There are many things in the world that strike us as strange, such as seeing how two people can stay married for decade after decade. Despite the quarrels, through good times and bad, in youth and in the sunset years, two people remain loyal to one another and find a way to make things work. Loyalty is one of the most valued human characteristics, and for those of us lucky enough to have personally experienced such loyalty it is nearly impossible to put into words how much it has positively impacted our lives.
Yet most people don’t stop to think about the loyalty that seems to come naturally from our canine companions to us. It is an expected quality of a dog. We find little sympathy for dogs that turn on their owners for whatever reason. The fact is, dogs really don’t require much of us except companionship. This is demonstrated in the following story about a dog and his man.
If you have driven by the corner of I-10 and Highway 6 near Houston, Texas in recent months, you may have noticed a man standing there holding up several signs who was looking for work. He had experience and was a quick learner but was unable to land a job due to a checkered past. The signs listed his most prominent skill sets, which were in the building trades. Standing by his side was his four legged companion who was out there every day along with the man, Lawrence Chappell. No one noticed the dog complaining about his situation which required $58 a day to feed and house both Chappell and his dog.
One thing that makes this story unique is that Chappell wasn’t just interested in having a place to stay for himself but his dog as well. Anyone who has owned a dog knows very well they will eat about anything, including things that shouldn’t be eaten. They do it without complaint, and if your hear their stomach growing you won’t hear them growling. This is one of the traits that inspires loyalty between an owner and their furry friend. You can talk to them and they will listen (most of the time), they will keep you warm during cold nights, and rarely send you a signal that they are irritated with their situation.
Day after day for more than three months, Chappell held up his signs and simply wanted to do something many of us take for granted – work. Technically he wasn’t homeless because day after day he managed to get enough money to shelter and feed himself and his companion. And every day his dog would accompany him to that intersection at I-10 and Highway 6 in Houston. Chappell had developed a relationship with his dog that cemented a loyalty, taking them through some very tough times. These were likely the toughest times either had known.
Loyalty is something that cannot be bought like a loaf of bread from the store, nor can it be a trait that can be forced out of someone. It takes a willingness and a commitment to stay together through the most difficult of circumstances. Yet it also applies to the best times of one’s life. Just ask any lottery winner how many people want to become friends with you, and when the money is gone, how many are left standing. But when it comes to a loyal dog, rich or poor is of little importance. They are there for you, and expect nothing more than a simple recognition of their existence. True dog owners know they rarely show painn except when they are seriously hurt, physically or emotionally.
The good news is that thanks to some concerned people and the long tentacles of social media, Chappell and his dog got the break that they needed. A Twitter post resulted in Chappell getting phone call after phone call, offering him work. He estimates there were more than 100 such calls, and he no longer has to spend his days asking for help but working and taking care of his dog. The dog was asked whether Chappell’s change of fortune made any difference to him. He simply looked at the person as if they didn’t know what being a dog was all about. He eats better now – and so does Chappell. But other than that there really is no change in their relationship.
They say there are many things a person can learn from a dog that will make them a better person. You would think that the opposite would be true, that our dogs would learn from us. Maybe there is something to be said for keeping things simple: a decent meal, acknowledging the presence of someone, a gentle pat on the head. There are some people who take offense to the latter of these actions, but dogs know better. They instinctively avoid what is called negative attention because they maintain their dignity. While many people miss the point, they have a short list of what it takes to acknowledge they are being treated as an equal.
Maybe the best lesson to take away from the Lawrence Chappelle story is that sticking by someone’s side offers a mutual hope that somehow we will get through this. Loyalty is a key trait necessary between the two, but when you look into each other’s eyes you know that what you think and do matters, and it will affect the both of you. No technology is needed. Not even a car (though Chappell was able to afford one shortly after getting back to work). We don’t know if there was room on the passenger side for his dog, but depending on where you live it may actually be illegal. What we do know is that it is only fitting that Chappelle’s dog has a place sitting right next to the person he taught about loyalty.