An uncertain financial future is threatening to shake up Walter Bryant’s living arrangements once again and remove the 89-year-old from his house on Clifton Road, where he has spent the past year with his right-hand, four-legged companion named Koal.
Bryant has cared for the 13-year-old brindle pit bull mix since the animal was only a few months old, but was separated from Koal approximately four years ago when he received a letter from the city stipulating his house on West Thomas Street could be procured through eminent domain.
The exact circumstances and reasons for Bryant’s separation from his dog years ago vary depending on whether he, his family or the city is asked.
Having to move into a subsidized apartment that prohibited animals, Bryant was able to visit with Koal only about twice a week, courtesy of a group of volunteer women bent on reuniting the two.
An anonymous donor anted up to pay for Bryant and Koal to move into his Clifton Road house and stay for one year.
That generosity expired on Jan. 20.
“That donor gave out of the goodness of their heart and can’t do it anymore,” said Connie Lilley, an Animal Crackers board member.
The grassroots organization composed of volunteers has been assisting Bryant by delivering dog food for Koal, providing veterinary care and helping to fix up the house on Clifton Road, including buying a new toilet, bringing in a used dryer and putting about $800 into the house altogether, Lilley said.
Having been with Bryant and Koal from the beginning, Lilley said a second anonymous donor said he would match what Animal Crackers can raise, but “quite a few” people who wanted to donate to help Bryant stay with Koal have backed out for varying reasons.
Lilley said a large donation was supposed to be coming in, but, it didn’t come through and they are hoping to raise $1,500 so the out-of-town donor will match it.
“Many of us feel that as long as we’re alive, we will find a way to keep (Bryant) in that house,” Lilley said. “There are a couple of us who have been with Mr. Bryant and Koal from the beginning, and we will find a way to keep them together. It would not be acceptable to us for Mr. Bryant to have to make another move at his age, which would amount to four major moves in little over a year.”
Approximately three months’ worth of rent has been raised so far, and a lady from the Raleigh area will pay for April’s dues.
Lilley said Bryant always has paid his own utility bills, food expenses, insurance and taxes, and has never asked for help.
Bryant said he has grown close to his new neighbors on Clifton Street, who have assisted him with lawn care and have taken him out to eat on several occasions.
The senior has become so worried about his situation, however, that he has begun moving furniture back into the uninhabitable house on West Thomas Street, Lilley said.
“I carry (Koal) with me wherever I’m going. He stays with me,” Bryant said. “He’s never left my side, and he sleeps with me every night. I want that to continue.”
Bryant also has taken the dog to the veterinarian to get Koal his shots.
“I was close to Koal until they took him away, and then when he came back, I was even closer to him because I’ve been missing him so,” Bryant said. “There isn’t anybody that is going to take him away from me.”
Anyone who wishes to make a donation to Bryant and Koal can make checks payable to Amanda Flora, with attention to “Bryant rent” at Animal Crackers, PO box 8860, Rocky Mount, NC 27804.
As a career photographer, Bryant’s work also is the focus of a gallery exhibit at N.C. Wesleyan College’s Mims Gallery.
Completely unrelated to Bryant’s housing arrangements, the gallery features more than 150 photos that focus on African-American life in Rocky Mount since 1940.
After having been rescheduled due to icy conditions, a reception for Bryant will be held from 9:10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday in the college’s Dunn Center.
“I love photography, and this (event) has always been my dream,” Bryant said. “I’ve worked my whole life to get to this point.”