The email from my friend and fellow dog lover Hazel started like this: "There's no easy way to say this ... but my Timmy died on Thursday morning."
I had often been a dog walker for Timmy and Hazel's two other dogs, and I felt myself choking up.
She had taken Timmy -- a 9-year-old Terrier mix -- to the vet Sept. 25 with a cough that the vet felt may have been related to Timmy's enlarged heart. The vet dispensed some medication and wasn't particularly alarmed, Hazel said.
The next day, Hazel got the three dogs into the back of her car and waited for a friend to arrive to drive them to the Lake Mohegan, where the dogs could play. Then she heard a bump in the back. Timmy suddenly had fallen onto the floor.
"I lifted him out as he was dying while I held him," she said in the email. "The good thing for him was that he knew I was holding him, and he couldn't have been in any pain."
By now, I was crying. I loved that dog as if it were my own. Although we got off to a bumpy start three years ago -- he promptly nipped the back of my leg when I first went to meet Hazel's four dogs -- Timmy, settled down and thereafter it was a love fest when I visited.
There was something so special about Timmy. Aside from his fierce loyalty to Hazel, he had insight and sensitivity that were more human than canine. He was so devoted that he rarely allowed Hazel to make a move without being by her side or sitting on her lap.
Last spring when Hazel was in the hospital, I stayed with the dogs at her house a couple of nights. Timmy was like a lost soul -- much more quiet than usual and not interested in eating. Unlike our regular routine, I had to do much more "paw holding," and he was very anxious to sleep in the twin bed I shared also with two other dogs -- Truffie and Flicka.
But I believe Timmy sensed Hazel's health was improving; he must have felt that he could begin to let go. But he always remained close by.
Timmy was a beautiful animal. He was a rescue dog, but he looked a lot like a Tibetan Terrier and he certainly had the Terrier temperament. When I arrived to walk the dogs, he always greeted me with loud barking.
Of course, once I had his leash on and we reached the back gate, Timmy calmed right down, because he lived for our "road walks" as Hazel called them. I often walked them at about 5:30 a.m., because I had to be at school as a substitute teacher, and Timmy had his regular routine. He knew he could sniff and pee for at least 25 minutes to a half-hour, so he generally waited until the very last few minutes before dropping his sacred load.
I remember our walks, because they covered all four seasons. I particularly enjoyed the morning air whether it was cool and fresh with smell of spring flowers or downright frigid through the winter. Timmy trudged on no matter what nature was dishing out.
Once we were back in the house, if I were dog sitting I'd have to coax Timmy to eat, and I'd sit with him in the living room. He'd look around, look away and then gaze at me with sad eyes as if to say, "You really want me to eat this don't you?"
In the end, he ate most of the food as Truffie stood by, anxiously awaiting the opportunity to gobble up the leftovers. But the two of them were good buddies, even though they kept their distance. There were plenty of couch areas for lounging.
I could never recount the kinds of experiences Hazel had with Timmy, but I'm just so grateful the gang of three had one last road walk together about a month ago. I could tell how glad Timmy was.
As I write this reflection, I'm having a hard time accepting that Timmy won't be there for the next road walk. But I know that wherever Timmy is, he is already finding some heavenly road to walk down everyday through eternity. Rest in peace, my friend. I'm so very glad we had our time together.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.