Our littlest 'Angel'

September 27, 2011|By Jean Hastings Ardell, Special to the Pilot

The dog was small and scared, her tan fur matted with burrs. She stood, utterly lost, in the shade of the lone tree in the parking lot of the Urban Youth Academy in Compton. We made eye contact; she wagged her tail.

I was there on a June afternoon to work on a story about the academy's mission to return baseball to the inner city. In 2006, Major League Baseball invested $10 million in the 10-acre facility, which sits in a corner of the El Camino College Compton Center campus near the junction of the Artesia (91) and Long Beach (710) freeways.

I wanted to speak with the academy's managing director, Ike Hampton, about how it was going. Was the game making a comeback in the city where Al Cowens, Eddie Murray, Chet Lemon, Chili Davis and Ozzie Smith had grown up? Was the academy making a difference in the local kids' lives?


As I walked into the clubhouse, the dog followed.

"So, Ike," I said, with a nod toward my new best friend, "what do we do about this?"

Hampton shook his head.

"We get this too often," he said. "People are having hard times around here, and their dogs get abandoned when they have to move."

Hampton, a catcher who played for the California Angels in the 1970s, and his wife, De, own two rescue dogs.

One day a German shepherd had shown up at the academy — "a beautiful dog," he said — and Hampton managed to find it a home.

This dog wore no collar, no I.D. tag.

"I'll try to find a home for her," I said without much enthusiasm. "I mean, if nobody from the office can take her."

But everyone there already had dog or cat commitments. So Ike made a leash and collar out of a length of rope. When our interview was done, I put the dog on the Angels' blanket we take to the ball games and drove her home to Corona del Mar. I did not call ahead.

When we arrived, the upper Dutch door was open to catch the ocean breeze.

I called out to my husband Dan: "We, um, have a houseguest. And it has four legs."

Dan, who was captain of the hall monitors in high school, can rightfully appear stern, should an unauthorized dog show up at the door.

"What have you done?" he asked. Actually, he said more than that.

He relented after hearing the story.

"You did the right thing," he said. "But no way are we keeping her. We haven't had a dog in more than 20 years."

The next day, the vet examined her.

A mix of lhasa apso and shih tzu, she was healthy, though underweight, in need of a bath and a flea pill.

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