Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Fred Pledge

Fred lived large. He was a small dog, but you couldn’t prove it by him. He found me on the streets and charmed his way into my minivan as a young pup. As far as I know, we were the first – and only – permanent home Fred ever had. It wasn’t until later that I found out he was on the hit list of animal control as a beggar and a nuisance around town. He was considered quite a mischief maker. I am certain this was a wholly deserved reputation.

He loved his new comfy life. When the weather turned stormy, Fred would sit at the back door, watching rain cascade. Then he would turn his back and settle onto the couch next to me with a contented sigh.

He fit into our lives seamlessly. Jack Russells aren’t known for their patience, but Fred adored children. My husband coached soccer and the team practiced at our house. Fred became the team mascot. It was impossible to keep him inside if there were children outside. He would stand at the front window, paws on the glass, throw his head back and howl piteously. When my boys went to bed, he stayed with them until they were asleep. Then he would sleep between my husband and I. He got his very own pillow.

Fred loved life. He was always in the middle of everything that happened, especially if it was a fight. If other dogs or even cats got into a skirmish, Fred jumped into the fray for the sheer pleasure of scrapping. He did his best to dig to China. I never really understood the phrase that a terrier was “going to the ground” until I saw him do it. Give the dog five seconds and he had a hole deep enough to vanish in. He loved to roll in my rosemary bushes until he broke off the branches and left the hedges lopsided. Darn dog.

True to his terrier heritage, Fred was an exuberant, hardy big dog in a small body. But he was a hard dog to control. He did what he wanted. Keeping him in the yard was impossible. He dug like the terrier he was, jumped fences, climbed trees, squeezed between pickets in the fence, chewed his way out of leashes or dog crates. The dog had more tricks than Houdini. A collar? He wore it when he wanted to. If he wanted it off? It was coming off. Mostly he wore it.

But living life this way has its risks and Fred’s glorious run came to an end on December 07, 2004. It was a pretty nice day, but I was running late coming home from work. My son had to be back up at the school for the Christmas production of Frosty the Snowman. I rushed home and ran inside to grab up my son’s costume. I should have simply hurried down the street to my parent’s home to grab up the kids, but I didn’t. I had a bad feeling.

Fred had a favorite trick. When I drove up, he would meet me by the door, grinning as if to say “I can get out anytime I want.” And he could. He did. Including on that December day.

When I drove up, I didn’t see him. I ran inside, got the things I needed and came back out. Still no Fred. A frantic search of my backyard confirmed that Fred was, in fact, missing. Not that this was that unusual. He did that from time to time, but never for more than a few hours. And yet, I had that feeling, the bad one. I went searching for him and on a hunch I drove the acre down to the road.

I had driven by his body when I came home and never realized it. He was in the tall grass in the ditch across from my house, cold and stiff. The only indication that he had suffered trauma was the thin trail of blood from his open mouth. His body looked as if it was frozen in mid run. I’m sure he chased a squirrel or rabbit across the street right in front of a car.

I cried and then cursed him for having the gall to die right before the much anticipated school program. I concealed my grief from the kids until after we got home. I'm sure the other parents thought I was Emo Mom. During Frosty, I spontaneously burst into tears several times. They probably thought I was just moved by the show. Either that, or I needed medication.

Fred is buried under an apple tree in the backyard. I’m sure that Fred had no regrets. With apologies to Frank Sinatra, he did it his way. He lived la vida grande, if only for a short while. If he saw a mud puddle, he rolled in it. Food hit the floor? It was his. If a squirrel crossed his path, he chased it. There wasn't a fence that could hold him.

That’s how I want my life to be, without fences. I don’t want to live without risks. I want to roll in the mud puddles and chase the squirrels. I want to be exuberantly alive, like Fred. So that is my New Year's Resolution. I’m taking the Fred Pledge.

I will not wait for opportunities to find me, but find them myself. I resolve to kiss my husband and children every day. I will take time to read and sip tea. I will talk to friends more often. I'll query my books until the agents beg me to stop. I will live and love and laugh exuberantly. And if, perchance, I see a mud puddle, I won't pass up the chance to roll.


Arachne Jericho said...

A wonderful story, Mary. A perfect Life of Fred.

And also the most excellent New Year's resolution I have ever heard!

wordsmith said...

Beautiful story. I love your Fred Pledge!

Fred had a Wonderful Life (apropos for this time of year). Our dog, Bear, died on our eldest nephew's birthday, a year ago. She was 1/2 chow and 1/2 golden retriever. When my husband left for work, on that August morning, I was upstairs nursing our son, and Bear was outside beneath her favorite tree. When I'd come downstairs, she was napping, and since we had much running around to do, I left the doorwall open for her and some water outside with her. We got back home about an hour before our nephew's birthday dinner, which meant changing the baby, another nursing and a quick shower for me. When I checked on her, she was napping again(not unusual); but my husband went outside to check on her when he got home about a half-hour after I did, to find that she'd died. I totally relate to your story (as you can tell). The funny thing is, our son remembers her. (He was 6 mos. old when she died.) He has a picture book called "busy busy doggies" and one of the featured dogs is a golden retriever, which is the breed she most resembled, and he has always poninted to that dog, and patted the page, and when he was beginning to talk, would say "Beh, Beh" only for the picts of that dog.
Dogs (well any pet) are such parts of our families, our lives.

TJWriter said...

That's such a sweet story. I don't know what I'm going to do with my three.

But the pledge is a most wonderful idea, and something that's been weighing on my mind lately. I don't want to spend my life preparing for the good things and never experiencing them. Plus, when I get some time (maybe tonight if I can get left alone and am not fall down exhausted) I'm going to blog the Big Mommy story and the heartaching stuff from yesterday.

Mary B said...

Everyone take the Fred Pledge with me this year! Resolve to make 2008 your year of Large Life!

Wordsmith, I also have a dog named Bear. He's a Lab/Rottie mix and an enormous sweetie. I have two more dogs and one of them is very elderly. I'm dreading the day I lose my sweet old girl.

Hang in there, Tori. You're in a rough place right now, but the good things are out there for you. I'm convinced of it.

Ed Pahule said...

Sorry to hear about Fred, Mary.

Fred sounds like our Sam, a little Jack Russell that we adopted who was abused and a stray. He lives life to the fullest, too.

Keeping up with him and our dal is enough. I don't need to make a Fred Pledge. ;)

Mary B said...

Whoa there, Ed! You've already taken the Dalmation Pledge (to replace every item you own at least once in the next five years.) That should be enough.

Elrena said...

Awww, what a beautiful tribute.

Marilyn said...

What a wonderful story, brought tears to my eyes. A nice eulogy to a beloved member of your family and a good lesson for all of us.

Virginia Lee said...

My heart goes out to your and yours, Mary. But I'm so glad you had a chance to know such a wonderful creature. What a glorious life Fred had! Hooray for you for giving him such a great home and hooray for Fred for giving us all a lesson about living life to the fullest.

You're a better woman than I. I don't think I could've sat through a school program after finding Fred.

Hugs to you and yours! And huzzah for the Fred pledge!