Anthony Daniels lives on the streets and before now his meals often came from garbage bins, yet when he was asked to “stray” a dog for a fee he could not find it in his heart to follow through and instead made the dog his friend and companion.
“One day I was begging, you know, and this man come to me and say, ‘Son I want you stray this dog and I will pay you’. And I said to myself no man I can’t do this to a dog. I can’t do this to a pet the same thing can happen to me. Well, the same thing happen to me because I living on the streets. I said, if I do good to this dog he can do good to me, he can be like my friend and watchman for me,” Daniels told the Sunday Stabroek recently as his dog ran around nearby.
He decided to name the dog Kesha after a woman in a movie he had seen years ago, who owned a dog that saved her life.
“I remember the movie and I just name she after the woman. And I think the dog in the movie did name Kesha too,” he said with a small laugh.
When this newspaper caught up with Daniels, he was sitting at the Band Stand in the Botanical Gardens, holding Kesha’s red leash as the dog pranced around. It was a true picture of man and his animal friend and for Daniels his decision not to ‘stray’ the dog might be one of the best he has made in his life.
In his own words, the dog has brought him “luck” because while he still lives on the streets, it is his genuine love for the dog that attracted the strangers who have come together to help him. The dog has also been his guard and many times it protected him from people who wanted to harm him for no reason.
Indeed, it was Kesha who attracted animal rights activist Syeada Manbodh to Daniels; she saw him walking the dog about two months ago.
“You could see that he loved his dog, it was as if she was his only hope,” Manbodh told this newspaper recently.
She could not resist and so she stopped and gave the dog some food and water and gave Daniels some money. There commenced a relationship among the three which gradually increased to more persons following Manbodh’s Facebook posts about Daniels and Kesha. The outpouring of love and support has come in cash and kind.
“His luck has changed, and people would go and hang with him and even offered to buy Kesha, but he said she is the love of his life, his lawyer, his doctor, his love,” Manbodh said.
Through his interactions with Manbodh, Daniels became an advocate in his own right. Following the spaying of his dog, he was given a little notebook and asked to inform persons whom he met about getting their female dogs spayed.
“He actually got some names and I followed up and helped a few persons to get their dogs spayed,” the animal rights activist said.
What amazed everyone is the care Daniels gives Kesha. She has no odour and it’s easy to see that Daniels loves her unconditionally. When he became ill and had to be hospitalized, the dog was kept by Noreen Gaskin, who continues to assist him with food and clothes and also does his laundry. He was also able to see an optometrist and receives a regular haircut.
“His luck is slowly changing, now he just wants a dog and a decent place to live,” said Manbodh.
‘Not giving up’
Daniels agrees that his luck has changed in recent times, but there is so much more he longs for in life.
“I am still living. Yes, I use to have to get my food from the bin and so, but I not giving up,” he said.
He gives his age as 44, and said he grew up in a farming area in the Pomeroon. While he related a series of unfortunate experiences that he endured, it is still not clear how he ended up on the streets. But it is obvious that he is not insane and from all indications he is not hooked on any illegal substance.
The suicide of his father when he was around 17 years old, saw his life hitting a downward spiral from which he has not been able to recover. His deceased mother is blamed for the death of his father and also partially for his situation because according to him she did not give him the support he needed.
He has siblings but according to Daniels, they treat him unkindly. “I could say since I know myself I is a poor man. I have family who is independent, and some are very rich and doing well. But only God in Heaven know how they don’t care and want to help. Is like I am the unruly child but I am not,” he tried to explain.
Many persons would ask Daniels about his family when they meet him on the streets but he has no answer because as far as he knows he has done nothing wrong. He recalled that a sister who lives overseas had returned to Guyana some years back, but she was not accommodating to him.
“She told me to get from here you know and that was very unkind. Another sister right here tell me to only speak to she on the road and that not even when we mother dead I must come by she and when we mother dead she did not even tell me,” he said with a shake of his head.
A brother who was not as unkind died some years ago from brain a tumour, Daniels shared.
The fact that he lives on the streets could be seen as an embarrassment, but he said he has been doing that for most of his life because he just can’t seem to “catch myself.”
“I did spend six years in Camp Street [prison] because of self defence. You know, I had a lady and the man was disrespectful and then he attack me and I had to defend myself yes and I injure he,” he said.
He refused to talk about his life in jail, but from time to time would lament that he was not treated fairly by his now deceased mother whom he said he loved very much. He claimed that his mother’s “don’t care” attitude saw land owned by his father being taken away from the family by relatives.
This seems be foremost on Daniels’s mind as he kept saying that he needed assistance to have the land returned so that he could “live and farm. I just want to get back the land then I would go and live on it and farm.
“I don’t know how I end up in this situation, just drifting from one place to the next… My family don’t do anything to help me and now is strangers doing for me.”
Life on the streets is not easy. Daniels said he has been attacked several times by strangers for no reason. He said at times children would hit him and run away.
However, Kesha has been protecting him from such attacks in recent times, even though his relationship with the dog is not understood by many who question how a homeless man could have a pet. They would even accuse him of treating the dog unkindly, but the way Kesha jumps up on her master and lovingly licks his face demonstrates the bond the two share.
At one time, Daniels lived at the Night Shelter in La Penitence. But he said, “There is no good. You have thieves right there. People break into your cupboard and thief your things and they get rules yes but nobody don’t keep it. The police station deh right there and the police and all like them ain’t able so is better I live on the streets.”
Since his encounter with Manbodh life for Daniels has improved, as persons such as Malika Kissoon, Kristen Lupa Lowden, Rae Bob, Ian Tenneesee from Canada, Anne Grice from Australia, Lori Anne and Andre Olshekie from Canada, Carol Baldeo and his current guardian angel, Noreen Gaskin and her helper, Sharon have all helped.
They have pitched in with food, clothes, sleeping bag, cash, garbage bags to tidy his dwelling environment and Gaskin has even provided him with a cellular phone in case of emergency and she sends him and Kesha food every day.
While Daniels is grateful, he longs for more and hopes to find a job, so he can leave the streets.
“I don’t want a job to like stress me out. Maybe like a caretaker or something but nothing to stress me out because I done not well, and you know I can’t do heavy work. I don’t want a guard work because you can’t sleep in the night and sleep is important,” he said.
“I stop drinking and so and I still living me life, still looking for a better life. A better life that is all I want.”
“In my heart, I know he is a kind, gentle and very smart man,” Manbodh said of Daniels and expressed the hope that he will have the better life he craves.
She wondered out loud how many more people like Daniels are out there, who are just misunderstood and need a better life but are labelled by society.