Thursday, January 26, 2017

HER NAME IS VICKY

A few years ago on a searing hot July day, I stepped outside our neighborhood Chinese take-out place after eating lunch, and ran into a dog, who was lying on her side panting with exhaustion in the heat. I looked at the dog –– a beautiful thoroughbred Boxer ––, and talked to her, as though we were already old and dear friends. She had a beatific look in eyes, if such a thing is possible in a dog, and I felt great empathy for her.
Though she was on a leash, I hadn't noticed her companion.
Suddenly a deep, pleasant-sounding masculine voice said very gently, "Her name is Vicky."
One look at the young man was deeply disturbing. He might have been good-looking, but his teeth were all black and brown, his lips terribly dry, his complexion mottled, his eyes sunken in circles of darkened flesh with a haunted look, and his blond hair filthy and stiff with grease. But Vicky obviously adored him, and his devotion to the dog was almost palpable. The bond between them was so obvious –– and so strong –– its beauty was extraordinarily touching.

I talked with him about the dog Vicky, and I could tell from the way he spoke that she was the only reason he had to want to go on living. But Vicky, a retired firehouse dog who'd won several medals during her career, was already 13 years old, and showing signs of exhaustion. They'd already walked several miles across town in that heat to get to the place where I'd met them. It looked as though this story would have no happy ending. 
I felt a strong urge to take them home with me and offer them food and shelter, but realized it was impossible, and where could it possibly lead? I felt I shouldn't start something I wouldn't be able to finish.
I offered him money, though I didn't have much on me, but he thanked me and refused very politely. He wanted to find work, he said. He had a brother who was looking door-to-door for work right then, he told me. They both had been living on the street for seven years. He said he was twenty-four, but from the look of him he might have been fifty.

I knew no store or restaurant would allow him to enter with Vicky, so I offered to buy some food for him and the dog, but again he politely refused. He had a sack filled with food for Vicky. She obviously came first,
I asked him if his parents were alive, and couldn't they help him and his brother? 
He had a mother, but never had any idea who his father might have been. I asked about the mother, who lived in a trailer. All he said was, "We couldn't Iive with her. Her place is so dirty and full of bugs and garbage the smell would make you sick." She, apparently, was an alcoholic who long ago had given up on life. He felt trying to live with her would be worse than the street, and told me that was why he and his brother had gotten out of there in the first place.
I was practically in tears; I have never felt more helpless –– or more useless –– in my life. There just wasn't anything I could do, so finally I had to leave them there, but the thought of that dear animal, who had such faith in the young man nearly broke my heart, and the thought of those two haunts me to this day.
I never saw them again, so I can only imagine what must have happened. Frankly, I shudder to think how their story must have ended. I suppose if Jesus had met them He would have been able to help them, but it was way beyond my feeble powers to do anything, but feel bad about it.

I still do. I often think of them, and get overcome with that terrible feeling of heartbreak and helplessness. It's not guilt so much as it is sorrow, –– and frustration at being made to feel so helpless and so useless. 
Somehow, there MUST be a way to deal humanely with situations like that, but I'm damned if I know what it could be, do you?
It's horrifying to think their story is only one of millions just like it in this the richest and greatest country on God's green earth. 


"Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses? ..."
"Is there no MERCY?" is all I can ask.

24 comments:

  1. There needs to be something like a workhouse or farm or something. We need to get people off the street, but it's got to be a tough love approach that cleans them up and helps them integrate with society and gives them the wherewithal to take care of themselves.

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    1. Yes, but what about the DOG, Vicky? Unless the "solution" you suggest included her, and took equally good care of HER and the MAN as a FAMILY UNIT, any help we might give that poor fellow would be worthless.

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  2. FT,
    I recently read that there is a veterinarian network that will treat homeless persons' four-legged family members for free!

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    1. What a beautiful thing! I am glad to know something that enlightened exists, even if it is probably much too late to help Vicky and her beloved guardian and closest friend.

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  3. FT,
    He had a sack filled with food for Vicky. She obviously came first

    I understand that! Back in the days when we were truly hard pressed -- those months following Mr. AOW's stroke -- we ate franks and beans so that our kitties could get their vet checkups and special food for older kitties.

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    1. I've quoted my father many times on this already, but it could never be said often enough:

      "We can most easily determine a person's character by the way he treats animals."

      When I was a boy he always told me to be wary of anyone who does not love dogs and cats. He believed there was something vital missing in such folk.

      I feel that way, myself. I had an electrician here who said, "I hear cats taste just like chicken when they're cooked." I felt very uncomfortable with him in my house, and was tremendously relieved after he left.

      Now if someone is genuinely ALLERGIC to an animal. that's different, but I feel very sorry for them.

      Delete
  4. Replies
    1. Why do you ask, Thersites? Does the tale not have merit on its own? I've never published it here, before, if that's what you want to know, nor did it ever appear in The Sandpiper

      It's merely the chronicle of a real life experience that has haunted and troubled me for several years. I STILL I OUGHT to have done SOMETHING, but short of opening my home to a multitude of problems I couldn't have hand;ed well, I still can't imagine what.

      If the plight of the homes man and his dog fails to move you, I have not written the piece well enough.

      Delete
  5. The story is more than vaguely familiar, FT. Are you sure that you have never related it before?

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  6. Replies
    1. Fine, but so what? I wrote that version of the tale ON THE SPOT in response to a story posted by AOW's friend Warren. Except for Warren's polite response it received no attention whatsoever.

      I think it a story worth sharing with the widest possible audience, so I revised it and found illustrations to emphasize its poignancy.

      I have to admit it bothers me a bit that you, apparently, have more interest in ferreting out its origin than in consideration of the value and implications of the story, itself.

