Saturday, December 26, 2009

Always Room for One More

My next door neighbor, Fred, died a week ago Friday. He was a lovely man who my husband and I cared about very much. Fred never said a bad word about anyone and he was always friendly, helpful, and considerate. We’re really missing him. Nine years ago, we moved into our house and met Fred and his wife Mary. They had a huge Chesapeake Bay Retriever dog by the name of Beau.

Big Beau scared the hell out of me for the first year I lived here. He was frequently outside in the unfenced front yard and weighed about 200 pounds. He also had kind of goofy looking eyes, I thought. If I spotted Beau out in front of his house, I would go completely around the block to avoid him. After a year of terror, I took the time to get to know Beau and then realized my fears had been foolish. Beau was a delight.

Beau fell in love with my little cocker spaniel, Mitch. He was an unaltered male and many times tried to consummate the relationship. Mitch, a spayed female, would stand up on her hind legs and smack Beau on the nose with her paw when he got too aggressively amorous. She was quite the lady.

Because my husband and I both worked, we had to leave Mitch in the back yard all day. She had a doghouse, but we were a little worried that she might bark too much with nobody home. We talked to our neighbors and were assured by Fred. He told us, “Don’t worry. This is a dog-friendly neighborhood.”

In 2005, on Easter Sunday, I lost Mitch to a sudden and horrid sickness. I was distraught. I went to Fred and he drove me to the local Shelters to look at the dogs. His kindness was such a help to me. In November, Fred lost his dear dog, Beau. We took Fred and Mary to dinner that night and we had a toast to the wonderful canine who was now romping in heaven with my Mitch.

Fred decided that he wanted to get another dog after a few weeks with Beau gone. Houses seem so quiet and empty without your pet. He and his wife got an eight-week-old Rhodesian Ridgeback and named him Dutch. Dutch was the light of Fred’s life. He was so proud of him! And justifiably so, Dutch is a gorgeous dog. He’s well mannered, friendly and smart.

A couple of years ago, Fred was diagnosed with cancer. He underwent cancer treatments, including surgeries and chemo and radiation. Fred was seventy-three years old, and in wonderful shape for a man that age. He worked out at the gym every day and really took good care of himself. About three weeks ago, we quit seeing Fred and I called Mary to inquire how he was doing. We learned that Fred was terminal and hospice people were taking over his care. Fortunately, he was able to die in his home. It broke my heart to lose him, but I was glad his suffering was over.

Today, Mary told me she was going to have to give Dutch away because he was too much dog for her. (He weighs about 100 pounds.) I told her that Alex and I would take him. We have two big dogs, but I think we can manage with one more. Maybe I feel so strongly about this because in a way, it keeps my connection to Fred. I know Fred is in heaven playing with Beau and Mitch and I know they are having a great time in that Big Dog-Friendly Neighborhood!

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