This is a real hope for paws true story about a lonely old man who has almost nothing in this world yet helps homeless puppies, kittens and dogs in his neighborhood in Detroit.
Homer Moore and Miss Mayfield; a man living in a dilapidated house on the east side of Detroit that has no running water or electricity and a stray puppy living in and around a burned out house right across the street. I’ve been pretty deeply moved by these two, so it’s time to tell their story.
It all began three days before I became involved.
Tom McPhee has been surveying Detroit for dogs for the American Strays 2030 Project (a scientific means of determining the number of stray dogs on the streets in large urban spaces) when he spotted a little brindle pit puppy in the driveway of an abandoned, burned out house.
This puppy appeared to be on her own and likely wouldn’t last very long if she did not get help. The puppy was a wily one and not interested in making friends with anyone though.
While keeping an eye on the space and the puppy, Tom met residents Cal and Homer. Cal lived in an apartment building a block from the puppy’s domain and he was willing to tell Tom what he knew about the puppy, which was that she had been around for a few months, and that neighbors were feeding her, including Homer. Introductions were made. Tom took some time to get to know Homer and hear his story, including his connection to Miss Mayfield - whom Homer named.
For six days the WA2S team tried to organize the pick of up of this beautiful puppy, but a trap was needed; no one could catch her by hand. It took time and organization of schedules to arrange for Lori Briggs, dog rescuer extraordinaire, to bring her trap to Detroit, but it was confirmed for that Saturday, the day I joined the expedition.
When we pulled up to the burned out house the puppy was in the driveway but ran away when we got too near. She was sweet, but frightened, and looked to be only a few months old.
Then I met Homer, who I knew had a good heart just by talking with him for a few minutes. He truly cared about the puppy that he dubbed Miss Mayfield, after his street name. Homer liked to sit on his porch and from there he had the perfect vantage point to keep an eye on Miss Mayfield.
On a daily basis, Homer would get his sandwiches from The Salvation Army and share them with his puppy pal. Though he had very little, he did not hesitate to share what he did have with Miss Mayfield. He hadn’t touched her, but she certainly knew that he was a good guy because he brought her food. I know she counted on his daily benevolence to stay alive. Homer said that others on their street would also leave her food, so at least she wasn’t starving, however living in a burned out house, garage, and the field behind it is no way for a puppy to live.
I had the pleasure of getting to know Homer while waiting for Lori to come with her trap. Homer is a gentleman who made sure I had a chair in which to sit on his porch. He is from Cleveland, OH and a family of 6 sisters and 4 brothers. He lived in Mt. Clemens for the past 11 years but landed in Detroit after a recent separation. He is very handy mechanically, working with his friend Cal to fix lawn mowers and cars – there is always a project to be done.
On a grim note, Homer had a bit of a limp because he had been shot in the leg after a disagreement with an acquaintance. He shared with me that the man who shot him had spent time in prison, but was now dead. Morning is a great time to interact with Homer, but as the day progresses and the beer flows, the dynamic of the neighborhood changes; it becomes abundantly clear that, as Homer kindly told me, we are “snow in the hood.” There is a fine line between being in their space to help a dog, and overstaying our welcome.
Lori had been waylaid by another pair of stray dogs just down the street, which were both rescued due to her own craftiness! See the rescue of Gabriella and Troy here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1De9GxHvYA and find out how she did it!
Once Gabriella and Troy were secured and transferred to Kelley’s van (DAWG-Detroit Animal Welfare Group) she was able to head down the street to set the trap for Miss Mayfield. We thought that the smell of Church’s Chicken would draw little Miss Mayfield out in a very short time but we were oh so wrong. We moved away from her space so that she wouldn’t be frightened, but she had other plans. She planned to NOT go in the trap. We even thought if we left the neighborhood completely for an hour or two, that she would surely be hungry enough to go get the chicken, but we were wrong again. And we continued to be wrong for another few hours.
By late afternoon it was clear that she was not going to cave to her hunger and step in the trap. We were perplexed. Lori couldn’t image how she would know at such a young age, that this was a trap and she would walk around it but not go in. By late afternoon it was time to exit the neighborhood with the trap with the plan that we would come back in the morning. We asked that Homer not feed her anything so that she would be good and hungry by morning.
While Homer was enjoying taking care of Miss Mayfield as a “community” dog and would miss her, he wanted her to have a good life in a good home with a loving family, so he was all in on our plan. Homer gave us a call around 4pm and said that Miss Mayfield was back in her space. She probably watched us leave from her hiding place!
We spent the balance of the day visiting with Gabriella and Troy at the DAWG farm.
