The Craigslist Christmas Wish
It all started simply enough… one of my friends and fellow animal rescue angels spotted a post on Craigslist. That post said:
“I just broke up with my girlfriend and moved out. I have to stay in a hotel for a little while until I get back on my feet. I have a sheltie who I adopted from Wayside waifs six years ago, she is my very best friend. The hotel does not allow pets and I would live under a bridge before I would let her go. She is about 12 years old she is very very sweet. I have to find someone by tomorrow. I dont have a lot of money so I cant pay for someone to watch her. I am looking for someone who loves dogs and would treat her good and who would watch her for me for maybe a month or so. Alot of bad luck has come my way right before the holiday season and I am just looking for someone who might be able to help me and my dog out. Oh I forgot to tell you that she is 100% house broken, doesnt bark much and lays around alot she is really sweet and really easy.”
My friend Melissa shared the link to this story in our Facebook group and everyone immediately took to her owner’s plight. Just one day prior, we were all down in the dumps and so very frustrated over how people desert their animals and then, it’s like God heard our anger and frustration and he wanted to remind us of the good that still remains in human kind. And just maybe, we were about to learn one of the biggest lessons we ever could.
I received a text from Melissa this morning and she told me that the guy said that he would get his dog today and that he would immediately need somewhere for her to go because she couldn’t stay at the motel. The dog had been staying at his ex-girlfriends mothers house. Melissa didn’t have a way to pick up the dog today, so I went in her place. I didn’t have anyone to go with me so in the back of my mind I was thinking about what could happen. I guess I was just thinking of all the bad things that happen because of people. They have disappointed me so many times, I can’t keep track. I called the owner (who for the sake of his pride, I will call “John”) and verified that I was getting her and that he would meet me outside. He seemed nice enough on the phone and Melissa said he had sounded really sweet and genuine with her so I was a little more at ease.
45 minutes after I left Pleasant Valley, I pulled my car into an empty parking spot in front of a man holding a dog outside. As I got out of my car and I approached, the dog immediately tried to jump in my arms. I introduced myself and the man said that he wasn’t “John”, he was just the maintenance guy who promised to wait with the dog until “John” got back. “John” had caught a ride with someone to Wal-Mart and he’d be back soon. I asked the man if he knew the dogs owner and he said that he did and that the guy lived in the motel and helped out when they had things for him to do. The maintenance guy said that “John” was a very good man who just fell on hard times. Within a few moments, a car pulled up next to mine and a nice looking young man climbed out. As he got out of the car, I saw the dogs reaction and she immediately perked up and ran to him and launched herself into his waiting arms. My heart skips a beat as I watch a great love story unfold. The man walks up to me with her in his arms and extends his hand. A nice firm handshake tells me that he’s confident and strong and that I like him even more.
I make small-talk and try to ensure that “John” trusts me to take care of his precious love. I ask him his story and he tells me that he was divorced back in 2006 and how his wife was always irresponsible with pets and acted like they were fixtures that could easily be discarded, exchanged and replaced. He said that he would get so upset about it and how she still did it to this day. I heard how he was an EMT for many, many years and then when the city took over, he hated the politics of it all, so he left. He told me of how he branched out and got his own business like he had always dreamed. He bought a food cart and worked hard at it and then, the economy got to him and business went south. Eventually, he lost everything. “John” met a girl and found a job and life seemed to be working out and getting better. Then, the girlfriend got back with her ex, “John” lost his job (which he had got because of her) and on top of all of that, the engine blows up in his old car. Since “John” was now basically homeless and without a job or income, he scrapped the car for money and he moved into a motel. Sadly, he couldn’t afford to take his dog, “Sweet Pea” with him so she stayed with his ex’s mom.
During our 30 minute conversation, John would break the conversation and look away so he could talk to “Sweet Pea” or so he could gently stroke her hair. I would hear, “I love you, girl” or “Who’s a good girl”. “John” would tell me how people have disappointed him in his life and how “Sweet Pea” was always the one constant, the one thing that would always love him. I would see tears in his eyes as he would look at her and he would say, “No matter how bad your day is, how could you walk in and see her and not feel happy.” He told me how “Sweet Pea” was his very best friend and how she means more to him than anything else in the world. He spoke of his own pride and how he did not want “hand-outs” or help from anyone. I reminded him that even the best of us have to ask for or accept help every once in a while. He would look down and seem ashamed and go back to thanking me and telling me how Melissa and I restored his faith in people. “John” looked over at me and told me that he knows she will be safe with me and then he handed her leash to me, with tears welling in his eyes. He extended his hand and thanks me and I tell him that I promise to keep her safe. “John” leans down and carefully takes “Sweet Pea’s” head in both of his hands and he looks down into her eyes and whispers promises of his undying love and how they will only be apart for a short time. He cries and tells her how he will miss her and how he will work so hard to have her back home with him. Things are said to her that I can’t understand because his voice is muffled in her long fur. He pets her one last time and fills her ears with words of devotion and love and then he stood back up and looked at me. I tried to hide my own tears as I again promised him that I would take really good care of her and that there is a huge group of people ready to help her. He steps forward and wraps me in his arms and I feel a tear brush my face. Whether it was his or that of my own, I really don’t know.
