Homeless Man Reunited With His Dog Aims To Open Handyman Business

SHERMAN OAKS, CA – Jimmy Nicholos almost took his mind when his beloved dog Boots was stolen on New Years Eve. The two had been best friends for six years, and the brown Labrador Retriever served as a steady source of joy on cold nights sleeping on the streets of Sherman Oaks.

When a woman stole the dog after promising to care for and return it, Nicholos was understandably upset.

“Boots are my life,” said Nicholos. “He depends on me and I love him to death. He lets me know that I’m fine.”

With the help of the community and the animal-oriented second-hand shop START Rescue Resale, where Nicholos works, lost dog posters were pasted over the valley and a reward was offered for the return of boots.

Suspecting the snow groomer’s story about the loss of boots at a dog park, Nicholos filed a lawsuit against Ms. Nicole Lawrence accusing her of taking the dog. Soon after, Boots was brought back on a cold Monday evening in mid-January. Patch asked Lawrence for a comment.

Nicholos “really became a family member,” said Renee Ruston, owner of START Rescue, who helped organize the search effort. “That’s why we came together so hard to get the dog back from this woman who really cheated on us all. I didn’t want to stop until this dog came back. I have such admiration for him and his courage and perseverance on the street . “

The civil suit is still pending, but Nicholos is overjoyed to regain his trustworthy companion. After Nicholos and Boots reunited, community member Jolie Salter started a GoFundMe to help him build his own craft business and buy an RV to sleep in and store his tools. As of Thursday, the fundraising hub had raised $ 3,870 for the fundraiser’s $ 20,000 goal.

“There are a lot of people in the neighborhood who know him,” said Salter, who is currently starting a nonprofit called HelpOurHood. “They want craft work; he’s a handyman. If he had a van, he could sleep in it, lock a door behind him, have heating and air conditioning, and he could have a business and be self-sufficient.”

Nicholos, a lifelong fixer, said his proudest improvement project was a recent cherry wood furniture restoration that enabled him to use his skilled hands and indulge his love of antiques.

“I know a lot about antiques,” he said. “I love collectibles. I would be really good at selling coins. Give me a US coin, I’ll tell you what year it is, what year they stopped minting, and I can give you that rare key dates from a say mint. “

Nicholos’ helpful spirit earned him a job at START Rescue four years ago. First he visited the store, hoping to buy a new cart for boots. The shopkeeper offered to give it to him for free after hearing his situation.

“I’m not used to feeling grateful,” said Nicholos. “I haven’t had much reason to be grateful in my life.”

A few days later, he found something the store wanted and returned to START Rescue to sell it to them. While he was there, they asked him to fix something in the store and did it a few days later. It didn’t take long for Nicholos to work part-time and Boots became the business’s local celebrity.

“After a year people came to the store just to see boots,” he said.

A few years after meeting Nicholos, Ruston and START Rescue started a new program called Homeless Owners and Pet Efforts (HOPE). The program connects unoccupied residents and their pets with medical care and meals, and provides a mailing address for those who wish to receive packages.

With HOPE, Ruston would like to help Nicholos to find permanent housing and support him to become a functioning member of society.

“I want to give him what I have: a shower, a kitchen, a living room,” said Ruston. “I want to bring him into a home and help him become a functioning member of society.”

Nicholos credits the people at START Rescue for helping him get his life back on track. After he started working there, the owners helped him get ID for the first time in his life. They recently connected him to Sean Ebrahimian, a dentist who has offered to restore his teeth with a permanent tooth transplant completely free of charge.

“I haven’t had teeth since my early 40s,” he said. “I didn’t ask anything of you. I told you that if you want to give me something, you have to say it’s for boots so I can take it.”

Nicholos said he was 15 when his parents bitterly divorced and the teen was taken to a juvenile detention center while family services were looking for a foster family. After six months had passed with no hope in sight, he saw a chance to escape when his social worker took him to an appointment and he took the opportunity.

“I opened the door and ran,” said Nicholos. “When I did that, the social worker started yelling at me to come back. I just ran until I saw a house to dive under and hide under. After a while I heard the social worker yelling to come back I could see the street from where I was hiding. She wasn’t alone; she had a cop with her. After a while I fell asleep and when I woke up it was dark and I was cold. “

With no home, Nicholos spent the next few years hitchhiking around the country.

Now he’s made a home for himself in Sherman Oaks, where he feels welcome. When he’s not working at START Rescue or playing with Boots, he can ride his bike through the community. If you’re ready, he’ll even take you on a bike race.

“I can override anyone, I don’t care how old you are,” he said with a laugh.

Salter said the fundraising project will be the first of many at HelpOurHood. Hoping to launch the site soon, she said that future large-scale projects will be crowdsourcing projects so the community can come together for future improvements.

“I want to take it into my own hands where we don’t deal with the state, the governor or the city council because we would wait forever,” said Salter. “We can do it alone.”

GoFundMe is a patch advertising partner.

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