One cold day late last month, Jenine-Lacette DShazer approached a homeless man and his small white dog. Clifford Herbert looked “crumpled” on the sidewalk, but his compassion was not. DShazer had been watching him cradle his dog, Baby, in his arms and lean over her, trying to keep her warm. She also noticed how the 60-year-old often winced in pain.
Wanting to help, she grabbed cat food, some toilet paper and a blanket from her car and presented them as gifts.
“He didn’t ask me for money or anything; he was just appreciative, first of all, that I noticed him, that I talked to him, that I didn’t treat him as less-than,” DShazer says, “and he was exceptionally grateful.”
The Fresno man’s gratitude, love of Baby and dire circumstances inspired her to want to do more – especially after learning Herbert’s Christmas wish: Find a loving home for his best friend, Baby, before he dies.
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Herbert says that a cancer in his body has spread to his brain and that doctors don’t expect he will be able to care for himself for more than six more weeks. His new friend, DShazer, has been looking out for him and working to find a family to adopt Baby when he can no longer care for her.
She started a GoFundMe donation account to help – inspired in part by support she has received for a campaign she started to spay and neuter stray cats in Fresno’s Tower District and find them homes. Money raised for Herbert and Baby – more than $3,800 as of Tuesday – has been going toward food and rent for the pair at Crossland Economy Studios, an extended-stay Fresno motel, for the past three weeks.
Baby dozes as she lays happily beside Herbert on Monday inside their warm room.
“She’s my whole world,” Herbert says of Baby. “She’s my best friend. She protects me.”
Herbert also protects Baby. He saved her from an abusive man who was beating her with a flashlight nearly three months ago.
“I told him, ‘I want that dog.’ He said no, and the fight was on,” Herbert recalls.
Since then, Herbert and Baby have been inseparable.
Herbert is a gifted guitarist who once owned a mechanic’s shop and worked part time as a farm laborer. He says he became disabled in 2006 because of complications from a heart surgery that left him in an induced coma and also required he have a tracheotomy – an incision made in the neck where a tube is permanently placed to allow air to enter the lungs. His voice is now barely audible.
Trying to exist as a homeless man without the ability to speak has been challenging. The messages he scribbles on sheets of paper to communicate are often ignored by strangers who wrongly assume he’s asking for money.
Tears fill his eyes as he thinks about what helps him get through the tough times.
“God,” Herbert says, “I’ve got my faith. I believe in God. I talk to God.”
Baby’s love helps, too. Herbert says she makes him feel “safe and comfortable.” He hopes she’ll continue to feel the same way long after he’s gone.
How to help
▪ People interested in adopting Baby, thought to be an Australian shepherd and pit bull mix around 10 months old, can contact DShazer at email@example.com or 323-369-1813. Baby has been spayed, microchipped and vaccinated.
▪ Donations to help pay for rent for Herbert and Baby can be made online through a GoFundMe account, “Help Cliff + Baby Live Through Holidays,” that DShazer created and manages.
▪ Get-well cards can be mailed to Crossland Economy Studios, 3460 W. Shaw Ave., Fresno CA 93711, with the envelope marked for resident Clifford Herbert.