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  • Writer's pictureJamie Hogan

Handsome George 1997-2013

George 1997-2013 Today, I helped my old friend George across the bridge. He was a handsome guy with a black mask and red fawn hair and an oversize personality all compacted into a rather small but powerful body. He was just a few days short of 16 years old, a remarkable age and impressive, really for a Frenchie. But he was tired, I was tired for him and we were both working too hard just to keep him going. So, after a fretful and anxious night we had a talk, and in the early morning twilight, just before dawn we decided together to take that hard walk to the rainbow bridge. Actually, walking had become such an effort for him that I carried him to the car. We drove together and through the tears I watched the sun rise over the rolling fields of Midwestern summer bounty; corn and soybeans, fruit orchards and grape arbors. It was a peaceful drive to see the compassionate friends at Purdue who have been there for me before in those tough times when an old friend like George needs help. I’d called them before I left home, they knew I was on the way and they were ready when we arrived. They made George’s passing gentle and dignified for both of us.

Now amidst the tears are the reminiscences…. Old George; he was insistent, more honestly - stubborn, a trait essentially tied to the bully breeds and, with no malice or ethnic prejudice intended, the French, too. But he was a great guy, sweet and devoted; he shared my life, my bed, bacon, pizza crust, ice cubes and watermelon and everything else for a very unforgettable 8 years and 6 days. Did I say he was handsome?

I won the dog lottery when I adopted George and his cohort, Fred, together from the French Bulldog Rescue Network on July 13, 2005. Their loving owner had become too infirm to care for them and the wonderful volunteers at FBRN had opened their collective embrace to these two senior citizen canines and prepared them for a forever home. How fortunate for me that it was mine. Some said the dogs won the lottery, too.

Those two dear old guys, at about age 8, were already senior citizens in the dog world. They came along at the perfect time to fill a void in my life after the loss of two loyal rescue companions, a 17 year old Schnauzer and a 15 year old Corgi. I told myself then that their Frenchie sister, Bette, also a rescue, was a little lonesome but that actually, wasn’t quite the truth. I was the lonesome one…Bette always thought she was the only dog…but she did came to love her new buddies.

George and Fred were a delight with their sweet nature, quirky endearing habits and the abundant love shared unconditionally with all.

Dear angel face Fred crossed the rainbow bridge in 2008 and today my sweet redheaded boy, George, joined him in the place they can both run free together again. He left a hole in my heart that will be tough to fill.

I’m remembering fondly the first days with George and Fred and a cross country road trip from Chicago by plane to their Frenchie foster home in Virginia. And the trip back in a rental SUV with son Jake and the dogs all together in the back. There was an overnight stop in Pittsburgh where a four star hotel put out the welcome mat for us. Fred and George balked at the gilded revolving doors at first but welcomed being carried over the threshold to all that luxury. They snuggled into bed that night and straight to my heart. And George didn’t miss a night in the big bed since.

Frenchie love was my salvation and the three of them, George, Fred and Bette filled my soul with all their sweetness through some tough times when my sister and I both navigated breast cancer, just 9 months apart. They got me through it. And George has been steadfast through life’s more recent trials.

They say all dogs go to heaven, but I know their memories stay with us kept in a warm spot right next to our hearts. And I hope the piece of my heart that George took with him today will always be there for him, a cushion in eternity. That spot next to my heart has expanded through the years to make room for quite a crowd; and somehow there has always been room for more.

As the years went by, George became a tolerant and slightly crabby, rather curmudgeonly old uncle. I suspect he never quite got over the loss of his buddy, Fred. He was always a little aloof, and a little hard of hearing, but became more so after Fred was gone. George was, for the last few years, completely deaf but responded well to hand signals and the actions of the other dogs. He put up with a revolving door of fosters and rescues and emerged the regal benevolent and slightly aloof alpha to the current line of resident Frenchies: Belle, who came after Fred passed in 2008 and Onyx, who joined us after Bette went to the bridge in 2010.

There is a sentiment I’ve heard that rather sums up our life with dogs and the love we share. The credit is of unknown attribution but goes something like this… In this life, nothing is meant to last forever and we have to make room for others. Life is a wheel. We get on, we go to the end, and when we get off, somebody else gets on and has the same opportunity to go to the end, and so on, with each turn another takes their place. There is nothing new under the sun.

And so it is with our animal pals, they ride with us on the wheel of life filling our souls with all their love. Their earthly time is sadly short. In accepting that fact, I choose to think that if we are lucky, then we have another opportunity to open our hearts to the love of a dog. George rode with me for his time on the wheel and each time the wheel makes a revolution, I'll make room for another dog.

I am grieving today, even after so many years and the numerous dogs and a cat that came through my life, losing one just never gets easier.

It is a hard day here and I’ll be a little tender for awhile. I’ll miss that little guy very much.

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