social worker who was out buying Christmas gifts for kids at a homeless shelter. I came around the corner just as the mugger started to run away. I chased him down the parking lot and, you know what, the guy goes flying through the air and lands on his face. I caught up to him, slapped the cuffs on him and that's when I saw a chick with a dog that looks a lot like Bo, here. Turns out, the dog tripped the guy and we got everything back and I got a collar out of it. The lady wouldn't give her name, but the guy at the shelter insisted she come by on Christmas morning. He might know more."
I let the collar pun go. It just wouldn’t do to encourage Flanagan. "A dog like Bo? Really? A Greyhound?" My journalistic blood was definitely running now. Bo was definitely excited too. I could tell by the way he kept stomping on everyone's feet to get their attention. I need to work on his interview techniques a little bit, I guess. "Maybe I'd like to run with this story. What shelter was it?"
"Look, I'll have to check the report. I'll call you this afternoon? Later, Ernie."
Bo and I headed home, where he took a nap, we had lunch and went back out for a walk. While we were out, my cell phone rang. It was 'Flanagan.' He gave me the shelter's name and the contact information. I called the guy at the shelter to arrange an interview. When we got back home, Bo and I hopped in the car and went to the shelter. There, we talked to Jeff. Jeff was a wealth of information.
"Tell me about your Shelter, Jeff." When I got there, the place was jam packed with homeless families. I guess I never thought about how an entire family could be homeless, but here they were. I was immediately intrigued.
"Well, we are one of the only shelters in the area to cater to homeless families. We've been operating for over 10 years now. Some are here only a short while, some are here longer, but we make sure they have a room of their own to sleep in, food to eat and help finding employment or whatever else they might need."
I asked Jeff several questions about the shelter and its operations as he gave Bo and me a tour, but when I asked about their funding, I was taken aback by the answer.
"We get about 75% of our funding, every year, from a single anonymous donor. Sure, we get donations and volunteers and such, but I've never met our biggest donor."
"This can't be a cheap place to run, Jeff."
"No, it isn't, but one year a lawyer contacted us and told us that this building was set aside for our use and that we'd receive a check each year from a blind trust for operational costs. He wouldn't divulge the client's name but we received the building, fully furnished and ready to go, plus funding every year like clockwork and we've been helping families ever since."
We’d stopped in a spot overlooking the common areas. Several children were playing a few floors below. Jeff said, "I like to come up here each day to watch the children. Some of their parents are out working odd jobs, or looking for work, or maybe taking classes we offer - stuff like resume building, how to interview for a job, etc. I'm just glad we can help them."
We watched them for a bit and I broached the subject of the Mall robbery.
"You know, I watch these kids and I think how awful it would have been to have no presents for them. Can you imagine someone stealing from these kids? If that dog hadn't stopped that robber, Christmas would have been very different around here." He gave me his version of events, which I dutifully recorded to be compared with the police reports. This is going to make one heck of a story when it's done, I thought.
"Did you get the name of the woman with the dog?"
"No. She wouldn't give me a name, but I gave her my card and begged her to come here on Christmas Day. She and that dog literally saved Christmas for all those kids down there."
"Well, I'm on the case now. I'm trying to do a story about the crime, too. May I interview a few of the families? I think I'm going to a story about the shelter itself, too."
"Sure thing," Jeff said, and he led me back to the common room.
Bo and I interviewed several moms, dads and kids. Even a hard-nosed, street wise reporter like me might get a little misty eyed over some of them. I didn't cry though. Too tough for that. I'll admit the ride home was terrible. Lots of dust in the air, allergens, stuff like that. I wasn't soft, though. No way, not me.
Just as I was wrapping up an interview with a Mom and her kid, the Dad came in. He plopped right down next to us and started telling his wife about his bus ride. “You won't believe this. I just got off the bus. We were heading back this way when the bus driver suddenly stopped the bus. There was a woman and dog in the middle of the street. The dog just stopped in the middle and wouldn't budge!" He looked at Bo like he had three heads. "The dog that stopped the bus looks exactly like yours, except the color." He went on with the story. "So this bus driver hops out to make sure the woman and the dog were ok when these two kids on bikes rocket through the road a little ways down. I think those kids would have been killed if the bus didn't stop when it did. Pretty much everyone on the bus who could see thought the same thing. Well, that story went from the front of the bus to the back fast as can be. When the kids were gone, the dog just calmly walked to the other side of the road like nothing happened. The whole bus cheered and clapped for that dog. It was weird, but cool, you know?"
"Wait a minute. A woman and a dog like mine?"
"Did you get her name or anything?"
"Nope. But I was on bus number 322 not 20 minutes ago. You could probably find the driver if you want, though."
I thanked everyone and headed out to the car, which, as I mentioned, was especially dusty and full of allergens. Once my allergies had died down a little, I called the bus station. I found the driver's name and was told he'd be back at the depot around 7pm. I made arrangements to meet him there at that time. Bo and I headed home for his 7th nap of the day and maybe a little dinner.
