An­thony Daniels: Just seek­ing a bet­ter life for him­self and his dog

Stabroek News Sunday - - WEEKEND MAGAZINE - By Olu­a­toyin Al­leyne

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.

An­thony Daniels and his dog, Ke­sha, re­cently at the Botan­i­cal Gar­dens

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