Saturday, June 2, 2012

Nan's Good Deed: A Happy Ending

There was an article in the Grand Junction Free Press on Friday, May 25, about the local police department's Homeless Outreach Team (HOT). According to the article, team members are building relationships with the homeless population to ensure that they receive the services that are available through local providers such as Catholic Outreach and the Salvation Army. Nan brought the article to my attention because the accompanying photo featured HOT team members sitting in the riverside camp of her adopted homeless person, Jerry. The photo must have been more than a year old because we have not seen Jerry around town in at least that long.

After the three-part series I wrote three years ago about Nan's relationship with Jerry ("Nan's good deed", "Nan's good deed, part 2" and "Nan's good deed, part 3"), I have been hesitant to write more because I didn't want to report that things were not going well in Jerry's life. First, we heard through an attorney who helped with Jerry's legal problems that he had come into a significant inheritance that would have permanently lifted him out of homelessness. All he needed to do to claim it was to show up in Florida, his home state, with proof of his identity, but he could not get it together to secure an ID card and make the trip. It was easier to remain a drunk in Grand Junction. Nan and I were disappointed, but it didn't change our feelings for Jerry.

What did change our feelings was the second thing that happened. Jerry had a terrible history with Animal Control over his dog Bear-Bear. She was a red-furred chow mix and Jerry's closest friend, and she was the reason why Nan approached Jerry in the first place, out of concern that the dog wasn't getting enough to eat. But Jerry was derelict in keeping Bear-Bear on a leash, and she would occasionally take a nip at people in defense of Jerry. These occurrences would land her in the dog pound, sometimes for extended periods while Jerry panhandled to pay the fines. Finally, Bear-Bear reached her last strike with Animal Control, and the court ordered her to be euthanized. It still makes my eyes water to think of this poor little mutt who never really had a chance, who was loved and looked after by a man who could barely look after himself, and who was condemned to die for doing what dogs do, defending her human companion.

When Jerry disappeared from the streets of Grand Junction shortly after, Nan and I had few misgivings. We had done what we could for him, and we wished him well wherever he was. So it was a pleasant surprise to see Jerry's face in the newspaper photo and to learn from the article that the HOT people had enrolled him in a rehab program called TLC in Phoenix, where he became a group leader and now manages a group home there. When the bus dropped him off in Phoenix, he had no other transportation and had to walk everywhere, so he requested that the HOT people ship his bike to him, which they did. It was the same bike that Nan and I had bought for Jerry more than three years ago.

Jerry, we're proud of how you have turned your life around. We hope you are happy and that you will someday find a puppy to love as much as you loved Bear-Bear.

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