This sounds much like a slightly different story that I heard from a couple of street performers who roamed around the Southeast. But in this case, it was their own trained dog who was able to carry a hat in his own mouth and go up to each person so that they felt compelled to put money in. Real cute, and to buskers, worth a whole lot of money.
I have a tape-recorded interview with this guy somewhere in my office, from Mardi Gras 1995 in New Orleans, when I was down there for a couple weeks busking with all the other hardcores.
Well, this couple was a guy who played banjo and a woman who played washboard, and they traveled around in a motor home. When they were driving through Orlando, though, they had a head-on collision with a Greyhound bus; the driver had fallen asleep. The buskers were taken to the hospital, but when they woke up and asked for the dog, the medical personnel were at a loss.
"What dog?" they asked.
Police went back to the accident site but found no sign of the dog. The assumption was that immediately after the accident, the dog wandered off, perhaps looking for his owners. The local media picked up on the story, and it became a sensation, tugging at people's heartstrings. (You could probably find the whole story in the archives of the Orlando Sentinel; I looked it up and found the story a few years ago.)
When the buskers got out of the hospital, they called local animal shelters every day, to see if their dog had been picked up. They scoured the neighborhoods around the accident. They would not give up.
Finally, they called an animal shelter and were told:
"Oh, that animal was put to sleep yesterday."
They had called that animal shelter every day for a couple weeks, and had mistakenly been told that there was no dog by that description at the shelter. Finally, after being unclaimed for a couple weeks the animal shelter put him down.
How's that for a story that will make you feel bad?
And to answer your question, Harry J. in Houston, that's another way to make big money: Get a genius cute pet to help you. Because this dog was very smart.