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Fella was a stupid name for a dog, even a mangy no-breed mongrel like this one. Aside from 4 legs, 2 ears, 1 nose and a tail there was nothing else to link him to any recognizable pedigree. Mutt was the closest we pin on him. But he was a good dog. Quiet, gentle with children, kept his business outside and he didn’t smell, not even when rain-soaked. A wet dog can be the most offensive stink on God’s green earth, but not Fella. The name suited him and it stuck.
Heaven knows he was wet when he came to us. Hurricane Hazel had just made an unexpected sweep through the north-eastern United States and slammed into Ontario leaving behind a swath of matchstick houses, grieving families and stray dogs. The post-war boom had pushed the suburbs out into areas that had no recollection of faraway events like hurricanes and so were pathetically unprepared. When Fella wandered into our lives you could still see the diagonal water line across his flanks where he had been swept along by the flood. He came and he stayed and no one ever claimed him.
Our house was on high ground above the Humber River valley. Rain pelted down and the trees shook and we lost power, but next day we were safe and able to stand high above the river watching the debris race toward Lake Ontario. Fella came ashore to stay with us, the first dog of a string, but the only one that was really family. He provided life lessons in the care and feeding of a creature that was mostly dependent on its host for food and shelter. Tending to that need was called “responsibility”. He was also the first lesson in the give-and-take of relationships. You loved your Mom and you loved your Dad. You love your bike and your comic collection. Loving your dog, you took your first step outside the family circle.
Dad pulled in one day after work. Fella was tied to the garden tap by the driveway and went to offer his usual exuberant greeting. He got tangled under the right rear wheel of the family Ford. The vet performed a miracle setting his broken rear leg. It was a comical walking cast that looked like a bent coat hanger wrapped in plaster. He could hobble around, almost good as new to my eyes. There were some other opinions.
“Too old to let the bones set properly.” “Not fair to the poor creature.” “Dumb animal doesn’t understand.” “Quality of life.” “It will be a kindness.”
My Dad asked me if I understood the necessity of what had to be done? I nodded.
Lesson #09 – Some Things Can’t Be Fixed
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