He lived in his station wagon with three big, very old and very overweight dogs. This man worked construction. His dogs went with him to the job site every day.
He was fortunate enough to be able to park in shady spots and have the dogs tied up outside of his vehicle with long ropes and lots of water. He could see them from where he was. His co-workers helped keep an eye on them too. During the day, he could move his vehicle to another shady place as the sun moved and still keep an eye them.
At night, he would lay out his bed in the back of the station wagon, while the dogs ate on the truck stop lawn.
The smell wafting out of the back hatch was thick and definite.
Each dog was happy to be “home” each night at the truck stop. At bed time, he would pile into the station wagon, one dog in the back seat on top of all his possessions, and the other two beside him in the back.
He was separated from his wife at the time. His dogs were his therapy.
Then one night, he didn’t come back.
The next day, I would learn that he was the victim of a robbery in a town about 20 miles south of us. He had another construction there and decided to park down there to save gas during the week. He was shot and was in the hospital.The police felt it was self-inflicted.
About a week later, we learned, his father had come from out of state to help him in the hospital. His father had gone through his belongings and found a receipt at the Walmart across the street from where he was shot.
The receipt showed he has cashed his $1200.00 paycheck. But there was no money found on him. The father questioned the police as to where his son’s paycheck had gone.
At that, we had heard, the police finally reviewed the video tapes from the Walmart, showing our friend leaving the Walmart, and the man who was behind him in line at Walmart following him.
The tape showed the struggle, the gun being pulled, and our friend trying to push the muzzle away from his face.
But the way he had blocked it, only for that brief split second, had pointed the muzzle directly at his chest, where the bullet sank.
His dogs could not get to his attacker, as they were locked up in the car waiting for the man to return from Walmart.
We would find out from a phone call to his wife two weeks later, that our friend had died and was already buried.
Only a couple of the men had his wife’s phone number. And neither of them had enough cash to put minutes on their phones to call the wife for an update any sooner.
The police hadn’t bothered to look into the shooting because he, like the rest of us on the lot, were homeless. And it’s hard to be homeless. Hard to live this way. Hard to be this way, day in an day out.
The rest of us were sad and angry, for awhile. Sad that he was gone. Angry that the police dismissed his value so easily because of his homelessness. He was working, had a job and was trying really hard to get back on his feet.
And for awhile, we all looked over our shoulders after that. Just in case.
And I’m sad as I tell you this story. I couldn’t tell you about his life with dogs and how much he loved them, without telling you what had happened to the man.
His situation started wising me up to realizing just how vulnerable I actually was living alone in my truck and then later the van.
His dogs went back to his wife. He was survived by his wife and his son.