Nine days in a Portland hospital for a Minnesota long-haul trucker named Francis. And missing his dog every step of the way.
As he lay in that lonely hospital bed all he could think about was the dog he loved. The dog that was his constant trucking and traveling companion. The dog that had been alone in his truck all night long.
But in the midst of bad came good. Because thankfully his ER physician was Sarah, one of the core group of incredible volunteers that make up The Pongo Fund. And shortly after Francis mentioned his dire situation to Sarah, The Pongo Fund was on the way.
A man and his dog 1,700 miles from home facing potentially the worst of times. But instead a group of people rallied around these two kind souls. Together we have rooted for them and we have cared for them and they have felt the love from the hundreds of thousands that have followed their story.
While Francis remains hospitalized Dutch has filled his days with a daily schedule of walks and spa visits and sunbathing and naps and two different playgroups. But most of all his days have been filled with love.
He has made friends everywhere. On his daily walks every tree, every leaf, every single thing has become a friend. He walks with his head held high and greets every one he sees. Even if only for a moment because he wants to be sure that nothing is forgotten.
Just ask Miles, the 16 year-old blind and deaf Maltese that joined Dutch for a walk. Or Zoey the Poodle or Belle the Boxer or Frankie the Labrador. Each one of them became walking buddies as Dutch strolled through the neighborhood.
And every step of the way his tail wags as he learns about a place he never knew before. Surrounded by people he’s only known briefly. Yet he embraces all of it with a zest and a verve that would make the bravest explorer proud.
But no one has loved him more during these past nine days than the team at Sniff Dog Hotel. Because each and every one of them has stepped forward to make sure that he never felt alone.
Several of them have even spent their break times curled up with him. Petting him. Talking to him. Just being with him. Letting him know he is loved. And Dutch has returned that love many times over.
He has reminded us of the strength of spirit that we all hold within. A spirit that just waits for a chance to sparkle. And this past week this brave boy has sparkled big time. And every single person that has been part of his story is the better for it.
At least once each day I rejoice in giving Francis an update. A few days ago, the day after his own surgery and when the frustration of his situation was settling in, I told him about Dutch’s day.
About how Dutch had a bath and how he’d had two different playgroups and how I’d taken him on a special walk and how he’d met a little tiny Chihuahua named Sophie and how he’d kissed her ever so softly and how Sophie had tried to climb onto his back for a ride and how Dutch almost seemed to giggle as that happened.
I told him all of these things so that he would not feel forgotten. So that he too could celebrate the great moments and good fortune that had brought all of us together.
And as I shared, Francis just kept saying thank you. Over and over again he said thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. But he also said he didn’t know what he had done to deserve this.
So I reminded him that at some point in his life he must have done some exceptional things for others and this was how the universe was repaying him. By allowing us to be there for him to care for the most important friend he has. His one and only Dutch.
There was a long pause. And his voice began to do that cracking thing again.
Then Francis said one of the nicest things that anyone has ever said to me.
He said “You’re an Angel. All of you are Angels. I know that you were sent here to look after Dutch and me and I just can’t thank you enough.”
And now it was my turn for my voice to crack a little. Because I was stunned to receive such a deeply meaningful compliment from a man I didn’t know who has a dog I have grown to love as my very own.
And the best part is that this wonderful compliment was not just for me. It was for all of us.
I am thrilled to tell you that Dutch continues to do great. Today he’ll enjoy another fantastic Sniff day filled with naps and playtime and walks and good food and lots of love. Later this week he will enjoy his first massage, compliments of Rubi Sullivan at Heal Animal Massage. And then he’ll head out with some of the Pongo Team for a day of exploring local parks.
And with more good news Francis continues to get better as well. And as he improves, their time in Portland will soon come to an end. Meaning that it won’t be long until we say Godspeed to these two truckers as they hit the road again.
Together each and every one of us near and far has been here for Dutch and Francis. From a single moment in time a group of people have rallied together with names like Sarah and Sniff and Howard and Jamie and Casey and Jim and Leslie and Josh and Rubi and Pongo and so many more.
We have made our home their home. We have made them feel welcome. And my hope is that someday they will look back on these days and know that they were cared for by people who loved them.
And if that makes us Angels, then I am proud to be an Angel. And I invite all of you to join me too. We shall all be Angels together.
This story will be continued.
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