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Monday, February 22, 2010


Meet Ranger. He's a pit bull, 9-1/2 months old. His owner, whose name I did not ask, is a homeless U.S. Army veteran, living in the woods. "What is she up to now?" you might ask yourself. "How did she meet a homeless vet?" The story starts last year.

The captain and I did a lot of driving around last February, exploring the entire county and beyond. One day we came across what I thought was an abandoned tavern; I hopped out of the car and took lots of photographs. Only after I had snapped my pictures did I realize the place was not closed up but was open for business. I shared a photo in my "Five Whole Weeks" blog post last February. If you have a look at that post, you'll see what the place looked like then.

Fast forward to today. It was a beautiful, warm sunny day -- too glorious to stay inside. The perfect day for a Sunday drive. We decided to head north a bit and, in the process, headed up U.S. 1 right by that old bar. Last year I thought the place was abandoned but was mistaken; this year, it's completely boarded up. I couldn't resist; I needed new pictures. So into the parking lot we went and out I hopped, once again. I grabbed a photo of the wonderful old rusty sign:

and then I heard the sound of a barking dog. Then I saw the dog; a pit bull dashing out of the neighbouring woods and headed straight for me.

This likely gives you pause for thought. Such is the danger, sometimes, of what I do. I actually am a bit of a chicken and have bypassed several photo opportunities for fear someone will come after me with a shotgun. Or, hmmmmm, a pit bull.

But here's the thing. Maybe it's stupid and naive of me, but I am not afraid of dogs. I am cautious, but not fearful. And so I did what came naturally to me: I called out to the advancing dog, "Hello puppy puppy puppy." Hot on the heels of the dog was his owner, yelling at him to stop. But when I called to the dog, his bum started to wiggle and I knew there was no danger.

I let the pup sniff my hand and his owner told me the dog, Ranger, meant me no harm. At this point I was scratching the dog's head so I knew I had a new friend. I learned the man was a homeless veteran, living in the local woods and keeping an eye on the old tavern for the owner. Engaging the man in conversation, I learned the old bar was built in 1957 and was quite the place in its time; the current owner, the grandson of the man who built the place, has put it up for sale.

I took a few photos of Ranger (with his owner's permission) as well as capturing a few images of the boarded up tavern.

The whole incident left me quite uneasy. There are apparently hundreds of homeless veterans in this area, mostly living in the numerous wooded areas, like this man. I am really uncomfortable with that; these men and women served their country and frankly, whatever their problems, they deserve better. I am terrible at guessing people's ages but the captain put the man as older than us and quite likely a Vietnam war vet. I thought about giving him some money but didn't want to offend him; it was a dilemma and is something still on my mind. There is a local group collecting blankets and toiletry items for the homeless war vets in the area -- I saw a collection bin in our favourite local diner just the other day -- and I definitely will contribute to that. It may not be my country but I just can't walk away and do nothing.


Leslie Jane Moran said...

I'm not sure that I could have been so courageous as to greet puppy, puppy, puppy. Hopefully the Captain is in arms reach of your XTREME photography :) I think this entry qualifies you as a participant!

Bea said...

It's a sad statement about our country that we have turned many who need housing, constant medical care out to fend for themselves. Many years ago I made a number of quilts for an organization that handed them out to the homeless. These weren't pretty quilts but large squares of polyester fabric sewn together. Remember polyester will outlast us all. The batting and backing was polyester. They were tied instead of quilted. The homeless used these for shelter, making tents to sleep under or to wrap themselves up in. :)Bea

Lost Aussie said...

What an intriguing story Lennie and so glad the "pup" turned out to be friendly!
As we sent our eldest off to Afghanistan (again) this week, I can only hope his country treats him well in the years to come for it's appalling to learn of so many homeless and needy Veterans, forgotten by the system!

Irene said...

I can identify with the dangers of photography. I remember taking pictures of doorways, and almost getting chased away with a spade. I'm sure I wouldn't be so friendly to puppy either. It is sad that some veterans are so neglected.

Susan Williamson said...

This was a wonderful post Lennie. It's very hard to read about people who serve their country and then are abandoned once they come home. This story made us think about the whole situation in a deeper way, so thank you for that.

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