By Dan Hagen
The 21-year-old Jacob Riis was jobless, homeless and foodless — starving, in fact — on one cold, rainy night in 1870.
Tortured by his lonely poverty and the depression it inspired, he was determined to kill himself. It looked like the only way out.
At the point when his thoughts were darkest that night, an abandoned stray dog snuggled up to him. That physical and emotional warmth, that outstretched paw, offered to him by a creature no one cared about or wanted, was the only thing that saved his life.
Later that night, he had a gold locket stolen while he was sleeping in a police station to warm up, and then the police officers mocked him and kicked him out. That human cruelty steeled his resolve to become one of America’s greatest muckraking crusader journalists. But only canine affection made that crusade possible.