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Drivers prove to be ‘saving grace’ in life of emaciated pup in Dorchester, Mass.

Courtesy Animal Rescue League of Boston

By Aprille Hanson
The Trucker Staff

5/29/2013

Editor's note: This article was first published in the May 15-31 issue of The Trucker newspaper.

Eastbound and Down

A column by Aprille Hanson

The thing that makes me smile more than anything when I go out to the Petro truck stop in North Little Rock is seeing a small (or big) furry face perched over the steering wheel of a big rig. And no, I don’t mean a bearded driver, but his or her trusty four-legged companion.

We at The Trucker realize that a trucker’s best friend on the road is often his or her pet, which is why the following story will tug at your heart strings. Besides caring for your own pets on the highways, my hope is that the following tale about a FedEx delivery man — though not a long-haul trucker — will inspire you to step up when you witness animal cruelty or neglect.

It all started on the morning of April 3rd, in what appeared to be another hopeless day for a mixed breed puppy now aptly named Oliver Twist.

Walking along Lawrence Avenue near Mascoma Street in Dorchester, Mass., Oliver, about six months old, was severely neglected, emaciated and covered in his own waste. Little did he know that around 11 a.m. that morning, Jeff Clifford, a FedEx Express courier, would be his saving grace.

“I had some deliveries and I was pulling up to my stop and right as I was parking, I saw a dog stumbling across the street; he stumbled right in front of my truck and kind of startled me … When I got out of my truck he walked right over to me and licked my knees,” Clifford said.  “He was basically a skeleton with skin, very dirty, a couple of open sores on him. It was very obvious he had been neglected for a while.”

Instead of just putting the sad scenario out of his mind, Clifford, 39, who has worked for FedEx for 13 years, fulfilled both his work and societal responsibilities — he delivered his packages and then called the Animal Rescue League of Boston.

“I said, ‘This is where I am; look, you guys really got to get someone out here right away … It looks like he’s looking for an area to curl up and die,’” Clifford said.

Mia Tavan, interim director of communication with the Animal Rescue League of Boston, said a senior rescue technician, Danielle Genter, went straight to the area and began knocking on doors, asking pedestrians for any information about the desperate puppy. Tavan said another local truck driver slowed down, curious when he caught sight of the rescue van.

“The driver said, ‘no I haven’t seen anything,’ and drove a block or two and started honking his horn,” to get Genter’s attention after he spotted the puppy. “We’ve been trying to get the name of the other person [trucker] who actually saw him, but he took off … Oliver just walked right up to her [Genter],” Tavan said.

Oliver — named after the famed Charles Dickens’ literary character “because he was an orphan and very, very hungry” — had a series of bacterial infections, was about 20 to 25 pounds underweight and is still being monitored by veterinarians, Tavan said. He was being housed at the rescue’s shelter in Boston, which relies solely on donations, according to its website, arlboston.org.

 “We’re still taking care of him to get him to a place that’s really stable and healthy,” Tavan said.

And they did. Oliver was adopted by a loving family. He found his forever home thanks to the two local truckers who aided in his rescue.

 “We are so grateful that the FedEx driver alerted us to the dog. Who knows what would have happened to him if the FedEx driver hadn’t seen he needed help,” Tavan said. “There’s a long list of people who want to adopt him.”

For Clifford — who is married and lives in Medford, Mass., and is the father of a 12-year-old son from a previous marriage — being able to help Oliver melted his heart.

“I love dogs … I have a rescue dog of my own,” he said referring to Dottie, his border collie/beagle mix he adopted last year. “I figured how many people has this dog already walked by … I felt like if I didn’t do anything, I thought this dog was going to die and I couldn’t have that on my conscience.”

Clifford, who was given a “Community Hero” certificate of appreciation by the league at their annual meeting on Tuesday, April 23, said he hopes other truckers will understand the importance of helping their fellow men … and beasts.

“It just takes a second you know,” Clifford said. “When you’re out there and working in the community or a neighborhood, you need to be aware of your surroundings or a part of the community, whether it is a person on the side of the road that needs help or an animal.”

To all the truckers: Take this bittersweet tale to heart and when you run across your own “Oliver” on the road: please stop and help.

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The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at aprilleh@thetrucker.com.

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