      HEY! If I ever get lost, I would certainly hire YOU to help me find my way back home –– providing I could FIND you, of course. ;-)

      Delete
    2. It was simply an innocent question. And although I didn't comment on it at the time, I did enjoy it. It was obviously "memorable".

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    3. I inderstand, Thersites. Please forgive my suspicion. Blogging has induced paranoia in me, I'm afraid. (:-o

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  7. Whether ones compassion is focused on Vicky the dog or Vicky's owner this is a heart breaking reality for too many people in our world today. If an individual starts from a "home" life as portrayed by this young man pulling oneself up by ones bootstraps to move onward in life becomes a much more difficult task than it would be for an individual that came from some semblance of a decent and happy home life, from which to move onward.

    One obviously should never take life for granted and should never project your happy life forming experiences onto others who may have experienced a harsher life experience than you have.

    Coming from another generation whose parents were the product of the depression era I never grew up expecting something to be provided by others. If you take a risk in life you should know when you take the risk what you will do to prevent failing and falling to a level that you need help picking yourself up off the ground. Somehow the human detritus we are all aware of walking down almost any North American street today seems to expect something from any human compassion remaining today.

    It's no small question to answer in considering how did we get to this dire end we face today? The "hope and change" of the previous administration proved to be just more empty rhetoric that fueled the emptiness.

    Does the tough love of President Donald Trump have a chance of instilling a spine into the collapsed corpse of America? We shall see, I suppose.

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    1. I am fortunate to have wound up in a financially comfortable position, Waylon, but I am by no means "rich" according to present day standards.

      I do supplement the income of three others less fortunate than I, and am more than grateful I can do it without depriving myself of anything essential, but it still bothers me that I was unable to do anything for that poor fellow and his beautiful, totally innocent dog.

      If I hadn't been forced to waste so much of my resources in TAXES to support the corrupt, bloated federal bureaucracy and local would-be tyrants, I might have been able to have afforded a house with old-fashioned, self-contained servants quarters.

      The beauty of that would be the ability I would have had to have offered that unfortunate young man, his brother and the dog Vicky refuge from life on the street.

      A risk? Certainly, but I have found that being kind and generous has never done me a bit of harm –– quite the opposite in fact.

      Delete
  8. FT, I admit I don't have the answers to this perplexing problem. And it it it a problem which I sometimes think is deliberately created by the slave owning tax collectors themselves to advance their new world vision and agenda.

    Anyway it is obvious that your heart is in the right place, FT.

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  9. Heartbreaking yes. But there are worse things going on for humans and animals than two souls taking care of each other.
    There are animals with no one to look over them and way too many but somehow find a way.

    Well, I hope he finds work.

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    1. You're right, of course, Kid, but you'd have to have actually talked with the guy to feel the poignancy of the situation.

      A lot of the street people are worthless alcoholics or drug-addicted bums. Many are just plain crazy (not that I blame them for that!), but it looked to me that this fellow just never had a chance.

      He may have looked terrible, but he was polite, respectful, and as I've tried to show by illustrating his relationship with Vicky, really very kind.

      The dog, of course, had no clue there was anything wrong with the man she trusted with her life. And THAT is why this episode has stayed in my mind so long.

      I still wonder if I should have taken them in regardless of how it disrupted my peaceful retirement.

      What would you have done, Kid?

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  10. This is a very powerful story.

    Couldn’t it be published on the Op-Ed pages of one of your local newspaper?

    Did this actually happen, or is it a composite of several different memories? Either way, it puts the spotlight on the heartbreaking prevalence of homelessness in our society.

    We are such a wealthy country; surely we could make sure—if we really wished — that no one goes hungry or without adequate clothing and shelter.

    Like you, I’ve felt such a profound sense of helplessness when I see people begging on the street. I’ve given then money a number of times, but am certainly in no position to take someone, starting, as you said, something I wouldn’t be able to finish.

    I do think that it’s very important to give as generously as we can to outfits like the Salvation Army, which works not only to feed the homeless but also to provide other services—counseling, job-training, etc.—to help them get back on their feet. I also give several times a year—generously—to our local animal shelter.

    Ana Copacubana

    PS If Vicky and her homeless friend are real, I hope their story had a happy ending. - AC

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  11. Beautiful beyond words, FT.

    Is this the encounter you had a few years ago?

    You told me about it then, and I have thought of it often.

    What have we come to?

    ... Ricardo Animami

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  12. J. V. Ashland said

    This made me very sad, almost to the point of tears.

    I fear there are many stories that are like it. Our world is cruel, and becoming more so every day.

    But this story is also further evidence that when we are totally without friends, sometimes an animal –– cat or dog –– is still there for us offering unconditional love and unquestioning loyalty.

    I certainly hope that Vicky, and her master too, were somehow able to get help and share a brighter future.


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  13. We spend well over a half-trillion dollars a year policing the world. For a tiny fraction of that, and probably a lot more bang for the buck, we should be helping people like this. FT and I both come from similar places and have seen similar things - but one generation removed. Not much changed between our times, but it's really sad to see how little things have changed since. Crime and a host of other social ills are at there lowest points since the mid-Sixties, meanwhile homelessness has increased multi-fold. I say let's start building this country again, and start with housing for the homeless, built by the homeless as much as they can contribute. Then roads and wires and pipes and rails and airports and... well, you get the idea.

    JMJ

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  14. What would I have done? I'd have tried to help monetarily. Otherwise, there are a million stories in the naked city. We can't make everything better. We can try to help and that's all we can do. I am amazed at how people and animals can find a way in even more extreme circumstances.

    Hopefully some day it will all be better.

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