Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Kindness of Strangers

When I was young, kindergarten or first grade, a few local fire fighters came to visit my school and teach us a little about fire safety.  Instead of leaving the assembly feeling well informed, I was terrified and became obsessed with whether or not the smoke alarm's batteries were working and devising an emergency exit from my bedroom in the case that our house caught fire.
Fire continues to dwell in the recesses of my fears; living in Arizona means that the threat is omnipresent, and I often think that a house made of cinder blocks is a good idea.
So my heart aches this weekend when a fellow coonhound owner, someone whom I don't personally know but have met through a Facebook group lost everything in a fire, including two of his three rescued hounds.
Andrew lived in an RV, as he had until recently been a government contractor, so in order to have his dogs with him as he travelled for work, he sold his home and bought the RV.  His hounds, Claire, Herbie, and Sadie, went everywhere with him.  A few weeks ago, he lost his contract and is currently without a job.  He'd been giving his dogs his food as money started to run out.
Many people in this situation would surrender their dogs, but Andrew had rescued all three hounds, and was willing to sacrifice other things in order to keep his fur-family together. 
When his RV was parked this weekend, it caught fire, and Sadie and Herbie were lost, along with all of Andrew's belongings.  Andrew has burns on his hands, and Claire, his surviving hound, also has some burns and is on antibiotics to ensure that she doesn't have lasting smoke inhalation damage.  Both of them are heartbroken, and so is our coonhound community.  Sadie was rescued from a situation in New Mexico and transported to Andrew in Illinois through the Colorado Coonhound Rescue and Pilots N Paws.  As his children are grown, these three hounds were Andrew's life, and to have lost two of them this way, I just…well, there are no words.
Perhaps because this group of coonhound owners is populated, for the most, by those who have rescued hounds (Zooey is one of the few in the group who has had the same loving home all her life), those dogs who have been "thrown away" by others, we knew we had to do something.  Doing something in times of crisis is what we do, and so instead of rising up to save a hound from an abusive situation, we took action to help our fellow hound lover.
A YouCaring page has been set up to help Andrew and Claire with veterinary and other expenses, and in less than 48 hours, we have already raised over $1800.  The page is open until Valentine's Day, so if you have a few dollars hanging around that need a good home, please don't hesitate to click on the link and donate; I know that Andrew and Claire will be more than grateful for your donation.
In the long run, less than two grand isn't going to be enough.  Andrew needs a new home.  He needs a job.  He needs to be able to buy food for himself and Claire.  He needs to have a change of clothes (how many times have we all taken all our socks for granted?).  He needs to feel whole again after this devastating loss.  But we've started a process to help him heal, and we have not only stepped up financially but also to help shoulder the immense grief he is feeling right now.
I know many people who don't like to watch the news today because it seems like it's only bad news - the murder of a college runner, the continued situation in Syria, and more.  But whenever I hear this, I am reminded of The Art of Happiness, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama; in it, he discussed that the daily news cycle is full of "bad news" because it is still in the minority of events that happen each day.  Certainly it's too bad that more attention is paid to these happenings than the good that can happen, so it's up to each of us to carve out that good news we seek, even if it's in the face of terrible situations.
I can't put the sadness I feel for Andrew and Claire into words, but I also can't find words for the immense pride I have in these people I have come to know, all of whom have come together just because of our similar love for hounds.  It's a positive daily reminder that the kindness of strangers is something on which everyone should rely, as without that kindness, there won't be any other.
If you are short of money right now - you may be jobless yourself, or perhaps some unexpected expenses have arisen, and that's OK - your positive prayers, thoughts, and messages will also make a difference for Andrew and Claire; the more positive energy we can put out there, the better our world will be.
Herbie and Sadie, you will be so missed by Andrew and Claire and those who helped you live with the love that Andrew had to give you.  We will see you again; wait for us at the Bridge.


Sadie on her "freedom ride" out of abuse

Herbie and Claire


  1. That's beautiful Allison, was glad I could donate what I could yesterday, and hope others will be able to help as well.
    Collette :)

    1. Thank,s Collette. We've donated what we can right now, too. It's always amazing how even small acts by many can make such a difference.

  2. If you go into the great Non-Profit database: and search fire, victim, etc. in Arizona it comes up with quite a few organizations that may be able to assist him and his dog right now. I also see Catholic Charities which is another idea. Have him contact as many of these as he can for help. Another idea might be for him to contact his Fire Dept which may have support organizations that they work with.

    1. Thanks! He's actually in Illinois, and I know that we are working through a charity already (along with our hound rescue groups), but this information will be helpful!

  3. What a beautiful story about Andrew and Claire. You put into words how I have been feeling. My heart is happy knowing there are so many good and kind people in the world. It is so beautiful, strangers united in a common goal to help one another. - Marg

    1. It's truly wonderful watching many people do small acts to create a larger one.

  4. We <3 and appreciate all thats happening for the good for Andrew & Claire... but personally Allison I want to thank you for writing such a touching story. We need more people in this world like you. Always a coonie loving friend, Pennie Hernandez

    1. Thanks, Pennie - the words wrote themselves; this is a story that needs to be told to as many as possible.