On the street, word is out: Loyal Oxter is missing

Homeless man searches for his dog, best friend

August 07, 2006|By JILL ROSEN | JILL ROSEN,SUN REPORTER

This man. That dog.

Though few know their names, the story of how the one lost the other is breaking hearts all along Charles Street and down St. Paul, the parts of downtown Baltimore the two called home.

"The man with the dog? The dog's missing?" an appalled Mike Evitts, the spokesman for Downtown Partnership, said yesterday morning. "That makes me sad. You see so many people who look lonely and you hate to see people go around without a reliable friend.

"This dog had this man and this man had this dog. You could tell that."

And people could.

Those familiar with the streets that connect the harbor with Mount Vernon expected this man and that dog together. The same way they expected the curb to hug the sidewalk or the shadows to pool beneath the shade trees or the painted lines to run on and on down the middle of the asphalt.

A tall, dark man. A dog with a glossy black coat always padding just behind him. Sweet-tempered, the both of them. And homeless.

For seven years now, Dotsie Mack has welcomed the two into Beadazzled, the Charles Street craft store where she works. She's one of the few who know the man's name is Nester, but if he has a last name, she doesn't know that. The dog, she said, is Oxter - a chow mix specially trained to help Nester live with epilepsy.

Ever since Nester came to her on Thursday to say that someone took his dog, Mack's been on a mission, making fliers with Oxter's picture and taking them door to door in Mount Vernon. She's posted notices on Craigslist, an online message board.

Nester told her Oxter disappeared a week ago Saturday. While he and the dog walked up Charles Street, he paused in front of the Grand Central club, commanded Oxter to stay, then walked two blocks. When he returned minutes later, she was gone.

As impeccably trained as Oxter is, she wouldn't just wonder off, Mack said. In fact, people interviewed in the area yesterday commented time and again about how Oxter, always leashless, never strayed. And how she would wait patiently for Nester as he ran errands or chatted with acquaintances.

Oxter, Mack said, was simply devoted to Nester. And the feeling was mutual.

When Nester got to feeling sick, he'd want to be alone, a habit that could lead to trouble should he have a seizure, Mack said. The dog somehow knew that, and tried to fix it.

"If he's not feeling well, she'll stop and make him be near people," she said. "For any dog to be so devoted to a human being, he has to be a nice guy."

Like Mack, Nester has pounded the streets for days with stacks of "missing dog" fliers, each with an image of Oxter leaping across the page and the words "very friendly" penciled firmly across the bottom.

At the Walgreen's near St. Paul and Lexington, the notice is tucked next to a Payday candy bar display.

At the tiny Thairish restaurant, it's displayed on top of the counter where people balance plates of curry.

At Donna's coffee shop, it's dropped near the to-go lids and sweeteners.

And at Grand Central, it sits in the front window, through which bartender Erich Lutz used to watch Nester and Oxter walk by all the time, and through which, just the other day, he wondered what happened when he only saw the man.

Outside Walgreen's yesterday, James Pryor leaned against a light pole, humming. He'd heard.

"He told me about it yesterday," said Pryor, who like Nester, is homeless. "I really liked that dog."

Men relaxing on the benches at Mount Vernon park had heard, too.

"The picture's up right there," said James Myers, pointing to another pole where earlier Nester had done some earnest taping. "Man, I hope that they find him, I really do."

Michael Thomas, also spending the afternoon in the park, added: "He always had his dog - and now he's hurting. This is just the cruelest thing a person could do, 'cause that's all he had."

jill.rosen@baltsun.com

Anyone who sees Oxter may call Mack at 443-629-6398.

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