I walked over to the driver’s side of my car and opened up the door and in she went, with no hesitation. He smiled and said that she trusted me as much as he did. He stood there on the sidewalk in front of the motel and he watched silently while I loaded her up and get her all situated. She walked to the passenger window and looked out, right at him, and he instantly smiled and waved to her. I told “John” good-bye and I got in the car. I expected “John” to walk away but instead, he stood there watching every move “Sweet Pea” made. I stuck the car in reverse and looked behind me to back up and when I turned around, he was still there waving to me. As I drove away, “John” was still watching and waving. “Sweet Pea” curled into a ball in my back seat and as I pulled on to the highway and drove in front of the motel, I saw “John” still standing where I left him and I am sure that there were tears now streaming freely down his face. The thing was, I had tears of my own.
This man and his love of his dog restored any doubts I ever had about people or about me doing rescue. Him and his sweet old girl restored my own compassion and commitment to the animals AND the people of the world.
“Sweet Pea” is curled up at my feet, soundly sleeping and dreaming of the day that she will again be with the love of her life. I sit here and look at her and I want to whisper in to her ear that I will make a Christmas miracle come true. Already, I am making promises to myself and to her, that I will do everything in my power to help her get back to him fast.
If you are as touched by this story as I am and you would like to help, I am going to rally to save “John” this Christmas. How can you help? “John” needs a vehicle, a new job and a place that he can stay where “Sweet Pea” can be with him. He’s eager to do any work at this point. He is a trained EMT and also knows how to cook! Currently, he is staying at a motel outside of Grandview but he doesn’t know how long that will last if he can’t get a job. He has no criminal background (I checked) and a good driving record and even has his commercial drivers license. I would like to help cover “John’s” motel stay, help with food and more importantly, I want to get “Sweet Pea” back to him. The motel will let pets stay but they charge $10 a night. To me, that $10 is totally worth it just to see the two of them back together. If you would like to offer any help, you can post a comment on this blog or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. A ChipIn account has also been set up and you can visit it at http://darath.chipin.com/the-craigslist-christmas-wish to make a donation securely via your PayPal account . Please help me get “Sweet Pea” and “John” back together for Christmas. Miracles do happen, I just know it.
It’s been less than 24 hours since I wrote this blog and the response has been astounding! We are well on our way of making this a great Christmas for “John” and Sweet Pea. I just wanted to tell everyone that Sweet Pea is everything her name says! She has been a dream to watch after! She is so precious and loving, her dad raised her right!
“John” has been set up with a job and he starts tomorrow at 7am! Thanks to a very great best friend, John will be working with animals every day! We are still working on the transportation thing so any donations are great! I also will take gift cards to help cover food and other items for them.
I am grateful and honored to have you all in this world. There are so many angels out there, it’s amazing! My hope is that before the end of the day, I have Sweet Pea back with her daddy! Fingers crossed.
Evening all! It’s 6:35 here in Missouri and I must say, I was completely flabbergasted at the response to this. When I thought about getting John’s story out, I never knew just how far it would go. My email, phone and Facebook have been inundated with thoughts, prayers, donations and best of all… faith. When I decided to force help on him, I really didn’t know that I could accomplish it. I never could have imagined that within 24 hours, I would have received thousands and thousands of emails. Yesterday when I drove home with Sweet Pea, I knew “John” had restored my faith. I sure as hell wasn’t expecting what would come later. I have a sense of pride and faith that I never thought was possible. To all of you, across the world, thank you. I could never show you just how much all of this means to me.
