Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The Napoleon and Ollie Show

I saw Napoleon and his "mom" on their usual street corner. It was after dark and about 40º. She was wearing a couple layers of t-shirts under her hoodie and they were both sitting on blankets to protect them from the cold cement. Napoleon, however, was styling. Decked out in a happening little rust colored vest with a fleece collar. From a distance, he looked like puppy.

I found out his vest was originally bought for a chihuahua, who promptly outgrew it and so the dog owner gave it to Napoleon, who loves it. Or at least didn't resist it and didn't let it restrict his motion. That's one of the best things about my involvement with Napoleon and his humans: seeing how generous my fellow Chicagoans can be. Mom was eating pizza from a Giordano's box -- clearly someone had shared their leftovers with her. And Napoleon's food, both canned and kibble, was plentiful.

While we were talking, a young woman came by with Ollie, a lively dog with a curly tail (a shiba inu?). He and Napoleon are good pals, and they were delightful together. Napoleon dropped to his back and wriggled on the sidewalk while Ollie nuzzled his tummy. Then he let Ollie sniff his butt -- but only for a Napoleon-prescribed period of time. Then he turned and gave his canine companion a swift slap on the nose. This commenced a brief interlude of rough house, interrupted when Ollie caught sight of Napoleon's food dish and decided cat food looked good to him. His owner intervened.

She also gave Napoleon a new shirt, a gift from Ollie. It's a tiny dog onesie that says, "I love my mom," and it's decorated with a pawprint. It delighted Napoleon's mom. "Get! Out!" she laughed in delight. I have learned that this is a happy part of her day: chatting with other women, purely as a pet mom. Not as a homeless woman.

Even though Napoleon virtually ignored me, I'm glad I got to see this performance of the Napoleon and Ollie Show. For it does look like the curtain will be coming down soon. Caleb, his wife and Napoleon expect to be on a bus to Cleveland tomorrow or Thursday. They are waiting for a form, duly signed by a judge, to come back to the Chicago Legal Clinic.

Getting Caleb's long-ago, teenage shoplifting conviction expunged from his record has turned out to be free and surprisingly easy -- once he learned how to do it. I'm proud that I was able to put him in touch with a lawyer who was able to handle to paperwork so now he can go on and get a job.

This job as a window washer means everything to Caleb and his little family. Those paychecks will make it possible for them to give up their tent and sleep indoors, where it's dry and warm. It will give them access to running water, so his wife can groom regularly. Then she can apply to pass the boards in Ohio and resume her career as a licensed hairstylist. Their goal is to begin 2018 in a furnished apartment.

"I have been talking to other people in our situation," she told me last night. "There are so many obstacles to a fresh start!" She was referring to how Caleb had gotten the window washing job, completed his internship, arranged for his union dues, and then at the last moment, during the routine background check, his minor conviction came back to haunt him. His prospective boss, who really believes in this young man, will still give Caleb the job ... as long as the conviction is expunged from his record.

"If it wasn't for your help, we might have given up."

Hearing that meant the world to me.


  1. Thanks for sharing your story of Napoleon and I think what you and others are doing /have done for the family is beautiful My point was not to criticize, but to point out that not all musicians have homes to go home to, so discounting musicians in favor of the "homeless" may be a mistake. I have had friendly relationships with some of the perennial homeless in our area too (and worked in a homeless shelter for awhile), so I'm familiar with the variety of problems and situations. But I also have children who are musicians!

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    2. The reason I referred you to all my Napoleon posts is to dispute your assertion that, if I gave to street musicians instead of the homeless, I would "get something" for my money. Clearly, I have gotten a great deal by helping this homeless family. Also, why should I give to street musicians, but not the man who entertains children with puppet shows and balloon animals? Why should I give to street musicians and not the kids who dance in front of the Chase ATM? I pass many upward turned palms every time I go through my office building's revolving door. I have limited resources. I am going to continue to give to the homeless, and it will continue to fill my heart with joy.


Sorry about adding Comment Moderation, folks. But look at the bright side, at least I've gotten rid of word verification!