There are good people out there…
Sometimes we get a picture of the entire community through the actions of a few bad people. And in animal welfare, we do see some bad people. That doesn’t make us unique, of course, but it can lead to believing that people in general are the problem. That cruelty and neglect and awfulness are widespread and, for the most part, that we humans don’t care for the animals that have been entrusted to us.
Part of it is armor, built up over time to help protect those of us on the streets so that we have someplace to offload the emotionally difficult parts of this job. But what we know and believe based on the reality we confront every day is something entirely different.
The people are the proof
Hani’s “home,” – a tent in the backyard of a neighbor – wasn’t comfortable during the hot months, and got even less so as the weather began to turn. At times, he felt so desperate that he considered returning to his homeland of Iran, a place he hadn’t seen or visited in over 40 years.
There were offers of help along the way. Donors of ours and a few other organizations, like ICNA Relief and a local mosque, worked behind the scenes to find him a place to call home, someplace with warmth and running water and the comforts most of us take for granted.
But when an opportunity came up, Hani declined. Despite the difficult circumstances of his life, he wasn’t going anywhere if his family – Diamond, Skye, Suzi and Layla – couldn’t come, too.
Bad news comes
If you’ve been keeping up with this story, you know how it ended up on the dirt in the backyard of a house in northeast Kansas City.
It bears repeating.
We met Hani last spring after someone called to tell us about him and his friends. After a pandemic-related job loss, it wasn’t long before some men he didn’t know showed up and dragged all his belongings into the front yard of the home he was renting. There was no grace period, no discussion, not a kind word spoken.
We showed shortly after he was evicted, the morning after a heavy overnight rain pounded Kansas City. The gutters still trickled and small lakes stood dirty and brown in the yard of his former home. His belongings, a sofa, chair, bed, clothing and tables, sat there dripping in the mud.
We did what we could for his three dogs and cat. And we promised to return regularly with food and to make sure they were okay. He was genuinely grateful. Despite the circumstances, he never actually asked for help and typically only spoke a few words each time we saw him.
It was what he didn’t say that spoke volumes. In his eyes, we saw kindness. And hope.
When he did talk, he expressed concern for protecting his pets. Each of us personally guaranteed Hani that they would get good, loving homes if it meant he could get into a better place. Each time, though, he told us he didn’t want to leave them behind. “They are my friends,” he would say.
On one of the many return trips, we found Hani still out in front of the house, but now the belongings that had been tossed helter-skelter into the dirt were no longer there. Again, men he didn’t know showed up and took everything. Without a word, they tossed it all into the back of a large truck and drove off. All that was left was his car, which sat broken and unmoved on the street, sealed under a thick skin of dust. After that, a kind neighbor told him he could stay in the backyard of their home.
With that, he relocated two houses down and tried to put together a little life for himself and the animals. Our outreach team showed up with a tent and supplies so he could at least have a dry place to sleep when it stormed.
Issues still came up. For starters, someone took Suzi, his little Chihuahua mix, and tried to ransom her for $40. That broke Hani’s heart and ours, too. He fretted openly about getting her back but he just didn’t have the money. We assured him that we had it covered but he never heard back from the people who took her and nobody is really sure what happened.
That’s when we saw the weight of it all in Hani’s eyes. For the first time, cracks in his stoic demeanor began to show. And if the loss of Suzi wasn’t enough, he was robbed of what little cash he had. That put him in an even tougher spot; still, he refused to accept any help that would require him to leave the remaining three behind.
The big move
Three weeks ago, in the morning, I hear Ramona shout, “Hani got a home.” “Wait, what,” I replied loudly enough that everyone within a city block could hear me. “Hani got a home,” she blurted again. “And he got to take Diamond and Skye.”
A wave of gratitude and relief moved through my chest and an audible exhale pushed it’s way from my lungs. Honestly, you could feel the lightness move through the entire building as word spread.
I then asked Ramona about Layla, the cat.
She told me the landlord wouldn’t permit more than two animals so Layla was still in the backyard. Hani was hesitant to go but an offer of housing like this wouldn’t come up often so he agreed. Especially after we assured him that we’d go get Layla and make sure he had a soft place to land filled with the kind of love Hani had given him.
*Note that Layla was named while still a baby. And if you know cats, it’s very hard to determine a gender when they’re young.
“I love you.”What Hani said to Layla when we went to pick him up and get him into rescue.
Hani’s new hope
What I want you to know is that Hani stood by his animals as so many others in this community do. In tough times, he didn’t walk away; he didn’t resort to abuse and neglect. Instead, he sacrificed when it would have been easier to let them go and make his own life better. He even rode the bus to his old neighborhood every day so he could feed Layla and spend time with him until we could catch him and get him into Wayside Waifs.
That’s the type of goodness we hold onto each day. Small acts of kindness that shift the entire axis of the world more toward the sun. We see it again and again, too. When tough times come for people in our town they’ll waiver under that weight but very few ever buckle.
And in multiple acts of kindness, a number of wonderful people spoke up about helping. Donations came, phone lines were set ablaze with calls reaching far and wide, housing items and other necessities arrived at our clinic on 59th Street, all intended to help the gentle man who chose love and friendship over his own comfort and safety.
Those people, those wonderful examples of kindness and humanity, jumped in without hesitation to help someone they didn’t know. Like us, they wanted to see Hani get back on his feet where he could proudly stand side-by-side with the friends he refused to leave behind.
And that reaffirmed what we knew to be true. That love and kindness eventually win.
That there are good people out there.
Special update: Hani’s cat was adopted just three days after arriving at the shelter.