Today, I paid up John’s motel room and him and Sweet Pea are covered until next Sunday. I didn’t pay any more because John seemed like the motel is very hesitant in letting Sweet Pea stay with him. Apparently, the $10 a day pet charge is meant more as a deterrent rather than a convenience for pet owners. I would rather hold on to the money in case we need to move John to another place. So, for this week, he has no worries about a place to stay. The funny thing about all of this is that John wasn’t going to tell me that he couldn’t pay the motel fee tonight and that he would be out on the street. It wasn’t until I told him what I was doing that he informed me.
This afternoon, I drove up to Pet Smart and I picked up some dog food, some toys, a new leash and I made an ID tag for Sweet Pea. She is so very important and the hero of this story, so I had to ensure she was safe. I am sure that I will be sneaking her in for a microchip at some point.
I know you are all waiting to hear what happened and here it is….
At 3:00 today, I pulled back into that motel parking lot that I had just seen yesterday. My passenger was a mess and it was like she knew what was going on. All day she had been so excited and happy. I guess she knew what was going to happen before it actually did. I sent John a text and within minutes he was coming out the door. Within seconds of her eyes spotting her daddy, she leaped from the back seat and was on top of me trying to get out. I grabbed her leash and opened the door and that tiny little pooch pulled me across the parking lot as I tried to keep pace. Like she did the first day I met her, she launched herself into John’s arms. The smile on his face was priceless, the love at that moment was impossible to miss.
I unloaded all of her things and I opened up my trunk and pulled out a wire crate. He looked amazed and in awe. I asked John if he knew how to set it up and he confirmed as much. Each time I showed him something new for her, he would just shake his head, completely speechless. After I had showed him the last thing, he handed me something. What may seem insignificant by most standards, was pretty touching to me. John said, “You sounded terrible on the phone and I am really worried about you.” His hand came towards me and he gave me a little orange package. The EMT was caring for his patient! “Here, take this Emergen-C and you should feel better.” Really? In all of this, he thought of me? Granted, I am sure he couldn’t miss my death rattle and Phyllis Diller voice but for him, in his time of need, to think of me… I was so touched.
Again, we made “small talk” and John asked me how long I had been sick. I explained to him that I have a weak immune system and some health issues and then he told me that many years ago, he had cancer! He said that they caught it early and it was removed and never came back. He never had a day of radiation or anything. This guy is a superstar!
I walked John and the bouncing Sweet Pea up to their room and once there, I sat down the crate and other things I had carried. John told me how much all of this meant to him and how he will always remember it and will someday do something amazing for someone like him. He looked down at Sweet Pea and shook his head saying that she would never understand just how she pulled a world together and made a miracle happen. She would never know that she saved his life.
I left their 2nd story motel room and I walked out to my car feeling better than I have felt in a very long time. Before I was even on the highway, I had a text from John telling me how much we all mean to him and how he wanted me to tell everyone “thank you” and how he could never express with words how much this all has done for him.
Tomorrow at 7 am, John & Sweet Pea start their first day of work. I am excited to see how it goes and I will update everyone as soon as I hear from them. John is also checking in to the story of a car for sale for $300 that the maintenance guy at the motel told him about. It’s said to be in really good shape and well taken care of.
In closing, I want to reiterate that I am no hero, no angel and no superstar. I am simply a person, just like the rest of you. Like I said before, the real hero in all of this is Sweet Pea, the former shelter dog that wasn’t meant to be. Sweet Pea fought neglect, abuse and a very severe case of heartworms before she came to know the love of John. I really can’t think of two souls that are more meant for each other.
Thank you to all of you. Especially to Melissa for sharing this story with me and for starting this story. Without her, none of this would have happened. I love you, girl!
12/11/11 9pm Central
The ChipIn has reached $2,000. I am temporarily placing it on “hold” and not asking for additional funds at this time. We will still collect gift cards or donations of money and items via mail. If you are interested in helping, please email me at email@example.com and I will provide you with an address. We are also still looking for a better housing scenario. If you are in or around Kansas City and may know of something affordable, please contact me. John still needs a car, too! If you see or hear of any, send word!
12/12/11 5:40 pm Central
They say life is a roller coaster and we have to experience the lows to really get a thrill out of the highs. Have I mentioned how much I despise the lows? Today “John” was told by management at the motel that Sweet Pea would not be welcome there past tomorrow morning. Really? They were both paid up for the week and it’s supposed to be an establishment that accepts pets, what the heck? Regardless, tomorrow Sweet Pea will be back with us. Melissa already made arrangements to pick her up from “John’s” work tomorrow afternoon. This is not what I wanted to happen and it completely breaks my heart. Our victory was short-lived before a new battle begun.
