On this fine Sunday morning, I thought we might share a love story with you.
The best kind of love story, one of selfless, unconditional love.
So, grab another cup of coffee, another bagel or bacon sandwich, (oh, and maybe a pack of tissues, too) and settle in to a comfy chair.
The two characters in our story are called Bob (not his real name) and Yogi Berra, also known as Red Dog.
Bob is homeless and has lived on the streets in Atlanta for many years. Through every kind of weather...the cold, the wind, the rain, snow... you name it, Bob endures it.
Huddled in a sleeping bag, begging for change, Bob has lived a solitary life in so far as humans are concerned. However Bob always considered himself rich in love, because by his side every second of the day, was his beloved Pit bull terrier, Yogi, a gentle creature who never met a stranger and adored his travelling companion.
Together he and Yogi roamed the streets of Atlanta together for fourteen years, finding safety and solace in each other's company and sharing what little they had.
One day, Bob noticed a growth on Yogi's lower abdomen and made sure to monitor it over the coming weeks and months, seeing that it was increasing in size very quickly. People would stop him and ask him what was going on with Yogi, but Yogi seemed to be getting around just fine, it didn't bother him at all, and so Bob just told them "I'm keeping an eye on it, don't worry." This continued until a few weeks ago, when Yogi's growth had become a hideously large tumor dragging on the ground and had become so infected that Bob knew he had to make a decision.
He had no money to take Yogi to the vet, and did not want to lose his best friend, but he knew that if he didn't get him somewhere quickly, Yogi might not live through the infection.
Yogi was his best friend, his companion, his everything...literally all he had in the world.
He knew he had to help him but also knew that he could not.
If he were even able to afford to get that tumor surgically removed, Yogi needed to be in a clean, warm environment for a few weeks after surgery and Bob just couldn't give him that. Not while living on the streets...
One day, officers with Fulton Police stopped him to check and see how he was, and asked him if he needed help with Yogi.
In a moment of astonishing selflessness, knowing that this move would render him both lonely and unprotected, Bob stood up and asked them to take his beloved boy with them there and then, before he could change his mind, to Fulton shelter. There, he hoped and prayed, someone would adopt him and give him the help Yogi needed.
As his friend was loaded into the Police car, Bob wept and said goodbye to his best friend, and asked him to please understand that this goodbye was to save his life, and that he would love him always.
Yogi was admitted into Fulton Animal Shelter as an owner surrender, but sadly, like so many pit bulls, was overlooked because of his hefty jaw and musculature; a thing of beauty to some, a thing of absolute terror to others. His soft heart and kindly ways not even considered, Yogi was overlooked by family after family, who felt that he was a risky breed, too old and yes, that ugly hanging tumor did not help.
It seemed that Yogi was destined to be one of the many hundreds of pit bulls needlessly put to sleep every week in Atlanta, until one lady, Jessica, from Lifeline at Fulton County Animal Shelter, picked up the phone and called us.
She told us what had happened, the sacrifice that Bob had made to help his friend and, without even seeing him or meeting him, we straight away committed to taking Yogi into our program.
Even if he never made it to the cabin, we had to make sure that Bob's sacrifice wasn't in vain and we made immediate arrangements to get him vetted while we searched out a possible emergency foster home. It was touch and go for a minute as we had nowhere to put him while he recuperated but thankfully, through our network of rescue contacts, we found a lady called Robin who agreed to house him for a few days post-surgically.
It was only then that we went down to meet him and our temp tester Jan found him to be a special, kindly boy with a heart of gold, gentle around other dogs, happy to be loved on...what a relief!
Yogi went to his foster home a few weeks ago to recuperate from surgery and was a joy to have around, so much so that social worker Robin asked to keep him a little longer and even took him to work with her every day to meet people in her office.
Ten days ago, Yogi joined the other cabin residents in this, his new forever home, and from the very first second he arrived, was feted like a rock star. Not just by the horde of humans waiting to greet him, but by all of the dogs as well, who seemed to understand his story and knew he had a void to fill.
While we are not allowed to know Bob's details or contact information, we made sure to let Fulton shelter have some pictures of Yogi relaxing like a king in his new home and asked if they could pass them on to the Fulton Police officers to show Bob next time they ran into him on the streets of Atlanta.
Bob sacrificed everything of value that he had that day, his heart and soul got into that police car never to come back. He knew that, but did it anyway. It was imperative that he knew his sacrifice was not in vain.
Today, please look and enjoy these photographs of the beautiful Yogi Berra and spare a thought for the love and heart of Bob who is without his best friend and partner of fourteen years because he wanted to save his life.
Greater love hath no man than that.
Bob, we salute your love, your benevolence and your courage in putting Yogi first, and hope that you see this post somehow, sometime.
And folks, next time you are in Atlanta and see a homeless person, freezing and alone on the streets, please think to yourself "that could be big hearted Bob" and maybe buy him a cup of coffee or a warm meal, eh?
Yogi Berra, previously known as 'Red Dog from the streets of Atlanta', you are officially home.
And you are already very much loved.