Fred was a rescue. Eleven years ago, about this time of year, I stopped into the animal shelter. I had just dropped off medication that had belonged to my dog, Sidney, at the Veterinarian's office in hopes that they could share them with someone who couldn't afford medication for their dog. Sidney had to be put to sleep a few days before because he'd broken his hip and the doctor told me that she wouldn't operate on him at his age, thirteen, and especially with the other health problems that he had. My husband, Steve, had told me that I wasn't getting another dog. Sidney had been a great dog; a friend had given him to us after our house was broken into one morning while I was at home. I was terribly frightened by the incident and a policeman friend had told me that a dog was a better deterrent to burglars than an alarm. Sidney and Steve had problems with their relationship, not meshing from the beginning, but Sid had been very protective of me. He was a good and loving friend but as he aged, he required more and more care. I think that had a lot to do with Steve's not wanting another dog and I think too that he was thinking of me and how much Sidney's death had hurt me especially having to make that decision to have him put down. So, it was against his wishes and my better judgement that I made that sharp right turn onto the road to the animal shelter that day. I was surprised that there were so few dogs there. Most were dogs that had strayed away from home and were waiting for their owners to come by and pick them up, pay their bale and spring them so to speak. But there was one lone, very small, very red, very energetic puppy. I walked up and let him out of his cage and he promptly started running around like a wild thing, lol. I walked into the office and said, "I'll take him!" Unfortunately, they told me that I couldn't do that...and also asked why on earth I'd let him out since it had taken all of them to get him into that cage to begin with. They told me that he had been picked up because a neighbor had alerted the police to animal abuse. When he came in to the shelter, he'd had a fish hook stuck through his lip and evidently the little boys who'd owned him had been "fishing" for him! They told me that it was the law that the previous owners be allowed a certain amount of days to pay the fine and claim him before they could release him for adoption. That was a Friday and they sent me home and told me to call them on Monday morning to see if he'd been claimed and if not, he was mine. I still didn't say anything to Steve about him but I was on pins and needles all weekend worrying that those people who were abusive and didn't care for him properly in the first place would come and get him before Monday morning.
I started calling before the shelter opened that Monday and when they finally answered and told me that he was mine if I wanted him, I said, "I'll be right there!" I already had an appointment set up with the vet to check him out and wash and groom him. And while he was having his spa day, I was in Knoxville buying all the things that I knew he would need. Steve worked late that night and when he finally got home, Fred went running up to him to greet him like they were old friends and it was routine. Steve was furious at first and Fred leaned his head to the side and looked at him with curiosity. A friend later told me that it is far easier to get forgiveness than permission and Steve quickly came around and fell in love with Fred as much as I had. The next day, he bought him a Micky Mouse fishing rod with no hook on the end that he attached a toy to and would throw out for Fred to chase.
Fred was always precocious. So much so that our vet recommended that we quickly get him into obedience school. He was the hit of the class with both the instructors and the little girl puppies, lol. We entered him into the intermediate class after that one and he was easily bored but still was the one usually chosen for demonstrations. He did have this one bad habit of "goosing" everyone. The instructor would often let out an unexpected whoop when ever she was leading him around but not paying any attention to him. Diane, the lady who ran the Canine School of Charm, had told me when we first brought Fred to her that she didn't expect that she could teach him a thing because he had Chow in him (his tongued was so spotted when I got him that I accused the people at the shelter of letting him get into blue ink) but she quickly changed her mind about him, too. He won her over in the end with his charm and intelligence and ended up becoming one of her favorites. He'd always greet her with a big hug and he use to rush to the car whenever I told him that I was taking him to Puppy Playland for daycare. He actually seemed to know the way because he'd jump up and down with excitement as soon as I turned off the interstate exit and that excitement would increase with ever turn of the road that brought us closer to Diane's. I tried to take him once a week when he was little to socialize him since he seemed to still have very little use for most people. The people he did like though, he liked very much. He instantly "took" to Steve's dad. The last few years of Wes's life, he would come to our house most weekends for meals and then he'd sit in the yard and watch Steve working out in the fields. Fred always kept him company and stayed faithfully and patiently by his side despite the fact that I'm sure the energetic pup would have loved to have been running around the yard chasing squirrels and birds. Both Wess and Fred loved to ride around in the car. So most weekends, we'd take long drives. Steve and Wess would be in the front seat and Fred and I in the back. Ever so often, Fred would lean across the seat and "kiss" Wess on the neck which always made Wess laugh.
