When, as a young boy, I would gaze sadly at the brooding gray skies that threatened to ruin my outdoor fun, I would ask Mama if she thought it was going to rain.
Ever the optimist, she would say: “If there’s enough blue in the sky to make a cat a pair of pajamas, it won’t rain.’’
This memory popped into my head as I was thinking what this story is really all about.
On the surface, it is simple enough: The story of a dog rescued from euthanasia by the generosity of a Gilbert veterinarian.
It is about other things, too. It is about a dream, a girl and a house that needed a name.
Mostly, though, it is about the wondrous quality some folks have that keeps them looking for enough blue in the sky to make a cat a pair of pajamas.
But the dog is a good place to start. Like Lassie summoning help for his trapped master, he will lead us to everyone else in our story.
His name is Tiny. He’s a Shar-Pei-who -knows-what mix, probably 3 or 4 years old.
“He’s an inner-city dog,’’ says Kit Danley, president of Neighborhood Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit organization that has been helping poor people in the Valley for 25 years. “He’s beat up, been in dogfights. We’re pretty sure he’s been hit by a car. He’s a mess.’’
Danley came to know Tiny through the dog’s owner, a 16-year-old homeless girl we will call Lily. She was abandoned by her mother as an infant and will live in a home for teen girls that Neighborhood Ministries will soon open.
Lily and Tiny have been spending a lot of time at the house as the renovations proceed. It was there that the scruffy dog came to the attention of someone from the local humane society, who took one look at the pitiful animal and told Lily she had 24 hours to get the dog some medical attention.
Failing that, the dog would be removed and, quite likely, euthanized.
A volunteer with Neighborhood Ministries called his vet to see if he could help.
Sure, he was told.
Tiny arrived this week at the offices of the veterinarian, who prefers to remain anonymous, with a long list of ailments.
“He had a nasty wound on his neck, all crusty and oozing,’’ the vet said. “It was probably the result of a fight with another dog.’’
Tiny’s left rear leg showed signs of arthritis. He had lost muscle tissue in his right rear leg, most likely as a result of being hit by a car. He suffered from hip dysplasia.
“He’s a rough-looking thing,’’ the vet observed, “but very sweet. A dog who’s been what he’s been through, you don’t know what to expect. But when we open his pen, he comes out and goes right up to you, puts his head in your lap. He’s just a sweet dog.’’
The vet tended his neck wound and began treatment on his legs. He put Tiny on antibiotics, neutered him, gave him a flea-tick treatment and vaccinations and did blood work and x-rays. The tab? Roughly $750.
But the vet declined payment. Tiny will soon be reunited with Lily, and Danley is thrilled.
“You know, Tiny is almost a metaphor for the kids we see,’’ she said. “Like Tiny, they’ve been through a lot of things. They’re tough, city kids who need help. They’ve bounced around from house to house, been in awful home environments. They have all sorts of issues. They’re the kinds of kids maybe a lot of people would give up on.’’
Neighborhood Ministries’ response to that problem is to open three homes — one for teen girls, one for teen boys and one for teen moms. Each will be home to 10 kids, which Danley admitted seems hardly a dent since, by her estimate, there are as many as 6,000 homeless teens in Arizona.
Lily is typical of the teens Danley plans to help. Abandoned by her birth mother and suffering from psychological and emotional problems, Lily has bounced around in foster homes. Although scarred by her difficult life, she is not disillusioned.
“Lily and I were watching the workers renovating the house one day. I told her, ‘Lily, it’s going to be your job to give the house a name.’ ” Danley said. “So we said a prayer and then I told her, ‘OK, tomorrow I want to know what name you’ve picked out.’ ”
I guess some people just can’t help but look for that small patch of blue in the sky.
People like that Gilbert veterinarian, who treated a mutt with the same attention that is lavished on a prize show dog — and at no charge.
People like Kit Danley, who can’t rescue 6,000 homeless teens, so she rescues 30.
People like Lily, who has known far more cruelty than kindness and yet has emerged as sweet as that beat-up dog she loves.
The next day, Lily approached Danley with a broad smile. “Don’t worry about the name for the house,’’ she said. “I have it.’’
“What is it?’’ Danley asked.
“Hope,’’ she said.
Want to help?
Tax-deductible donations to Neighborhood Ministries can be sent to 1918 W. Van Buren St., Phoenix, AZ 85009. Or visit www.neighborhoodministries.org