Two days before Christmas, I found myself part of a story of the sort that used to be presented on the Hallmark Hall of Fame – sentimental, saccharine, touching, and perfect for the holidays. It had to do with my picking up a homemade ramp that would enable Cracker, my 15-year-old Bedlington terrier, to get on and off my bed.
The saga began last spring, when David Dunlap, a retired contractor in Napa, California, who used to build high-end homes, lost his beloved yellow Labrador, Cakers (shortened from Baby Cakes). It was a couple of months until Dave and his wife could bring themselves to give away her leashes, collars, ramp and other supplies. When he finally posted their availability on local social media platform NextDoor, he found that many people were interested in the ramp, which enables a small or weak dog to ascend stairs or get onto a bed.
That gave Dave an idea. Because he had a large workshop and a surfeit of lumber and supplies, he would offer dog ramps – free – to anyone who needed them. He made that offer on the neighborhood electronic bulletin board NextDoor, and over the course of the rest of 2022, he made and gave away more than two dozen. Cracker and I were the most recent recipients.
When I collected the ramp at Dave's rustic, huge workshop, we had a lengthy chat. He told me about how gratifying he found his new hobby, echoing what he had said to a local reporter: "The reason I did it was to help out other people but also a way of remembering Cakers and making that a memorial of sorts." He described to me the ways that people had expressed their gratitude – with chocolates, bottles of wine, and even an offer of horseback-riding lessons. Many (including me) insisted that he accept money.
In what increasingly appears to be an era of widespread cupidity and stupidity (e.g., Sam Bankman-Fried, the FTX fraudster, and the COVID "Disinformation Dozen," respectively), it's refreshing to run across a person like Dave Dunlap. My late mother would have summed him up in one sentence: "He has a good heart."
Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist. He is the Glenn Swogger Distinguished Fellow at the American Council on Science and Health and the best friend of Cracker, a 15-year-old Bedlington terrier.