There”s a little known park in northern Manhattan called Highbridge Park. In Highbridge Park lives a well-known dog–at least, he”s well-known to the locals who live in the area. The dog goes by the name of either Ricky or Charlie, depending on who you ask. As far as anyone knows, he”s been a wild dog for his entire life, after being born into a pack of feral dogs who roamed the park for years.
The dogs had roamed the park since the mid-“90s, when resident and dog-walker Denise Lauffer moved in. Lauffer herself had adopted three feral dogs and one stray, and immediately became interested in the wild dogs. Over the years, the members of the pack have all been caught, introduced to humans, and adopted. All except for Charlie, who consistently manages to elude captors. Lauffer has been leaving food out for him for the past several years.
Lauffer wasn”t the only one keeping an eye out for Charlie. Many neighbors had grown fond of the elusive dog. With this winter”s temperatures staying at an Arctic average, many feared for the 10-year-old dog”s well being. Residents at the other end of the park would leave food for him, as well as hay and boxes for shelter. An electrical worker even left Charlie 30 hand warmers so he could combat the cold.
Finally, the fundraiser pages started. People were concerned that Charlie might not be able to survive the winter since he was older and missing his pack.
Neighbors would frequently leave out hay for Charlie so that he would have something to snuggle in during the frigid temperatures.
In caring for Charlie, the neighbors began to meet and connect with one another. “He”s a famous dog,” said neighbor Yuliya Avezbakiyeva. Yuliya and her mother have been bringing the dog food and water almost every day for five years. “There are different people, different nationalities, different backgrounds, and this one dog united them all.”
“We just all happened to bump into each other; we started exchanging phone numbers,” said Tina Ilmet, another resident. “People have this connection to animals; they see this animal in distress and they just want to help.”
But it was Lauffer who went the extra mile. In order to gain Charlie”s trust, she began sleeping in a makeshift shelter in the park, in the freezing temperatures.
Lauffer explained that, in order to gain his trust, she needed to get Charlie to associate her with food, warmth, and shelter. Charlie had lived his entire life outside, and though people fed him frequently, he was known for being shy. Lauffer braved the cold and found that Charlie had quite a lot of bedding materials, including coats, blankets, hot water bottles, and more, all left by concerned locals. She fed him hot meals, and Charlie took to snuggling up to her at night. She stayed out for a total of two nights.
On the last day, a Sunday, a group of neighbors managed to corral Charlie into a van and brought him to New York City”s Animal Medical Center. It was at the center where he was given a checkup and treatments, and released into Ilmet”s and Avezbakiyeva”s care.
Charlie may have Lyme”s disease, as well as other, possibly age-related ailments. As of now, he”s at Blue Pearl Animal Hospital for observation, but is doing well. His ultimate fate is unclear, but he will likely be going home with one of his longtime caretakers.
Charlie”s first ever night spent indoors. He slept most of the time.
As of now, over $10,000 has been raised towards Charlie”s medical bills. He”s had a rough life, but it seems that he”ll now finally have a place to call home. This winter has been long and hard, so consider donating money or items to help homeless people and animals in need.