So, we are almost back to square one. “John” does have a job (golf clap) so we have done something right. We are frantically looking for a vehicle and an apartment that is reasonable (aka cheap) so Sweet Pea can be back with her daddy. Please continue to keep the two of them in your thoughts and prayers. We need all the good ju-ju we can get!
I spoke with John a little while ago and we talked about how all of this has affected both of us. The response has been great and we are so thankful for each and every one of you. I heard today that my blog was discussed on a morning radio show in Florida and that the blog reached as high as #11 today in the world. That’s just crazy! I’ve been trying to handle the media inquiries on my own and tonight, I sucked it up and talked to “John” about it. We are really thinking all of this through and maybe if the story is still as popular in a few days, we may release it. I’ve been emailed numerous times and asked to do interviews and for “John” to show his real identity. Please be patient with us because we were not ready for this at all. I basically “good-will raped” the poor guy and I think his head is still spinning and I know for sure that mine is.
In closing for the night, I leave you with a picture that I received from “John” today. It says everything that he couldn’t tell you with words.
12/13/11 5:00 pm Central
Things are finally starting to calm down around here! While I am still handling media requests, the thousands of emails a day have slowed considerably to a pace that I can fake manage better! It’s funny that I have been writing for my entire life and I’ve had articles published but I have never received the attention that I have from this particular blog post. I am so thankful to each and every one of you. A great story has been shared and people have been moved to feel a good emotion this Christmas. I am so honored to be but a little piece in the big puzzle.
I just got off the phone with “John” and he had a good day at work, although it was a very soggy one! We’ve had rain in our area all day and when you are outside a lot, it’s not too fun. Of course, he didn’t bother to tell me BEFORE hand that he didn’t really have a good coat to work in or boots necessary so I am taking care of that tonight. Today was “John’s” first day of work because yesterday he had some things come up at the motel that he had to take care of. He had been working with them and helping clean some rooms in exchange for boarding help and he wanted to make sure that he followed through with his commitment. One hell of a guy! Anyway, my friend Sam picked him and Sweet Pea up this morning and took them in to work. The plans AGAIN changed when it comes to Sweet Pea. My BFF Sam decided to step up and offer even more help. Sweet Pea will stay in Doggie Daycare at the kennel where John is working so during the day, she can be with her dad. After this weekend, Sweet Pea will start going home and back and forth with Sam so she can still see her dad all day each day. While ideally, I would love to have them inseparable, I know that every moment they can have together is precious. They had a good day and my pal Sam said that “John” was great to work with and did a really good job. Even better, he seemed to enjoy his work which is really a priceless thing.
We are still looking for a permanent housing situation and I was able to talk in more detail tonight with “John” about it. He said that he can’t have any roommates because of his teenage daughter and the fact that when she stays with him on the weekends, he wants to know she is safe. Commendable and responsible. It’s been tough to find a place in Grandview that allows pets, is in a good neighborhood, had no roommates and is reasonably priced. It’s a work in progress!
Still looking for a car, too. I took some advice from one of my readers and I contacted an organization called Cars 4 Christmas and I submitted an application. Maybe if we cross our fingers hard enough, we could get lucky! I sure hope!
“John” is in good spirits and completely humbled by all of this. He wants me to make sure that I tell each and every one of you how much this all means to him and how he will pay it forward to other people and animals. In fact, he’s already been offering help and providing ideas on how to help the rescues in this area!
I am going to end the update for tonight with a public announcement that I am going to go and take the Emergen-C that he gave me a couple of days ago. I got a stern talking to tonight because I sound horrible and I still haven’t tried it. I’m doing it now!
12/19/11 @ 12:20 pm Central
What a few weeks this has been! I know you are all curious as to what has been happening with “John” and Sweet Pea and I am so sorry that I haven’t updated sooner. I’ve had some health issues and have really been struggling with daily functions.
Work is going great for “John” and he loves it. Sweet Pea is currently staying at his work in the Doggie Daycare section since the motel refused to let her stay there. I think he really enjoys the fact that his dog gets to be with him all day and she’s been having a lot of fun having other pooches to play with. “John” said that he loves the job so much that he wants it to remain his primary job and he would like to find another job to help sustain his income. He really feels like he is giving back to the animals and that is a great feeling.
Since “John’s” paid hotel was up yesterday, we went ahead and paid one more night. Knock on wood, but I think we have found a place for him! He would have a roommate (which is a girl so it’s acceptable for his ex-wife) and she works with him! They could share rides together! Since we think the roommate situation will work out, we plan to use the rest of the money on a car that “John” found. Hopefully, we will have enough to cover taxes and title, too.
