December 2014. Last night I watched the movie "Marley And Me" on television. At the ending, I cried like a baby and nestled Fred closer to me as we lay in bed. I don't know if you've seen this old movie based on a true story and starring Jennifer Anniston and Owen Wilson but, if you ever do, have plenty of Kleenex handy.
It is the story of a couple--who are childless at first--who get a lab puppy they name Marley. He is a good dog but a rambunctious one who eats everything in sight and is destructive at times, but he remains with them despite all his bad traits. They fall in love with Marley with whom they derive more pleasure than frustration.
When I finished watching the movie and was still saddened by the ending, I decided this...I know that, at fourteen, our Fred's time with us is limited. Instead of waiting for the moment when he 'leaves' us, I must write his story (obituary, if you will) NOW instead of waiting until that awful moment arrives. I will not have the courage or strength or will to write about him with tears flowing from my eyes.
Our daughter Melissa was born of our own genes and cherished. Fred was 'chosen,' the adopted one. He was the runt of a mini-dachshund litter and purchased from a breeder in La Grange, Texas. We brought him home at nine weeks of age (February 9, 2001) to be my mother-in-law's dog, at first. But this little three lb. wonder stole ALL our hearts...and remained there as long as he lived.
He was a familiar sight around our neighborhood as he "mushed" forward on his leash, always tugging ahead of us up and down the hills.
A former neighbor asked,"What do you feed him other than sugar and steroids??"
Friends in both our Texas neighborhood and in our current Village neighborhood have commented on his feistiness. They never saw him on his twice-daily "missions" without his prancing trot, his tail in the air and wagging wildly.
Whether neighbor or service man, Fred loved everyone and believed everyone loved him. He always greeted Ron L., John B. and Sue W. with jumps to their mid-calves and a licking tongue. One of his habits was trotting across the little bridge separating our houses to visit Barbara G. And Rusty. He was also the only dog I've known to scratch on the vet's door to get inside the office.
You've probably seen those Tee Shirts with a picture of a dog and captions reading, "Riding in the car--my FAVORITE thing!" "Playing fetch--my FAVORITE thing!" Well...ANYTHING that involved being near Freemon and me WAS his favorite thing! Upon hearing certain words, he'd dance and twirl and run circles around our ankles in pure ecstasy.
He knew it was Sunday when we picked up Bibles and purse--the only time his tail dropped and stopped wagging. Once when Willard Z. and Juel came to visit, Willard picked him up and looked him over. "WHAT?" I asked. "I'm just trying to find the little key used to turn him 'on' like that!" he replied.
A few stories...Mom's walker had a basket on the front. Many mornings she'd come down our hall with Fred inside, little front paws on its rim, as if he were "driving." After supper he'd run toward the bedroom television at the first strains of the "Wheel Of Fortune" theme.
He knew I'd be headed there. We were approached by a friend in La Grange to breed his little "Brin" with Fred. The first time, he chased her around their yard but was rebuffed. The second try was on Fred's turf and he rebuffed her! My friend, a 1940's movie buff, had this to say after the aborted tries, "Maybe next time we should put them inside a cage, lower the lights, play a little Sinatra and leave two cigarettes outside the cage." Fred remained celibate.
October, 2016. For almost a year now Fred found it painful to get around. Daily pain pills were given. It hurt us to watch him fall and stumble from his cancerous shoulder. Then lately it progressed to his prostate without our knowing. One week he was okay and the next week he was on IV's. Within four days he went downhill quickly despite his doctor's care.
On October 8th, a vet attendant brought him out for me to hold, kiss, and tell him how much he was loved. He managed to lick my face a few times as I watched him slip away. We had to make that difficult decision on his behalf, not ours.' Handing him to "Daddy," I left the room in convulsions. I cried for two full days and still find it hardest when I go to bed at night without him cuddling on my shoulder as I fall asleep. Good-bye, Our Precious "Freddy-Boy."
Brenda Miles is an award winning columnist and author residing in Hot Springs Village. She welcomes your comments at email@example.com