Posted by: Joan Spiller | March 20, 2016

My encounter with a homeless hitch-hiker

Meet Ollie, a 13yo dog owned by a homeless person wandering NZ in search of .. what, I don’t actually know.. Can’t be ‘home’, they don’t have one. Could be ‘work’, they need and want it.. but in the absence of either, wandering is their lot in life.

Let me back up.. I was driving north Friday evening (in a hurry), exhausted after a busy week at work, when I first saw them trudging up a steep stretch of the highway. Rides not forthcoming (who picks up a scruffy looking hitch-hiker with a dog?) these two were resolute in their movements, albeit very slow.

I couldn’t help myself. I drove up to a layby and turned back.

No one but me (and Tinker) in the car, it was an easy fit. She was caged in the boot “just in case”, Ollie got the back seat, Dad’s pack went in the boot of the car and Dad sank (grateful, if a little quiet), into the front seat of my car.

I chattered away, trying to help him relax. Clearly exhausted he engaged and smiled at me – in as much as he could (No teeth: top or bottom), while we drove North.

I felt bad as I was only able to take them 30 or so km before I had to leave the main road, to pick up my pups from the boarding kennels, however I felt their gratitude as they left the car .. we waved farewell and I drove away, never expecting to see them again.

In fact, I did see them a short time later.. they’d made a few km but I had a carful of dogs and Ollie’s Dad sounded like he had things in hand (“yes thanks, we’re off to see friends up the line a little”) so I didn’t stop.

FFW to Saturday morning, and somewhat unusually – I decided to head to town early to do some grocery shopping. I hadn’t eaten, had a coffee or anything .. As I say: unusual!

Just a few hundred metres past my house – who should I see but Ollie & his Dad, slowly navigating the “curb” (ie uneven sloping ground, well away from the road while cars flew by at 100+kph) I rounded the corner and stopped..

Do I go back and take them a little further on their journey to .. where?
Or do I head into town in my pursuit of coffee and ignore them?
Would they think me weird for trying to pick them up a 2nd time?

With these and more questions whizzing in my mind, I spun a u-turn and headed back. All the while wondering how the dogs with me would handle this vehicular intrusion!

Had to smile – in an odd way (cos it was sweet) as I pulled over and went “Hey it’s me!” (while tired eyes looked up and tried to smile and recognise the crazy lady of yesterday) .. 2 weekend cyclists slowed down and went by, asking me “are you alright ma’am, can we help you?”

They asked the wrong person, I’m fine.
Ollie and his Dad, not so fine..:(

My guess is no one would ever bother to ask them if they’re alright.

Turns out they’d not gotten far, last evening, before darkness fell. So they spent a cold night on the road / in a pup tent together, before setting off around 5am this morning.

I told Ollie’s Dad that I was heading to town (hoping he didn’t notice I’d effectively come back to get them – hitch hiker stalking? lol) to get coffee and asked if it would help if I took him to town. I suppose anyone in need of a ride will say yes to whatever is offered and so off we went ..

Along the way I asked a few Q’s and during this time I learned just how horrible their situation was. In a nutshell, they had no friends “up the line”, they were just moving around / heading North trying to find work here and there.

Once in town, I bought him a large (sugary – I figured energy won’t go amiss) coffee and said I’d been thinking about taking a drive so why didn’t I take them to Woodville.

Pre this, I made an excuse to stop at a nearby shop where I bought a variety of nibbles for him and basically forced them to accept it before we drove on.

It’s fair to say he was not used to being treated nicely: Life was hard..

You see, he’d not only lost his job (last year) he’d been evicted from his rented quarters, when he couldn’t pay his rent after losing his job.
And so the road became their home. And their life?

And this has been their life for more than 8 months?!

It took all my self-control not to take them home and force them to live / stay here.

That would not have worked tho.. I 100% got a sense of pride in his manner. He kept trying to offer to pay me petrol money, he was determined to show me he had things sorted – ie fresh water for Ollie. He also said that he was sharing food with “his best friend”.. clearly (trust me, the man was thin, the dog was fine, if a little sore and tired)

Ollie’s Dad was going without, to ensure his 13yr old (a rescue mutt) faithful companion was OK.

It – possibly, literally – broke my heart.

Both were in need of a bath, a rest, food + love & hope.
And they had none of the above.

Tis fair to say that my life hasn’t quite gone to plan in recent years, and at times, I’ve relied on the help and support of a generous and kind assortment of people / friends. This man hasn’t been so lucky but I hope that one day Ollie’s Dad will think back to the time some strange woman kinda bullied them into taking help and think fondly of it?

But I dunno – all I gave them was a brief respite, food and a ride. Ok I may have given them my phone number should they ever be nearby and in need.

Was it enough? Not really.

I keep thinking about them, wishing I could help more ..
But what else could I have done?

Not sure there’s an answer to this question but it’s one that is weighing heavy on me this weekend.



  1. Just so sad. It’s difficult to know how to ‘fix’ it but am sure just the kind act of picking him up and treating him like a real person, rather than ignoring him, will have made a world of difference to him. Well done you


  2. That’s right…. make me cry. 😥 You’re all kinds of amazing, Joan. Ah dangit, now there’s another thing I have to deny saying. lol Well, to balance it out, I do have to add this…. *snickers* The cyclists called you ma’am. 😀


  3. You would make a fine Christian Joan. I worry about you picking up strangers, but you have a tender heart lady. Thanks for caring.


    • I wish more people would think about offering some kindness, either money food or even 5 mins to acknowledge them as a person

      A long time ago my husband and I took in a 14 year old that we encountered in a park. Drug addict parents. She wanted…. no, was determined.. to not be like them

      She succeeded, but it was a steep learning curve. Very proud of her

      A bit of kindness goes a long way


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