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Story ID:1585
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Gilboa New York USA
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By Fred Wickert

“Oh, he’s all right,” the vet assured. “There isn’t anything wrong with that eye as far as vision goes. The pigment just didn’t distribute right. He can see out of it as good as the other eye. It won’t hurt him a bit.” He was a puppy from Spud and Ruby, our other two Beagles. Because of the all blue eye, we named him Blue. The trio lived together with their leader, a small female English setter, named Rugy.

I constructed a 50 by 200 foot fence, complete with plenty of shade to keep them in, and a dog house inside a building which they could enter and depart whenever they chose. They refused to stay in it, constantly digging out under the fence.

We lived on the banks of the Schoharie in the Catskill Mountains in New York State. I was a small town police chief, and my wife operated a dog grooming business out of our home. In the winter, the dogs were housed in our warm barn. As I backed my car out of the barn to begin the evening shift, the dogs were already bedded down on their thick pads, enjoying the warmth of the barrel stove across the room.

As I backed the car out, I felt a thump and stopped to investigate. My heart sunk when I saw that my back tire had knocked Rugy down and run over her neck, killing her instantly. Blubbering to her how sorry I was, I gently picked up her body and carried it to a table where I laid her out. Blue was right on my heels as I did so, and as I closed the barn door, I could see him sitting by the table, staring at her lifeless form.

When I returned home that night, Blue had not moved. I refilled the wood stove, and patted Blue on the head. Then with a heavy heart, I went to the house and broke the sad news to my wife. After some tearful reminiscing, we finally drifted off into a fitful sleep.

I owned another lot a quarter mile down the road next to the church, where other pets had been laid to rest over the years. When I opened the barn doors, there was Blue, still keeping his vigil by Rugy’s side. It was almost more than I could take as I placed her body in the wheelbarrow with a shovel and an old blanket and trudged down the road with Blue dogging my every step.

Blue sat beside the wheelbarrow and watched every move as I dug the grave. After wrapping Rugy’s body in the blanket and placing her in the grave, I said a prayer for her and told her good-bye. I went on to tell her how much I had enjoyed her and loved her, and how I was going to miss her. I told her how sorry I was that I had accidentally taken her life.

I shoveled the dirt back into the grave, tamped it down and smoothed it over. When I headed for home, Blue laid down on top of the grave and refused to come when I called. I just shrugged weary shoulders and went on, figuring he would come along eventually.

I was wrong. Blue took up permanent residence at the grave beside the church. He came home to eat and drink at dusk, and then returned to the grave. Even on freezing nights, he never left his vigil. He stayed through the heat of summer and on into autumn. When it rained, he never sought shelter, but remained steadfast. I worried about how long this loyal, grief stricken dog would continue this way. I wanted him to deal with his feelings in his own way, but was afraid he would kill himself with the stubbornness of it. Winter was coming, and the deep snows and severe cold of Catskill winters were known for their bitterness. I feared Blue would freeze to death.

October came and went, with Blue steadfast in his vigil. He came home every evening for a quick bite to eat and a drink of water, and then returned to mourn at Rugy’s grave. The first week of November brought about ten inches of snow. This time, when Blue came home, he stayed the night in the warm barn with the others. In the morning he returned to the grave and stayed all day, but returned in the evening to a warm place to sleep. When the deep chill of winter set in, Blue visited his love for only an hour or two each day, and returned home. This continued on through the spring months.

As the years passed, Blue’s parents, Spud and Ruby, passed on within months of one another, and I buried them both near Rugy. Blue continued his hours of vigil at the grave each day, and I could see signs of age creeping in. First, he lost his hearing. Then his eyesight began to fail. He was hit by a car and broke his hind leg on one of his bereavement journeys. After the leg was repaired and healed, he walked stiff-legged and left a distinctive paw track that was instantly recognizable. Instead of warming the barn for one dog each night, I built Blue a special dog house, furnished with an extra thick pad. Two pieces of Plexiglas with an air space in between making a picture window, allowed sunshine and warmth in his new home beside our patio door.

Blue navigated around wonderfully with his stiff leg, lost hearing and eyesight, but he knew his way everywhere. He craved being talked to with kind words while being held and petted. I held him in my arms often, with that old unseeing blue eye giving off such a contented and loving expression. I learned long ago that animals needed to be loved and talked to. Blue lived for these moments and so did I.

I began calling him Old Blue, for he was old, after all. After he passed the age of twelve, I always speculated on whether he would finish out the year with us. After he lost his sight and hearing, he stayed very close to our property and avoided getting in the road very often.

I returned home from work one day, and missed Old Blue. He was always there. My wife came out and said, “Blue has been acting strange today. Around noon, he went out to the corner and started up the hill in the middle of the road.” “Two young guys,” she continued, “came across the bridge on their bikes. They asked if he was my dog and if I wanted them to bring him home?” Old Blue was nineteen years old now, and we were always grateful when kind neighbors watched out for him. Blue laid down on the sun warmed patio for a while, and then disappeared again.

My wife called the nearest neighbor who had seen Old Blue just minutes earlier, going down the bank out of her front yard and down the road in our direction. I left to go meet him, but never saw him. He never arrived home. He simply disappeared. We spent days and days trying to pick up his peculiar footprint in the snow, looking for skid marks, bloodstains or hair on the road, but nothing. Local vets and dogcatchers were called. We put up posters and ran adds in the papers, all with negative results.

It has been 23 years since he vanished, but I’m thinking Old Blue went to be with his beloved family down next to the church.

Photo #1
Old Blue

Photo #2
Rugy, the dog that was run over and killed that Old Blue grieved over for so long.

Photo #3
At the far end of this building on the inside was the dog house. The two hundred foot length dogrun fence began at the end of the building. Some of the fence is visible at the bottom of the bank. The bank blocked the prevailing winds and the trees in summer provided abundant shade. The dog house was inside the last double doors of the building.

Photo #4
In the foreground left to right - Spud, father of Blue, Ruby - mother of Blue, on the right is Blue. In the back left to right - Rugy and Rascal, son of Blue and Rugy.