Fred was allergic to plastic so all of his toys were cloth or plush. He loved toys more than any dog I've ever had and we called them his mojos. He actually had a toy basket which was overflowing with them but there were always one or two that were his favorites. He would actually "play" them like musical instruments. I could shout, "Play that funky music, red dog!" and Fred would grab one of the mojos and start squeezing along as I sang...usually, his favorite song, That Old Time Rock n' Roll, and usually not very well but Fred didn't care. He would also play along with music on the stereo. His favorite was Django Reinhardt. You couldn't play Django without Fred grabbing his mojo and I swear he'd usually play in time with the music.
I don't think he really ever believed that he was a dog. All the folks at Diane's would comment on his "unique" personality and how expressive he was whenever he'd board with them. After Sadie showed up starved and abandoned on our doorstep, Diane mentioned to me one day after a weekend stay that she though that Fred considered Sadie to be "his dog." We never took both dogs on vacation with us because Sadie's house manners are a bit shaky:) but we did take Fred several times. You would think that he'd been staying in hotels his entire life. His first ride on an elevator was a bit of an experience but the next time he loaded up and stood facing forward like the rest of us, lol.
The title says, "Hero", and he was that, too. He most likely saved my life one night. I was driving home late one night alone along an isolated and deserted country road when I rounded a curve and came upon a car blocking the road. There was a man standing in the free lane and he prevented me from passing the car. I locked my doors and rolled the window down a bout six inches or so. The man asked first if I had any jumper cables. I told him no. He said, "Well, I might have some in my car. Do you care to get out and help me look for them." That fishy statement and the fact that his lights on his car were on and flashing which signified to me that he didn't need jumper cables at all, made me suspicious and uncomfortable. I told him that I lived just over the hill and as soon as I got home, I'd send my husband back to help him. He kept blocking my way and trying to keep me there with his ever changing story of why he was on the road and how he wasn't from around here but was visiting friends five houses up. The houses there were clumped together and five house's up wasn't far away so it made no sense why he didn't just walk back there if he'd just left his friend's house or why his car was pointed in the wrong direction to be heading back to the interstate like he said. After I refused again and told him that I'd not only send my husband when I got to the house but I'd gladly call the police to assist him, he suddenly reached through my car window. Fred, who usually would have been barking and growling like crazy at this stranger, had been unusually silent. He was sitting right behind my seat and watching; I could feel his breath on my neck. As soon as the fellow stuck his hand through the open space above my car window though, Fred leaped over the seat barking, growling and snapping at his hand. The man was startled and jumped back giving me just enough room to get by him and his car. I did call the police when I got home...although I'd lied about Steve being home, he was working late that night and I was alone but had sense enough not to let that guy know that. The police dispatcher called me back a few minutes later and told me that there was no one on the road when the police car arrived. A few days later I heard that several women had been assaulted and two killed in our area by a man who fit this fellow's description and who'd asked them for help with his car. They said that the police didn't expect to catch him because they thought he was a stranger who'd just pulled off of the interstate. I've wondered since that if Fred had been his normal noisy and aggressive self that night instead of sitting quietly and unseen behind me until the fellow made his move, if the guy might have been pushed to use a weapon of some sorts. As it was, Fred took him by surprise and I'm certain he saved my life.
I can't even begin to describe the pain of losing Fred. I still see him everywhere and I don't know what I'll do with the baskets full of mojos that he loved so much. Yesterday, I had an appointment and had to go out. I didn't want to drive across the place where Fred was killed so I curved my car around it. It was a windless day but a sudden burst of wind hit the windshield in front of me and shook the truck. The wind held one red leaf quivering against the glass for a few seconds and then it gently floated away. I felt like it was Fred telling me goodbye. He was such a special dog and friend and I could tell stories about him all day long if you would listen. I'll just end by saying that I miss him so much and still love him so much and I will never forget him. Goodbye dear friend; you've taken a part of my heart with you.