Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Fred At The Bridge

Fred In Later Years
I recently received an email from my friend, Jan F, with some sad news in it. Her pug, Fred, who had been adopted from IMR, passed away. When I got the news, I felt that physical twinge that you get in deep inside when something hurts your heart. To my surprise, I cried a little...I say "surprise" because I have not seen either Jan or Fred for about 14 years.

Fred was a very special pug. Of the hundreds of dogs I've known across the 17 years I've been rescuing, there are some who stand out more than others - some who have left their mark on my life in many different ways. Fred was one of those.

Fred had been auctioned from a puppymill at the age of two years. Once we got him home, it was easy to see why he was culled. Fred was so timid, he would never have made a "breeder". He backed down at the slightest hint of reprimand from any other animal and was altogether terrified of people. Poor Fred had zero confidence. He was also simply gorgeous - there's just no other word. Glistening slick black coat, finely muscled torso, big jowls that gave him that miniature mastiff look - he was so handsome - a truly beautiful pug physically, not in the smarmy AKC conformation way, but in the way of all beautiful dogs. I was in love with Fred. I wanted his friendship and trust more than anything.

Fred was a tough one, even at a young two years of age. I still think it was because he was just naturally very sensitive. Fred had a humongous heart. Just a look - not even a word - would send him cowering. But love fixes a lot. Fred began to mend and, before too long, he was ready to go to a home with someone else who was willing to carry on the healing process.

When Jan's application came through, I almost turned her down because she had a clawed cat. Fortunately, a bevy of common friends intervened, insisting that she was an adopter to die for, I'd be crazy to pass her up. They were right. Best decision I ever made in rescue was awarding her Frederick. Jan actually flew in from Delaware to pick Fred up. Kevin and I met her at Lambert Field St Louis just outside the main terminal. I remember, Fred was a bit too tall for the transport bag and we had to get him to lay down in it so he could board. He was pretty scared, but I knew he'd be fine. Jan assured me that, once seated, she would open the bag so Fred could stick his head out and look around.

Saying goodbye to Fred was made easier because Jan and I have kept in touch as the years went by, emailing back and forth regularly. Jan is smart and witty. She became one of our most reliable supporters, and a true friend. I've always found her updates enjoyable, looking forward to her posts, and so Fred never really left my mind. It was like old friends you run into at the grocery store, chat awhile, and leave smiling until you run into one another again. Jan kept me aware of every change in Fred over the years, small or large. She told me when he did something funny, or something exceptionally brave, or about the day when they stumbled over a man with a garden hose who frightened Fred by inadvertently spraying them. She let me know when Fred started having back issues, and when he went for acupuncture. When Fred first got his wheels, Jan was so proud of the way he handled his disability. If Fred was courageous, Jan was responsible for that. He had all the love and support any dog could ever wish to have. Even as a wheelie-pug, Fred was not excluded from family functions and holidays. He was undoubtedly as secure and happy as any pug could be.

Fred's Feet
One day, about a year ago, Jan sent me a recent photo of Fred in his cart. I'll never forget how shocked I was to see that gray-muzzled old man! In my mind, Fred was still that muscled two year-old I first met all those years ago. I just could hardly believe THAT was Fred!

One day, Fred became suddenly, gravely ill. Tests indicated he had thrown a blood clot. Jan knew at that point that his impairments were too many and his suffering too great. She and his doctor sent him gently to the Rainbow Bridge. Jan never flinched in her responsibilities to Fred all throughout his life, and she did not do it when the time came to send him on his way. She is an awesome friend to animals - I'm profoundly grateful that Fred had her in his life.

Now that Fred is at the Bridge, waiting for his mom, I know he is that slick, strong young pug I still see when I think about him. He'll be there waiting for Jan when she arrives. But I hope he will stop by and say a quick "Hello" to me, too. I'd love to see that brave, beautiful boy again.

I think the best epilogue for this column is Jan's own:

"Fred would have been 16 on June 11th; he has been an incredibly important part of my family since 2000.  Fred was the steady rock, the constant; no matter who approached him, how young, how old, how enthusiastic... didn't matter.  I knew Fred was safe, bomb-proof, as it were.  Just a couple weeks ago he was sitting in the sun on the front sidewalk while I cleaned up the leaves/debris that had collected around the plants and banked up along the steps out front.  A two-year old approached him, fingers splayed heading right for his face.  While I certainly didn't want him to get hurt, but there was not a doubt in my mind that the little girl was safe and would have a positive experience meeting him.  That was Fred.  Reserved, observant, stubborn, concerned about following the rules, but unfailingly dependable, rock solid, kind, gentle, low key, no muss, no fuss, no bother.  Even while dying he ran steady and true, no bother, just quietly doing what he had to do.  I picture him much as he was the day we went to Rohobeth Beach.  It was dog days down there and for the first time, he could be off leash in a really public place.  I removed his leash, and like a shot, he was gone, running through the sand just as fast as his legs could carry him until he was just a little black spot on the beach, reveling in his utter freedom.  And then he turned around and ran back.  I can't think of another time I've witnessed such unbridled joy..." 
...and from an earlier post...
"The years has gone fast, and he has, unfailingly, been a very, very good boy.  I make sure I tell him that often because he deserves to know what joy he's given."
He knew, Jan...he knew.

1 comment:

Kara Wittenberg said...

What a sweet testament to the wonderful work you and your supporters do!