There’s way too much dying going on lately. A good buddy, my ex-editor, my next-door-neighbor … it’s hitting far too close to home. Now I understand why my dad was always studying the obits in our Johnstown, Pa’s Tribune Democrat. I used to think, “Who cares; just pass me the funnies.
Of course, he was old; probably about 67, coincidentally what I turned weeks ago. Gulp! Dad was obviously tracking acquaintances and old friends, hoping his name wouldn’t soon appear. At a certain point, the wolves are always howling at the door.
Two months ago, there were two deaths in a week in the townhouse next to me, but there was also rebirth. Some readers may have bought a car at some point from longtime salesman Jim Gassman. He and his wife Dagmar – well, not technically his wife; they were one of those together-forever-no-license-needed couples that’s all the rage these days – lived next to me for nearly 20 years.
A few days before Jim’s nursing home death, Dagmar had to have her old, beloved wire-hair Britta put down. For five years, my dog Ginger and I went over daily to exchange dog treats, and now age and infirmity claimed them man and dog.
Now Dagmar was alone, but wisely went to our animal shelter and met a 4-year-old collie/heeler mix named Duke. Some advised her to give it more time before a new pet, but I voted nay. I went with her to sit with the calm, but eager guy in the facility’s nice introduction room, and within days, there was a revised treat-swapping dynamic.
It’s that old, familiar story of them picking us, promising nothing but love and adoring devotion for the gift of a home. Five years ago, Ginger became the shiniest example imaginable at our prearranged introduction at Tractor Supply. This supposedly traumatized 10-year-old, suddenly homeless girl immediately broke free from her handler, ran by me and leapt into my truck back door I had forgetfully left open.
It’s been the same for Dagmar and Duke – renamed “Yoshee,” which probably means “rub my belly” or something in German. Dagmar is all smiles again and that sweet dog won’t leave her side, except for my treats. The grim reaper taketh and dogs giveth back.
On a related note, the same week I wrote the obit for old buddy Cam Overfield, I was asked by Jesse Fox’s daughter Megan to tell “the dog story” at Jesse’s memorial. To recap, my Pa. buddy Sam Rullo had called to lobby for a long-distance birthday gift for his approaching 45th. I promptly went into my back yard and scooped up what I thought would be a truly original gift choice.
Good-natured Jesse was working the post office counter as I explained the box I was carrying. The old Fox loved the concept and laughingly wrote things like, “Perishable; Open Immediately” and sent the box off. I later learned my squeamish pal had thrown up upon opening and was none too happy with me or my dog Trinity.
It shows again how our dogs do so much for us, and I can only hope Rullo didn’t re-gift.