RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — An 88-year-old Rocky Mount man who was separated from his dog when he left his home under duress is about to move to a new place, thanks to the work of volunteers and some generous benefactors.
Volunteers say they’ll start moving Walter Bryant Jr. and his 11-year-old dog, Koal, to a new rental house Saturday. He’s able to move to the brick, one-bedroom, one-bath house because one anonymous benefactor has paid rent for one year while another donated $5,000 for expenses. Other people have offered smaller amounts to help him pay bills, such as utilities, and volunteers will move his furniture and other belongings to the new home.
“There’s more life to me now than there was,” Bryant said in a phone interview, adding that he credited Koal. “There’s a big change because of him because he was my life and still is now. And I hope he will be for a while.”
Bryant got Koal when the mixed-breed, brindle-colored dog was 3 months old. Koal would wait at the door of their home for Bryant to wipe his feet. When Bryant ate his dinner at a table, Koal ate his from a bowl on the floor, waiting for Bryant to wipe his mouth with a napkin when he finished.
The two were separated in November when Bryant left the house because it didn’t have heat. He also felt pressure because the city would like to procure his house for a redevelopment project, and he has relatives who stand to profit if the house is sold. The two have lived together in a hotel room since New Year’s Eve, when volunteers cobbled together donations to pay a discount rate the hotel offered.
Bryant had lifetime occupancy rights to the 109-year-old house that his father built, but other family members would own the house after he moves. The house sits in an area that Rocky Mount intends to rebuild as the Beal Street Redevelopment project with new homes and apartments that are energy efficient and use alternative building materials. City officials say they can build the project without Bryant’s house but are interested in buying it if he moves.
The breaking point for Bryant came when he faced the prospect of spending another cold winter in a house where he says the heat doesn’t work. The animal shelter workers, touched by Bryant’s plight, called volunteer rescuers to help Koal and kept him well past the euthanasia date for owner-surrendered pets.
The people who offered to donate “were far and beyond generous and willing to do anything to keep them together,” said volunteer Connie Lilley, who got the call from the animal shelter workers about Koal. “They have stayed in contact to make sure there’s nothing else they can do, every one of them.”
The two major benefactors are from North Carolina, she said.
The volunteers were unable to get the two together by Christmas, “but I put him in the hotel for New Year’s Eve so he could start the new year with Koal,” Lilley said. Other people then stepped up to help keep them in the hotel until they could move into a new home.
Volunteers will build a ramp for Bryant and fence for Koal so both have more access to their new home.
Bryant, the youngest of seven children, says only two of his siblings are still alive. Few people visited him at his old home, but now people are in and out of his life daily.
When he visited his new house with these new friends, “we put our arms around each other and prayed, thanking the Lord for what they had done and the great future they have brought to me. I have a great future now that Koal and I are back together.”
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