Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Old Guard

I learned tonight that Dexter died. Dexter was an enormous German Shepherd that has been patrolling Fort Greene Park ever since I moved here. I think he was a recent addition when we arrived but I'm not certain. It's a small park and a much smaller town mindset to own a dog in it but still I'm not certain because Emily has a GSD's affinity for other GSDs and she approached him eagerly early on in our tenure here and Dexter went at her like she was the last pancake at a Dillon Panthers fundraiser. The gentleman who owns Dexter stood ineffectually off to the side asking why Emily was antagonizing him. So, you know, we didn't talk much.

As the years have passed Dexter gained some weight. He turned into the Marlon Brando of German Shepherds, frankly. Then he slimmed down. Somewhere in there he slowed down some, and mellowed a lot. Over the past few months he's been reluctant to even cross the park. Fortunately he lives across the street so he can always get some grass under his paws. Apparently a couple of days ago he didn't get up and generally wasn't doing well so the vet was called to schedule a "final home visit". The gentleman went out to do something and when he returned the visit wasn't needed anymore, Dexter had just done it himself.

This all got me to thinking about who was still around from the old guard, from the group of die hard dogs who pre-dated Kath's brilliant idea for PUPS*.

Cameron passed away. (Just click the link, Kath says so much more and says it better than I. I still miss the boy, though. Have you ever known a dog afraid of round things...like VW Bugs?)

Jack died not even so long ago. The park used to be a relatively popular place for religious rituals. We'd often get out in the morning and be hauling dogs off of plates of vegetables or cardboard boxes full of dead chickens. One morning, and I'm almost sorry I missed this, someone had left their chicken alive and wandering the park. Jack, who was a vegetarian by the way, was delighted. Despite Jen's concerted attempts to retrieve him and a pack of dog owners trying to net him for her he caught up to that chicken and showed it what really happens when a chicken crosses the road.

Vulcan, a brown landseer newfoundland not only independent but positively disdainful of human beings, moved to Georgia and then to New England. I hear he hasn't changed a bit.

Burt and Frank. God, I could write whole novels on my beloved Burt & Frank. They were Carmencita and Carsick's babies before Alita appeared. Two more loyal, funny, gentle dogs never roamed the earth and I often miss them even now.

Snickers was the first dog I saw turn like Emily did. Snickers was a playful, fun, huntress sort of dog, very protective of her people but not a problem. About the time she turned 5 she just gave up putting up with any shit from anyone. She disliked play with female dogs, with more than one other dog and before she left the neighborhood had taken to staking out a spot about 10 feet in front of the bench where her person had decided to sit and proceeding to take on all comers with much snarling and gnashing of teeth. In a flurry of re-homed dogs and mixed up spouses Snickers left the 'hood.

Pesche was the elderly king when we arrived. He was already so old that everyone backed off as though he might crumble into dust at any moment. He was a sweet, smart, obedient dalmation. His owner moved and got other dogs and now happens to live in my apartment complex but neither she nor her dogs are as approachable as before. Pesche died before she moved and was mourned by the whole park.

I used to live 2 doors down from Five. He was a Vischla. Five's people had adopted an Asian toddler and I often saw the family outside or their adoptive families group convening or disbanding in their front yard. I remember when that little girl first started to speak in sentences because one day as Emily and I walked past her house she climbed up onto the wrought iron fence and said, "I like your dog." She's like in middle school now or something.

Bingo, the dirt eater, passed from a brain tumor not too terribly long ago. He was such a love. Another German Shepherd mix rescue. When we arrived in the neighborhood he was already considered old, though I don't think he was as much as 7 at the time. He didn't like a lot of fuss and wouldn't run or fetch...except for Emily. He'd run to greet her and play with her. Once he got used to her he realized she'd come to him so he stopped but it was nice while it lasted. He was fluffy and chill and just an awesome dog and he didn't deserve to go out the way he did.

Oh, there was the annoying English woman with the Bull Terrier named Spliff. Spliff was unneutered and he had a typical Napoleon complex for the shorter dogs. Back in the day the park was full of dogs 40 lbs and above. The only purse dogs were a pair of cairn terriers that could have outhunted any of the bigger dogs with ease, so Spliff was on the small side for the group at that time. Every day the woman walked him during off leash hours. Every day some dog came up to him. Every day Spliff ripped into that dog like it was Taco Bell takeout. Every day she called out to him in a voice like the mother in Mary Poppins, "Spliff....Spliffy?...no, boy....come here baby...Spliff?" The only time she actually got pissed was when other people called her on not taking responsibility for her aggressively nasty dog. Thank god she moved away.

There was a GSD/hound/Huskie mix whose favorite weekend morning treat was a used diaper left over from the weekend BBQs the day before.

There was Buster the wonder dog, a blonde lab mix owned by a lovely, weedy, young, single guy with obligatory nerdy politics. They lived below Pony Express briefly but have moved.

There was a pit bull mix named Fred and a mutt whose name I can't remember (Millie? Maisie? Flo?) owned by a guy I've seen with 2 or 3 pitties recently. His mutt was rumored to be the oldest, most indestructible dog in the park. She was said to be 14 or 15 when I last saw her and she didn't die for a couple of years after that.

Oh, there was Kenya, a huskie sort of mix owned by a woman who used to do construction and now owns what is probably the most lucrative dog walking business in the neighborhood. Emily loved Kenya so much that one day we passed Sharon on the street without him and when Emily realized it was her she tried to follow Sharon home.

Georgia and Sylvie are still alive and terrorizing, I'm sure, but they've moved to the 'burbs and we don't see them anymore.

There were more, I'm sure there were more but that's plenty to make my point. And my point is that I think Emily is the last one of the group still alive and living in the neighborhood. It's possible that Five is still alive but his people got a dog named Seven so they're clearly preparing the way. It was a totally different environment in the park back then, for good and for bad, but I hardly ever think about the old gang until something like this happens.

Thanks Dexter, godspeed to you old man!

*Go here for obits of some of the dogs mentioned in this entry.


  1. Five is definitely still kickin! They had a birthday party for him recently. He's super old and lumpy.

    That's too bad about Dexter, though he always terrorized Cameron and I didn't like his owner very much.

    As for all the old guard, I think you've covered all the bases. Georgia, Sylvie, and Emily are now the senior queens from our original group.

  2. May be you should get Emily a myspace page. Since she is the old wise Yoda of the dogs now.

    It is your tender loving care that keeps her going.

    I can't stand it sometimes when I think about them not having human longevity!
    And I want private industry, the government anyone to start splicing embryos so that my dogs can out live me.
    I would be all in for my tax dollars to go to a good cause like that.