Sunday, September 6, 2009

Homeless Man and his dog -- heading south

On Friday as I was leaving my office in downtown Minneapolis (the hustling Nicollet Mall Avenue between 8th and 9th street) I noticed Nick and his dog Samson. In late July I met Nick for the first time and wrote about it on my blog. Instead of heading to the parking garage I head towards the revolving door of the US Bancorp Center building and out towards Nicollet Mall. I am upset with myself that I did not have my camera with me. Nick and Samson's story need to be told. Nick has his cardboard sign next to him, "Penny for a Poem." I make eye contact with Nick and say "Hi." His 7 month old shepherd dog, Samson, has his head burrowed under Nick's coat as if to keep the sun from beating down on his head. I get down on my knees to pet Samson. He comes out from a little cove he has created for himself to give me kisses and leans his body against my leg.

Nick and Samson are heading to Florida soon. Last year Nick went to New Orleans. This will be the first time he's gone to Florida. I ask him, "how will you get there?" He sticks out his right thumb and gives me the hitch hike gesture. He'll be back in the spring though when it's warmer. He's originally from Minnesota. I ask him "where do you and Samson sleep at night?" "Anywhere we can - mostly under bridges."

I want to ask more questions. I want to learn more about his story, yet I stop. I don't want Nick to feel like he is being interrogated. Maybe he doesn't mind all the questions. Maybe he's happy that someone stopped to talk to him. Maybe the $15 change I had in my pocket will help even just a little bit. I decide to stop with the questions. I hang out with him and Samson for another seven minutes or so. "Everybody loves Samson." I ask, "does he need food?" Nick says he doesn't. Apparently the grocery store he visits loves Nick ... "they love Nick more than me," he says with a smile. As I get up to leave, he looks directly at me and says, "God Bless."

Looking at him, then gently sweeping my eyes to Samson (who is now burrowed again under Nick's coat), i say "God Bless you. Safe travels to Florida. I'll see you and Samson next spring."

As I was searching the internet for photos of a homeless man and his dog (since I didn't have my camera with me last Friday) I ran across these photos of Chris and his dog Brandy on Flickr. Here are excerpts of their story:

"I found this homeless man with his dog, he was ever so gentle and loving with man's best friend. Chris told me his dog, Brandy, was all he had in the world. His last dog was taken away from him by the police because he did not have tags or a licence for the dog. The dog was euthanized..... whether homeless or not, our pets are sometimes the only love any of us really have.

It's ironic, but Chris saved this dog as a puppy when it received a beating in a hotel room by a man that just threw the dog to the streets. Chris, being homeless, heard the puppy dog crying and being beaten and repeatedly hit. For as a homeless man he was in the nearby trees spending the night. Chris saved Brandy, and in turn Brandy has saved Chris.

Chris and Brandy have such beautifully soulful eyes. Through all the pictures I took, this man was smiling. I kept wondering what made him so happy? Maybe it boils down to being happy with the one you love. How simple is happiness...."

To read more about Chris and Brandy click here.

Behind every homeless person and their beloved friend, there is a story. There is a connection so deep and a tie that keeps them bonded. Oftentimes, a person chooses life on the street with their loyal friend, passing on the opportunity to enter a homeless shelter and give up their beloved companion.

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