Media Mentions

The New York Times: A Farewell to the Dog Who Helped Him Off the Streets

Raymond Goynes and Mary Kilty spent a few last moments with Ms. Kilty’s ailing terrier, Sonja, at Ms. Kilty’s apartment.

Raymond Goynes went uptown to see Sonja one last time on March 8, a sunny Tuesday morning.

He let himself into her owner’s penthouse duplex in Hell’s Kitchen. Sonja, an 11-year-old wheaten terrier, was sprawled on the wool kilim rug in the living room. Her head rested on a towel.

“Look who it is, look who it is!” Sonja’s owner, Mary Kilty, cried.

“Miss Sonja!” Mr. Goynes called out.

For the first time in an hour or so, the little tan dog raised her head.

In 2005, when Mr. Goynes first met Sonja, he was living in a refrigerator box in the entranceway of a building down the block, in the West 50s.

He’d been homeless since the 1970s, spent years freebasing cocaine. But he had gotten clean in 2000, and he was scraping along doing odd jobs on the block.

“After I got Sonja, he saw various people walking her when I was at work,” said Ms. Kilty, who was studying to be an epidemiologist. “He said to me, ‘I can walk your dog.’ He said this to me several times and eventually I thought why not give it a try, because he clearly needed some income and support.”

Sonja and Mr. Goynes hit it off splendidly. On Saturday mornings, he would take her on two-hour walks up to Central Park and around the reservoir. “It was like a love festival,” said Ms. Kilty.

“It helped me get myself together,” Mr. Goynes said. “It keeps you from messing around, doing other things bad. ‘I got a dog-walking job, I’ve got to maintain.’”

Mr. Goynes, in a black hoodie with racing stripes, bent his compact ex-boxer’s frame toward the dog and stroked her shaggy head.

“Sonja,” he said. “Man. I was on the street when I met Sonja. Now look at me. I’m 67 years old. I came through the ranks, sir. She helped me, I helped her.”

“We helped each other, really,” said Ms. Kilty, 59.

Mr. Goynes found a permanent home in 2007: spartan quarters in a building on East 28th Street run by the nonprofit supportive-housing provider now known as Breaking Ground. One room, a chair, a bed, a little fridge, a television, a bathroom.

He walked Sonja most weekends. Sometimes he would house-sit the dog in Ms. Kilty’s penthouse, sometimes for weeks at a time.

“He was so reliable and so good, and she loved him so much,” she said. Mr. Goynes liked to watch sports on Ms. Kilty’s big TV.

A few years ago, Ms. Kilty and Mr. Goynes and Sonja sat for a portrait at a photo studio. “I wanted some pictures of her, and I wanted to give them to Ray for the holidays,” she said. She used the photo for her Christmas card. (Sonja was named, by the way, for “Sonja Henie’s tutu,” an extremely mild oath frequently uttered on the radio show “Car Talk.”)

Last spring, Sonja fell ill with inoperable cancer. Her decline was slow until about a month ago, when Mr. Goynes was walking her in the park and noticed her bleeding. Then it came on fast.

“I hate to see her go like this, go down like this,” Mr. Goynes said in Ms. Kilty’s living room, crouched beside the dog. “If there was anything I could do to help her stay up … ”

He picked up her paw. “Sonja,” he said. “Get up, come on, get up.”

He let go of her paw. It dropped to the rug with a soft thump.

Mr. Goynes bent over Sonja, lifted her head and aimed her eyes into his.

“You all right?” Mr. Goynes asked the dog. “You know me?”

Ms. Kilty rubbed Sonja’s neck.

“Wowww,” Mr. Goynes said.

He left so that Ms. Kilty could spend a few final moments with Sonja before more visitors came: An on-call vet, who gave her one shot to knock her out and another to shut down her brain. And a pet funeral director, who took Sonja’s body.

Mr. Goynes asked Ms. Kilty for Sonja’s tags so he can put them on a necklace. On Thursday, she gave them to him.

“He keeps asking me when I’m going to get another dog,” she said. “Which I don’t think I’m going to do quite yet.”

Read the original story here.