The old man saw her on the interstate. It was a dog, seated in the median of the busy highway. The old girl was frightened and unmoving.
The highway was screaming with traffic. On each side of the median were rivers of speeding headlamps. The road was too busy to cross. So the dog sat in the grass.
When the old man saw her, he flipped on his hazards. He eased to a stop on the shoulder and leapt into the tall weeds, bounding for her.
As the old man made his way through the grass, he was simultaneously removing his belt to use as a makeshift leash. Which caused his pants to fall down. Which revealed his bare backside to all eastbound motorists on I-10 that evening.
“I don’t wear underwear,” the old man told me during our interview. “Too constricting.”
When he reached the dog, she looked at him with pleading eyes. She was nervously panting.
“I spoke Spanish to her,” said the old man. “My mom was from Mexico City, she believed that dogs listened to Spanish better than English. Dogs always listened to my mom.”
He looped the belt around the animal’s head then led her to his car. He noticed she was limping and whimpering.
“She was hurt worse than I’d thought,” he said. “She was bleeding all over my backseat.”
I’ll spare you the gory details and simply tell you that it was an ugly wound. A life-threatening one. She needed medical attention. And fast.
So our hero used his smartphone to search for emergency veterinary doctors.
The old man was on his way to Texas that night to visit his daughters. He was a foreigner in a foreign land. And he must have been quite a sight, too.
A confused old man, standing on the shoulder, in the middle of the night, looking at his phone, with a portion of his bare white butt showing.
A veterinary doctor finally answered the phone. Hallelujah. The old man explained the situation and the doctor agreed to help. The clinic was located in a small town about ten miles away.
The old man pressed the gas pedal to the floor mat and made record time. The doctor met him at the front door, still wearing pajamas.
Our old hero dropped the dog at the clinic and bade the good doctor goodbye. Then he crawled into his car, pulled out of the parking lot, and resumed his Texas journey.
But he just couldn’t do it.
“I couldn’t leave her. I just couldn’t let that poor animal be alone. She had no one. She was put in my path for a reason.”
His tires squealed on the pavement as he made a three-sixty in the middle of the inky darkness and headed toward the vet.
In minutes, the old man was waltzing into the clinic and asking the nurse if he could pay for the dog’s surgery and take the animal with him after the operation was finished.
“I’m sorry,” said the veterinary nurse. “You can’t take the dog anywhere tonight. The doctor wants to keep her overnight, just to be safe.”
Once again our hero whipped out his phone and started looking things up. He looked for hotels. He searched for nearby Hampton Inns and Holiday Inns, but found none.
After all, this was a small Texas hamlet. It was more of a four-way stop than a town.
“You can stay at my house,” said the nurse. “If you don’t mind sleeping on the sofa.”
And so it was.
The next morning, the dog was doing much better. The old man offered to pay the doctor again, but the medical man refused cash. Instead, the doctor gave the old man free bags of dog food. The expensive kind. The kind of dog food that costs more than a three-bedroom-two-bath.
The dog rode shotgun in the old man’s car the rest of the way home. The man named him Lucky.
“I thought it was only fitting,” he said.
And when the old man arrived at his daughter’s house everyone stood in the driveway to greet him.
“I’ve adopted four children in my life,” the man told me. “I’ve fostered twelve kids, and I’ve rescued more animals than I can even remember.
“You don’t just turn something like that off. It’s who you are. It’s just who I am. When I see an animal in need, I have to do something.”
His children and grandchildren all rushed to see the famous dog they had heard so much about. The old man told them the entire story, from start to finish.
Afterward, his eldest daughter threw her arms around him and squeezed. She was crying. He admits that he might have been weeping a little, too.
“Oh, Dad,” said the young woman, looking him straight in the eyes. “You have GOT to start wearing underpants.”