As she walked down the street, Jenine-Lacette DShazer noticed something unusual. In the corner of her eye she saw a homeless man who seemed to be in pain as he clung onto his little dog. And for whatever reason, kind DShazer decided to help. She had no idea at that time, however, that she’d end up trying to fulfill his dying wish.
And DShazer’s first meeting with the man she would be a guardian angel to happened in November 2016 in Fresno, California. It was a cold day, and there on the sidewalk was a homeless man who was hunched over his little dog in a desperate bid to keep her warm. The scene totally broke DShazer’s heart.
The Fresno native watched the pair for some time, noticing while doing so that the man seemed to wince in pain every so often. But DShazer found herself unable to merely stand by, and eventually she rushed to her car to fetch them a blanket and some toilet paper. She also managed to find some cat food to feed the hungry white pooch.
Recalling this first meeting, DShazer told the The Fresno Bee in 2016, “He didn’t ask me for money or anything; he was just appreciative, first of all, that I noticed him, that I talked to him, that I didn’t treat him as less-than.” She added, “He was exceptionally grateful.”
DShazer, humbled by the man’s reaction, decided to get to know him a bit more. And it turned out that the man, named Clifford James Herbert, was dealing with a lot. Not only was he on the streets, in fact, but he had also battled a range of health issues.
In 2006, due to complications during heart surgery, Herbert had been given a tracheotomy and was now unable to talk. As a result, he had resorted to writing things down in order to communicate. On top of this, the former farm laborer had been diagnosed with cancer. Heartrendingly, doctors had recently told him he had only six weeks left to live.
However, despite his devastating prognosis, Herbert’s main concern was for his darling dog, Baby. Herbert had rescued the pit bull-Australian shepherd mix just three months prior to meeting DShazer. In that short time, though, Herbert and Baby had become inseparable. After all, all they had was each other, so they made sure to look out for one another.
Herbert also revealed to The Fresno Bee how he had rescued Baby from an abusive owner; he had witnessed her being attacked with a flashlight. “I told him, ‘I want that dog.’ He said no, and the fight was on,” Herbert said to the newspaper. “She’s my whole world,” he added. “She’s my best friend. She protects me.”
With such a strong bond between the two, then, it’s little wonder that Herbert wanted to ensure Baby would be looked after following his passing. That’s when DShazer decided she could help. The kind stranger set up a crowdfunding page to raise money for Herbert and Baby and made it her mission to find the dog a new home.
Reaching out to potential adopters, DShazer wrote on the website GoFundMe, “Cliff will likely be gone by the end of January so we also need a permanent wonderful home for Baby by then. Cliff will want to meet you and smooth the transition from his care of Baby to yours. They are sensitive kind souls who have a lot of love to give and receive.”
Meanwhile, DShazer was able to hook Baby up with trainer Denise Sbath, who decided the dog would fit best with a family knowledgeable about animals. And while DShazer and her team searched for the perfect home, they used donations to put both Herbert and Baby up in a hotel.
The money also helped to feed and clothe Herbert and Baby. And there was a lot of cash to help, too: within one month, DShazer had received more that $25,000 from kind donators across the globe. It seemed, then, that DShazer’s compassion and Herbert’s plight had touched many hearts.
Plus, with the money raised DShazer was able to attend to Baby’s veterinary care, so that she would be in top shape when the time came for her to go to her new home. As a result, she was spayed, microchipped, dewormed and vaccinated as well as given a thorough check-up. Only then, however, did vets discover that Baby was deaf and couldn’t see properly.
As the days went by, meanwhile, DShazer and Herbert were flooded with adoption offers for Baby. There was interest from all over the world, in fact: people as far as Colombia, Ireland and Spain had put themselves forward to help. But, in the end, the perfect family was found closer to home – in Squaw Valley, California.
Stephanie Walker and her family had inquired about adopting Baby after learning about Herbert’s difficult situation. “I can’t imagine someone I know or love going through that, especially with a dog, because dogs are your kids,” Walker told The Fresno Bee in January 2017. “It just made me want to help, however I could.”
And while explaining why the Walkers were picked, DShazer told the newspaper, “This family emerged as a clear first choice because of the temperament of every member in the family and because they had other dogs that were the right temperament. According to the trainer, Baby needed certain criteria to be met and they had all of it. They had the whole package.”
So at the beginning of 2017 Baby moved in with Walker, her husband Cody and their two-year-old daughter, Hazel. The animal-loving family also counted a horse, a donkey and a lamb among their pets. It turned out, then, that the little white dog would have plenty of company at her new home.
However, though her new life was to be full of new faces, there was one person Baby would no doubt miss. So, to make the transition into her new life easy for both parties, Walker planned to take Baby to visit Herbert in the future. And although their parting of ways was bittersweet, Herbert was just happy that Baby had found a home.
“Finding a family like this is everything he could have hoped for,” DShazer revealed to The Fresno Bee. “Despite the fact he’s unable to give her this, that somebody else can is always going to give him a certain kind of piece of mind.”
As for Herbert, he is now living out the rest of his days in a Fresno hotel, where he receives frequent visits from a social worker. Thanks to DShazer’s kindness, though, he is now receiving the care and compassion he missed as a homeless person. And, even if his days are sadly numbered, at least he can live out the rest of his life safe in the knowledge that his precious Baby will be loved long after his passing.