Bright and early Sunday morning we arrived at Miss Mayfield’s neighborhood. Lori Briggs had already set the trap on the sidewalk and had found herself yet another stay dog, now known as Jarrod. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyBWgyJgxrk for Jarrod’s rescue.
After a short time, we saw Miss Mayfield pacing around the trap and still not going in. We thought she might be more comfortable going in if we moved it up the driveway and into the space where she typically hung out, so we moved it and added more tasty treats to tempt her. But she disappeared for hours and hours. We looked through the tangled brush behind the garage, trying to find where she may be hiding, to no avail. This little pup was extremely elusive and very street smart. Lori had to leave but WA2S stayed in the area all day in hopes that Miss Mayfield would be hungry enough to throw caution to the wind and go after the food in the trap. In between keeping track of Jarrod, the stray dog from earlier in the day, we continued to check the trap. Miss Mayfield continued to remain in stealth mode and did not go in, nor did we even see her for the balance of the afternoon.
Fast forward to 7:30 pm at which time Lori Briggs returned to the neighborhood. The decision had to be made as to whether the take the trap and try again another day or to leave it overnight. Would it be cruel or dangerous to the puppy were she to be trapped overnight without help coming until morning? The facts were that the trap was locked to a tree; it was disguised with pine tree branches so it was not even visible from the road, it had plenty of fresh chicken and spam, and WA2S would go back first thing in the morning to check it. Lori also placed a blanket on the bottom of the cage so it would be less daunting, and even inviting to walk on. This was a practice that we witnessed during a trapping of a stray dog by a rescue in San Antonio, TX. If Miss Mayfield took the bait over night she would have a full tummy and would be safe until help arrived. It was confirmed that if WA2S found Miss Mayfield in the trap, Janet from DAWG would come to pick her up.
Our obstacles of the evening included a drunken resident who thought he was the only one who could find Miss Mayfield and secure her, and a woman whose dwelling was the apartment building on the next block. The woman had a dog of her own and was out walking him. She conveyed that she had seen Miss Mayfield go up the street with another dog, perhaps her mother, however we know that she was really just trying to get us to leave her neighborhood. The drunken man spent quite a bit of time bantering with us; we filmed what he had to say while Lori and Janet disguised the trap. We didn’t want this man to know the trap was there for fear he may tamper with it. It took a bit of time but slowly all of the rescue parties started to leave, and so did this man. We stayed well past our welcome that day.
Though I was back at my day job on Monday, I was thrilled when Tom texted me a picture of Miss Mayfield patiently waiting in the trap for her rescuers to arrive! Was it the blanket? Was it the disguise? Was it that she was very hungry? Was it that it was nighttime and she felt less threatened in the dark? I know this for sure, we will never know why Miss Mayfield finally took the bait, but I’m so glad that she did! Janet from DAWG arrived and transported her back to the farm for some decompression time. Miss Mayfield got over her fear of people pretty quickly, as you’ll see in the video, and will make someone a great pet.
There was one more surprise regarding Miss Mayfield though. We had a trail cam secured in a tree that covered the yard where she hung out. The camera would film for one minute once triggered by motion. It revealed Miss Mayfield and the dog now known as Jarrod romping and playing together in that space! These were clearly two dogs that knew each other, not strangers or meeting for the first time. Was Jarrod her dad or just a pal? The only way to find out would be to test each of them and I don’t think that will happen but we let DAWG know this information and they brought Miss Mayfield and Jarrod to some shared space where they were gleefully reunited! We know these dogs are on their way to better lives.
Though the dogs have left the neighborhood, Cal, Homer and their neighbors remain; it is their home. Tom had the opportunity to let Cal know that Miss Mayfield had been trapped and taken to the farm, but Homer was not up and about that morning. Homer stayed with us; on our minds and in our hearts. Some people in the neighborhood feel slighted as rescuers come to help stray dogs but do nothing for the people – those with no water and no electricity.
escuers have a mission to help those without a voice, those that can’t ask for help, which is needed, but how do you help all the people in need in Detroit? As in many other big cities, homelessness and poverty is huge task to address and it is clear that a solution has not been found. In an effort to make a small difference, one week later, Tom and I took a care package to Homer – no cameras, no filming, just us reaching out to a kind man in friendship. We visited with Homer on his porch for a little while and after a few moments of pride he thanked us from his heart for coming back. He now considers us friends, which we treasure. When we drove away I cried and cried. I felt so deeply for all he had been through and where he was now, and wished we could do more.
We will go back.
written by Deanna McPhee
Watch Rescue Videos & Support Dog Rescue!