Man treks across U.S. with his dogs to 'bring joy to Boston'

acornejo@thetribunenews.comMay 23, 2013 

Daniel Sievert took his golden retrievers — Jake, left, and Emerson — to Boston after the marathon bombings. “I wanted to bring joy to Boston through my dogs,” he said.

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

As Daniel Sievert watched the news coverage describing the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, he knew that he needed to go.

Sievert, 59, who was nearly electrocuted when he was 20 years old and wears the scars as a daily reminder, emotionally connected with the agonizing recovery that lies ahead for the survivors. He believed he had something that would help — his two beloved golden retrievers, Jake and Emerson.

A religious man, Sievert said that he believed that God was telling him to go. So, he prayed. He raised donations, rented a car and set on his way.

“My goal when I left here was to touch one person,” Sievert said.

Sievert speaks humbly about the eight-day journey that took him 3,000 miles across the country. He slept in the rented Nissan Juke every third night to save money and paused along the way to talk with strangers who seemed to need it.

He refers to the trip simply as arduous.

Eventually he made it to Boston, where he found himself not at the hospital where he was originally headed but by fortune or circumstance connecting with people who were healing in other ways.

A woman who had finished the marathon only eight minutes before the bomb went off knelt with the dogs and spent a few silent minutes snuggling against them before sharing her story.

Standing at a memorial near where the first bomb exploded, crowds of people gathered around the dogs.

“I wanted to be quiet, respectful and to serve,” Sievert said. “I wanted to bring joy to Boston through my dogs.”

What most people don’t know about Sievert is that he is homeless, sleeping at night in his Saturn with his two canine companions, not knowing what the next day will bring.

He moved to San Luis Obispo from his longtime home of Big Bear in Southern California in November to fulfill a longtime dream of living on the Central Coast and struggled to find housing that was affordable and would allow him to keep his dogs.

He hesitates when talking about being homeless, not seeing it as part of his story or his identity, worrying that people will judge him if they know.

“It’s embarrassing,” Sievert said. “I don’t want to say I’m homeless, but I guess I am.”

Sievert said that providence allowed him to make the trek despite his circumstance.

“I am now seeing it (homelessness) from the inside out,” said Sievert. “I have more compassion and understanding. The bottom line is that people without a home have an identity; they have a name, and they have an ability to help others.”

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.

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