Bo and I were at the depot at 7pm sharp. The driver was already there, along with several other drivers. They were lounging around in the appropriately named lounge area. I called out the drivers' name and when he responded, I told him I was with the paper and wanted to talk to him about his incident today. I explained that I ran into one of his passengers who told me about the dog. I asked him for his version. So he tells the story to everyone there. The details checked out with the passengers' perfectly. I asked him if he got the woman's name. Of course, he didn't. I left him my contact info in case he ran into her again on his route or thought of anything to add to the story.
This story wasn't about the shelter, though there would be story about it, nor was it about the robbery. The story was now about tracking down this good Samaritan with, apparently, a Greyhound. I jotted down a few last details and thanked everyone for their time. Bo and I went back home for the day.
It was a few days later. I was finishing the stories about the robbery and shelter. My boss was ecstatic about getting a two-for-one deal with an option on a bonus third story. My cell phone rang. I didn't recognize the number, but I answered. The guy on the other end of the call introduced himself as one of the other drivers in the lounge when I was there the other day and told me about something he witnessed just today. He was pulling up to the airport stop, a few hours ago, when he saw and heard a big commotion. This lady was telling everyone, very loudly, about how this other woman saved Christmas and how lucky she was to be saved by her and all sorts of things. That's when he noticed the woman had a dog like Bo with her and did I think it could it be the same dog and woman? I don't believe in coincidences, I told him. I thanked him for the lead and headed over to the airport. Once Bo and I arrived, we interviewed several employees. Many of them had seen the commotion. From what I could piece together, because of the woman and her dog, this poor woman without a penny to her name, no job, no luggage and no hope left, got in contact with a long lost relative who then offered to fly her to wherever she lived. I was a little fuzzy on why the dog and the woman were involved, but the poor lady with the plane ticket sure thought it was all because of them. No one caught any names, of course, so the trail was cold again. It was disappointing, but I did have a little more to add to the story. Maybe, just maybe, it was enough to get started with.
That night, with Bo on the couch and a freshly delivered pizza close to hand. I wrote all three articles in record time and they cleared approvals in time for the morning press.
A Greyhound and an Angel,
The city can be bleak at times. Violence, crime, joblessness, homelessness and despair all tarnish the shining image of our city. It turns out, though, that we might just have our very own Guardian Angel walking our streets, anonymously impacting the lives of ordinary citizens. That Angel has a Greyhound and together, they remind each and every one of us that there is Good in this city. The kind of Good that needs to happen, especially around Christmas time. Most of us are concerned with buying presents, fighting crowds, finding deals and the stress of Holiday travelling. The Angel and the Greyhound, though, they have done wonderful things for a lot of people and yet, no one seems to know their names.
This reporter and his very own Greyhound, Bo, have been tracking our Philanthropic Pair all over the city. Even while they rebuke recognition, they leave behind benign beneficence. Here are just a few examples of their handiwork.
The crime fighting crew stopped a robber from fleeing the scene of his felony, aiding the police in apprehending the dark desperado before he could escape (see page B7 for the full story). Once the crook was in cuffs and the property was returned to the rightful owner, they left without reward or recognition. While that alone would be enough to warrant praise, this reporter learned that the stolen money was actually donations designated to purchase presents for little lads and ladies at a local shelter (see page A1 for the full story about the shelter) for homeless families. How many Christmases did the Angel and the Greyhound save that day? For the children at the shelter? All of them. Forever.
Apparently that wasn't quite enough do-gooding for this Dynamic Duo. The goofy Greyhound and the Anonymous Angel saved the skins of some seriously lucky little kids. Somehow, the pair with perfect timing, managed to stop a city bus short seconds before the bus would have crashed into the kids in question. Bo and I interviewed many eyewitness and the bus driver who all unanimously agreed that the actions of our heroes averted certain disaster. Eyewitnesses report that the crazy kids on the bikes never knew how close they came to Christmas calamity, but dozens of believing bus riders sing the praises of the Lady and her Heroic 'hound.
This reporter was sure that a pair of such performances would be enough for anyone, but our Terrific Team came back for a third time. This reporter and his faithful sidekick were contacted about another such story which took place at the airport. It turns out that our Intrepid Idealists just couldn't stop without helping a down-on-her-luck dame discover a long lost relative and reunite with her estranged sibling. Witnesses at the airport describe what happened to our Tireless Twosome and the Hard Luck Lady as nothing short of a Christmas Miracle. That the Lady had no home, no job and no car was no problem for The Greyhound and the Angel. They took her in and helped her find hope, which is uplifting enough even outside the holidays. At Christmas, though, the miracle magnifies.
Curtailing crime, helping the homeless, saving sisters and rescuing rascals from roadway wrecks? Our Uplifting Unknowns didn't ask for accolades. They just helped those who needing helping. Will this city always have a Greyhound and an Angel to help through the hard times? Who knows, but I think we can all take our cues from them and do our part to make Christmas a little brighter, a little cheerier and a little happier for everyone. Maybe the Greyhound and the Angel have already helped all of us. They've shown us that there are still good people in the world, working towards a fairer future. If you're out there, Greyhound, if you're reading this, Angel, I think I speak for everyone when I say "Thank you, and Merry Christmas from all of us."
The two Chosen hounds
They thought of their jobs,
The next day dawned
Strangers in passing
The change was quite drastic
Greyhounds aren't just dogs, they are a way of life!