Friends & Neighbors
She was lean and dark with sleek hair, her voice deep and melodious and often intimidating, her chocolate brown eyes kind. She always crossed her legs like a lady, though from certain angles was easily mistaken for male.
He was huge and shaggy blond, a brute without swagger - rather, a perfect gentleman and friends with everyone he met. Both of them were loyal to a fault.
We live next door to Eve and Charlie, and up until yesterday, their dog - Bandit. After a pain-ridden summer, Bandit passed away a day ago at home. And since I have yet to memorialize my own dog, Fudge, in the manner she was deserving, I thought perhaps it might be easier to write about these friendly neighborhood pals together.
As I write this I hear the meter reader's truck door close --- he used to call ahead to make sure Fudge wouldn't be on hand to greet him. (Though she was a good neighbor, she never took kindly to strangers on her home turf.) But she's not here now and he knows it, so he no longer bothers to call. I wish he would. I felt better when he did.
Her full name - Miss Fudge Bliss Blackberry - was concocted by our family when we couldn't agree on a moniker. Eventually my son won out since Fudge was his dog, and that's what we called her. We liked to think of our lovely and extremely intelligent Shepherd/Rottweiler/Lab mix as pedigreed, though she was full mutt like the rest of us.
Every single day of her life, Fudge was a good dog - Bandit too. They would visit one another, Bandit coming here most often, neither of them needing to be tied up or enclosed while they were outside and left to their own recognizance. The only time Fudgie ever chased a deer she was out walking trailswith us, otherwise she rarely strayed far from our porch or yard. She had blown out her knee that time, and had to have surgery to put it right. It wasn't in our budget, but thankfully our local vet is a friend, and was willing to barter his skill for a family portrait. After she healed, it was as if Fudgie had learned her lesson. She was like that. There was only ever one incident with a skunk, one porcupine quill ever plucked from her nose. I always imagined that she must have had one negative encounter with some delivery person when were were gone, and that was enough for her to know not to trust anyone we didn't come out to okay. She had hackles that raised like a hissing cat's back, and her bark made everyone think twice about getting out of their vehicle, though in reality she was gentle enough for my toddler daughter to nap with. Bandit, on the other hand, would bark and then lick you to death, but his size alone was enough to make strangers nervous. Both dogs had faced off with bear more than once, and Bandit only a few weeks before his passing. According to the neighbor, you would have never known he was hurting the way he took off after it, driving it out of the yard like a true hero to the rescue.
A dog's love is like no other. Young children come close, but even they can be disheartened by neglect or harsh treatment. A dog who loves you will always love you, no matter what. They will alert you to danger and protect you fiercely.They wait patiently for your return with that joyful expectation I mentioned in an earlier post. Sometimes, what they are waiting for is for us to realize how special they are. Too often we don't until they are no longer with us.
I walked with Eve today, both of us now dog-less and consoling one another. She was a better pet parent than I, though she doesn't like to admit it. I was too tied up in my own kids, in their activities and mine, to give Fudge the kind of attention a good dog requires, the kind she deserved. She was so smart, but the few tricks we'd taught her as a puppy faded into disuse as most of the family got too busy to spend quality time with her. Though she was loved and never mistreated, she wasn't really treated like one of the pack, which was all she ever really wanted to be. She became like furniture that we had to feed and occasionally took for a ride in the car. I grumbled about her shedding, but didn't brush her often enough. And when Eve and I walked, sometimes we let the dogs come, but sometimes we wanted to go further; our busy mountain road and their arthritic joints weren't a good mix, so we left them home. Fudgie's sad eyes broke my heart, but not my resolve.
We took care of Bandit and Marco - his feline brother - whenever Eve and Charlie were away. They returned the favor with Fudge and her feline housemate, Ashes (the two were never close per Ashes' preference) and went the extra mile also caring for our occasional livestock. It was nice to know Fudge got visits from Bandit while we were away. We used to leave her with friends who had adopted her litter-mate, her own little family reunion, but hadn't been able to in recent years. I hated the thought of her being alone, but not enough to bring home a playmate for her - one cat and one dog were enough. But pets don't live forever. Ashes, the Matriarch, was the first to go when she passed last summer. We knew Fudgie wouldn't be far behind, and she had to be put down this January after a rapid decline and inability to hold her water. It was one of the saddest days ever; my husband, our two oldest and I held her as she went, her look of trust haunting us. I'm glad Bandit, ever the gentleman, saved his humans the experience. But that's just what dogs do, isn't it - look out for their masters? The irony is that in looking out for Fudge, I also felt deeply how much I was letting her down.
It's hard to even think I'll ever consider having another canine companion, especially knowing my own limitations. But hopefully, Fudge and Bandit are playing like young pups in their new neighborhood, having a grand old time. I know we will always miss them in ours.
You can read a little more about Fudge at: