December 1, 2017 @ 8:19 PM

If Steve Nyenhuis could afford it, he’d own ten acres of land and take in rescue dogs. The reality is he’s on a fixed income and living in an apartment so the Viet Nam vet can only dream of owning a sanctuary for homeless dogs. But those limitations didn’t stop him from helping an 8-month-old puppy in need of a new home.

“I just happened to be there and said, ‘I’ll take the dog.’” 

Last month Kelley Jean McKay, a social worker intern, was working at the apartment complex where Nyenhuis lives. She recalled several residents telling her there was a puppy outside who wanted to come in. McKay, who has a soft spot for animals, went and got the pup and brought her to her office.

When she started asking questions she learned someone had seen a couple teenage girls put the dog outside the night before and told it to be gone.

But the puppy didn’t listen. “She didn’t run away. She faithfully waited. She believed someone was going to come back and get her,” McKay said.

McKay tracked down the owner of the puppy who confirmed she no longer wanted the young dog. McKay was about to call animal control when Nyenhuis announced he’d take the puppy. 

He also promptly named her Somebody.

“To somebody she was a nobody, but she’s a somebody to me,” he said. “She’ll never be a nobody again.”

McKay hesitated letting him have the dog because he’d have to pay an extra deposit to keep her and then there would be the expense of food and veterinary bills. Nyenhuis assured her he could afford the expenses.

When McKay saw Nyenhuis down on his knees in the grass playing with the pup, she reconsidered. “He’s a very kind man with a big heart,” she said. 

Nyenhuis was born in Minnesota but raised in Michigan. He said he’s been all over the country but always returns to Michigan because he appreciates the changing seasons. He loves to hitchhike and has traveled more than 20,000 miles by hitching rides. Nyenhuis also loves variety and has worked more than 50 different jobs. “From washing dishes to working in a gold mine in South Dakota,” he said.

The one constant in his life has been his love of dogs. “They’re a comfort to people. I get along with animals as well as I do with people,” he said.

Nyenhuis was already co-owner of another rescue dog named Teddy. He and his girlfriend, Teresa Menard, share custody of a Coton de Tuléar, a breed of small dog named for the city of Tuléar in Madagascar. Teddy had been a stud dog in a puppy mill before they got him four years ago.

Menard suggested they change the pup’s name from Somebody to Cleopatra. She worried about the reaction of people when Nyenhuis shouted Somebody when they called the dog.

So Somebody is now Cleopatra. 

“She’s a ball of energy,” Nyenhuis said. He takes her for frequent walks and outside play. “I’m getting older, but I have to do what she needs. She’s so worth it.”