Eli yawned, then rose slow and gentle, his ears pointed and alert.
For the horse-sized, midnight black Great Dane, this was a lot of activity at Monument Valley Park. He relaxed Saturday morning with his dog-sitter, Charles Murray. Busy too for Murray, a homeless man who has spent his days at the park since 1992. Sometimes Murray, 49, picks up the debris left behind in territory sprinkled with homeless people. In February, he celebrated his birthday at the park.
'I love this park, ' he said. 'It's peaceful. '
He gestured to the west.
'You can see the mountains. '
Today, Murray and Eli have plenty of company, which keeps Eli a little on guard.
The park is overrun by do-gooders, volunteers from St. Mary's High School, the Air Force Academy, Peterson Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Schriever Air Force Base and other groups sprucing up the park, along the creek bed, and the block around the Marian House, where homeless congregate - a place they can find food and a helping hand.
Murray was surrounded by them, some in blaze orange, others in street clothes, toting rakes, shovels and other tools to pick up trash.
'Glad to see it, ' he said. 'I won't have to do it today. '
More than 50 volunteers showed up to help, said Jeremy Silva, security supervisor and operations manager at the Marian House. By about 9:30 a.m., they had completed what he called a 'walk-about, ' cleaning up curbsides along the roads surrounding Marian House.
Partners included the City of Colorado Springs, which provided the bags and will haul the collected trash, and Friends of Monument Valley Park and Boulder Crescent neighborhood group, Silva said.
'We just did a very in-depth clean, ' he said. 'It's a good way to keep up with the neighbors. We like to do the neighborly thing. '
Among volunteers were the St. Mary's lacrosse and football teams.
'We've got 45 boys (on the lacrosse team) and the school wants them to do service projects. This is a good opportunity ' said Jeff Ford, the lacrosse coach. 'We're out doing this as a team-building opportunity and helping out. This builds character. '
Staff Sgt. Antoine Dozier, 29, who is in logistics at Peterson, helped out Saturday, too. He's Arkansas bred and wore a red Arkansas Razorbacks sweatshirt.
'I was looking for volunteer opportunities, ' he said. 'I saw this and thought: Why not? '