February 19, 1998 in Nation/World

Uptown Dog Finds Friends On The Street Despite Storm, Homeless Men Share Breakfast, Return Pup To Anxious Owner

Linda Wheeler Washington Post
 

The rain bombarded the pavement, and the wind bent trees along the street in Georgetown, when one of the city’s newer residents decided to take a walk. Out the door she went, down 34th Street NW and then zigzagging her way across Wisconsin Avenue until she found a place for breakfast.

Her companions for the meal Tuesday, two homeless men, figured she might have left her house without permission and probably someone was awfully worried.

Deb Gray was more than worried.

“I’d lost my mind,” she said. A gust of wind had blown open the wooden front door, and her 10-month-old German shepherd puppy, Flicka, simply walked out into the storm and disappeared.

Gray, who moved to Washington with her husband, Joshua, four months ago, was frantic. Hopping on her mountain bike, she zipped around the neighborhood of steep streets lined with narrow houses. She flagged a police cruiser and gave the officer a report.

Forty-five minutes later, she reluctantly headed home. “I kept thinking how she would get hit by a car because the visibility was so poor,” she said Wednesday. “I kept thinking she is big dog and people will be afraid of her.”

As she wheeled into her walkway, she spotted Flicka trotting along the street with two men dressed in rough clothes. Flicka was on a rope leash. Although neither man had a raincoat, they had fashioned a cape for the dog out of a soft, dark blanket.

They explained that Flicka had joined them in line for a free church breakfast. After the dog had eaten most of their eggs and hamburger, they checked her tags and started to look for her home.

“I’ve never kissed men I didn’t know so much,” she said Wednesday. “I think I embarrassed them.” She also gave them $8 - all she had in her purse - and two small bottles of a special San Francisco Christmas beer from her refrigerator. The men thanked Gray and walked away.

Gray, the author of two books on dog training, said she was somewhat abashed to tell her story, but she wanted people to know how helpful homeless people can be. She also praised the police officer, who later stopped by to see if Flicka had been found.

As to how Flicka, a star student of Gray’s training techniques, had “just gone on a toot by herself,” Gray said German shepherds are independent-minded dogs, and the obedience slip could be attributed to “intelligent disobedience.”

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