This has been a REALLY long road in a short time but we are making progress. Once I talk to “John” aka “My Psycho Doctor” (he has been hounding me about my health) I hope to have a new blog with all of the updates!
Thank you to everyone who is still concerned and who has been asking for updates.
12/27/11 1:00pm Central
Do you all know just how amazing you are? Is it possible for you all to know just how much of a positive influence you have been in “John’s” life? Can it be understood just how much of a difference that you all made in the life of a little dog and her best pal? No, there is no way fathomable. Let me recap what’s happened since my last update.
The Friday before Christmas Eve, I drove to “John’s” work with packages and letters in tow. I even had a little card to them from me with a few different gift cards inside. “John” and I stood inside his work and started the task of opening all of the mail that he received. I let him open up everything except for a large box that had “Please open together” written on the outside. I had the joy of opening that one! While I told him that maybe it was a bomb, thankfully it was not! While he opened letters and cards, I stood by his side and I opened up that big, intriguing box. Once I cut the tape and pulled open the flaps, I found a letter that was written to Sweet Pea. (once I am home, I plan to scan this letter and share it with all of you). Basically, the letter told Sweet Pea that in the box was a pink Princess collar just for her. The letter went on to explain that there were others collars in the box and that Sweet Pea was supposed to give them to me to distribute to shelters and rescues as I felt fit. I glanced in the box and realized that it was totally full of beautiful handmade collars. As tears streamed down my face, “John” leaned over and read the letter over my shoulder. After smiling a huge smile and muttering words I can’t remember, he passed the letter around for others nearby to read. It was a great moment and one of the most touching presents I have ever received. Thank you to Cottage Collars in Santa Barbara, California for the great gifts that will (and have already) touched so many. Also among the items “John” opened was a package that held 3 little envelopes. I wasn’t sure what was happening because I was letting him have his own moment with these amazing gifts. After he read a card that was included, he reached over to me with one of those envelope and he handed it to me and said, “Merry Christmas”. Inside the envelope was a beautiful handmade crystal necklace. Jan Holley in Portland, Oregon makes necklaces by hand and she had made one for each of “John’s” daughters and one for him to give to me. As I write this update I am wearing the pretty little treasure.
“John” updated me on what has been happening and he is happy! And deservably so! He has a roommate and life is pretty good! The lady he moved in with is older than him and already in a relationship (for all you people wondering) so it makes things pretty effortless. Even better is the fact that she works with him! So, he has no major worries about getting to work because she has kindly stepped up and offered him rides to and from work and anywhere else that he needs to go. She’s also an animal lover which is another HUGE plus! I found out that “John” has already started paying it forward and he picketed in front of City Hall for a group called Chain of Hope which are animal rescue bad-asses. I am SO waiting for a call from them so I can volunteer directly. They go out in the community and do outreach for pets and their owners. Chain of Hope is having some issues with the City being a pain in the rear so quite a few volunteers stood up for them. I couldn’t believe it when he told me! This is totally want I want out of someone!!
I saw “John” again yesterday when I delivered a car FULL of dog and person items to him. This carload had made it all the way from St. Louis and a wonderful lady named Shuma Chaudhuri took it upon herself to make sure “John” and Sweet Pea had plenty of food for a while! I showed back up at “John’s” work and told him that I sure hoped he had room for a lot of stuff. He wasn’t sure what I was talking about until I started unloading boxes of things and setting them next to my car. He was flabbergasted and in awe.
So, thanks to people all over the world, the Craigslist Christmas wish came true. People like you who have taken the time to read and share their story, people like Cottage Collars, Shuma and Jan who sent packages, those of you who mailed envelopes and cards to them, people who made monetary donations and those of you who simply thought and/or prayed for a miracle to happen. You did it, you all did it. I get chills thinking of how all of this happened and how people all over the world could move and stand for something that didn’t directly benefit them. You’ve all become a part of something so much bigger than a blog post about a man and his dog. You have changed the world.
****************************** UPDATE ******************************************
It’s with great sorrow and sadness that I tell you all that Sweet Pea passed away yesterday (6/3/13) at 7:15 pm. When “John” is ready, I’ll see if he has anything to tell all of you. Thank you to everyone that donated, sent prayers and assisted me in any way. I can’t believe that it’s been 2 1/2 years since we all pulled together and made a miracle happen. Thoughts and prayers to “John” as he deals with the sadness of losing his very best friend.