Some nearby firefighters have made me very happy today.
Alexandria firefighter Dustin Beauboeuf hides behind the fire engine with a puppy wriggling in his arms.
"We got a little something for you," Fire Equipment Operator Greg Derbonne says to a shocked Bill Perry.
Beauboeuf walks out with the puppy, who practically jumps into Perry's arms as Perry starts to cry.
Exactly a week before this moment, Perry lost everything -- his home, his furnishings and his best friend -- in the June 22 fire at Walden Point Apartments. His black lab, Shelby, whom Perry credits with saving his life, was the only fatality in the fire that destroyed an entire building at the complex -- 16 apartments.
"She died the same way she lived," Perry said of Shelby, cradling his new, active 7-week-old yellow lab.
Beauboeuf, Derbonne and firefighter C.J. Johnston were the ones who recovered Shelby's body from the fire and saw how the loss devastated Perry. A few days later, Beauboeuf and Derbonne were picking up groceries for the firehouse and ran into Perry and chatted for a few minutes.
"After that, Dustin decided we needed to do something for him," said Derbonne, who has been with the department for 10 1/2 years. Beauboeuf, who has been with the department a little more than a year, said he knew they couldn't replace the dog Perry had lost, but they wanted to do something to help.
So the firefighters got to work. First they tracked down Perry's sister, whom he is staying with and who gave them the green light, saying this was just what he needed. So Derbonne started making the calls.
Veterinarian Dr. Freddie Revels agreed to donate shots. PetSmart agreed to donate a kennel. Jacob Ducote donated the puppy.
"It was like fate," Derbonne said of the process. "Everything just fell into place. It was great to see so many people willing to help."
The two men said they realize as firefighters that they see a lot of tragedy, loss and destruction and can't help everyone. But this situation just tugged at them, and they wanted to try to make things a little easier.
"I felt for the guy," Beauboeuf said. "He lost his house -- he lost everything he had. And then he loses his best friend."
It was tough for the two firefighters to hand the puppy over Sunday morning -- they'd kind of gotten attached. Beauboeuf had picked her up Thursday, and then Derbonne and his family kept her until Sunday.
"I'm absolutely, positively without a doubt overwhelmed," Perry said, still in shock nearly an hour after the surprise. "... I'm naming her Phoenix. A phoenix rises from the ashes."
More of the story, and pictures, at the link.
Nice work, guys. You help to keep my faith in humanity alive.