Written by Tracy Elliott
How Virgil and Midnite found a home… and a way back to each other.
When I was a child (and dogs roamed freely in my hometown), our poodle, Gigi, would come to the school building every day at 3:15 to walk me and my sister home. Whatever adventures we embarked upon, she was our loyal companion.
When my mother gave birth to my younger sister, Gigi found her way to the hospital. Somehow she knew which room was my mother’s, and she laid outside the window all day. We had to carry her home at night because she refused to leave until my mother was released.
I’ve always been in awe of the powerful connection between pets and their people. Looking at photos of cats cozily curled up beside their person on the couch, dogs spread out on the bed next to their family, and birds nuzzling faces while gingerly resting on a shoulder, it is amazing how these universal images touch our hearts because we know it speaks to the amazing connection between humans and animals.
A few months ago, we received a phone call at the Asheville Humane Society from a veteran’s organization. One of their members, a veteran named Virgil, needed a special kind of help. He had moved to North Carolina from Texas to be with his sister, but the landlord would not allow additional tenants. He became homeless. Virgil was sleeping on the streets with his dog and frequenting day centers for food and water. They could offer Virgil shelter but he refused it because they could not accommodate his dog, Midnite. He told them he couldn’t imagine his life without her. Both Virgil and Midnite needed a safe place to stay, so we gladly agreed to provide temporary boarding for his furry best friend.
When Virgil made the three-hour roundtrip bus commute to meet with us, carrying the 30-pound spitz mix in a crate, he was very concerned about Midnite. Before he left his beloved dog, he talked to us for a long while to make sure she was in the very best care. Virgil said she was his baby, and he was worried about leaving her. He wanted to make sure she would be okay. He told us all about Midnite’s various likes and dislikes and drilled us with questions. We told him we would help with her heartworm medicine, take her for walks, bathe, feed, and love her, as well as provide a clean, warm bed. He told us he had purchased a bus pass, so that he could visit Midnite every day.
Virgil was a man of his word. He rode the bus to the Asheville Humane Society every single day, hiking up a considerable hill to see his beloved dog. Midnite had been with him her whole life. Not only was she a loyal and loving companion, but she also helped him keep his balance. Midnite looked out for him, as much as he looked out for her. We eventually learned that Virgil had lost all of his toes from diabetic neuropathy and walking was difficult. We were amazed, wondering how he tackled his daily trips to see Midnite. But he never complained. Typically calm and aloof, Midnite would perk up whenever she saw him, wagging her tail, doing a little dance, and leaping out of the kennel towards him, full of excitement. From the moment Virgil arrived, the dog attached herself to him, gazing up at her owner with adoration. Their connection was undeniable. As our staff watched these interactions, we witnessed a devoted friendship. Virgil and Midnite walked around the yard as he talked sweetly to her. If he stepped off-balance, she stopped, waiting patiently for him to steady himself, using the taught leash. When Virgil leaned down to talk to Midnite, she gave him kisses. The only person, he told us, that she ever kisses. When he left each day, Midnite whined, begging him not to go. Staff members tried to soothe her with kind words and affection, but all she wanted was to be with Virgil.
After a month, Virgil let us know that he had found a place to live and would be picking up Midnite and taking her home. He had also gotten her certified as a therapy dog, ensuring that he would always have his buddy and helpful companion close by.
Midnite and Virgil touched our hearts. While we provided the medical care, nourishing food, and a warm bed, it was Virgil who won her heart and helped her thrive. Our staff remains in awe of this amazing duo, and it is our hope that all pets, and their people, have a chance at this kind of love!
The staff at Asheville Humane Society sees the amazing connection between pets and their people every day because these bonds are undeniable. We see people on a fixed income scraping half of the food off of their plate to give it to their animals. We see people who stay in abusive situations because they don’t want to leave their dog or cat behind. We see people who choose to be homeless because their landlord threatens to make them leave if they don’t get rid of their pet. We are amazed by each story, and strive to find solutions to all of these limitations, to keep pets and their people together and thriving.
Tracy Elliott is the executive director of the Asheville Humane Society