I have many people to introduce you to from my years visiting the off leash parks. Dick was one of those that made an impact over a few years.
He first caught my eye as he was a dead ringer for Leslie Neilson, a favourite Canadian actor of mine. He was always impeccably dressed for walking his beloved dog Auggie. Both were an adorable senior couple. He in smart looking pants, never jeans, and fashionable v-neck sweaters that I am sure were cashmere. On rainy days he wore a smart looking trench coat and boots.
His dog was a cross of probably border collie and shepherd. She moved slowly due to age and he would shout at her to come his way if she was heading towards mud or something undesirable. His swearing was award winning but the dog walkers somehow found it charming, myself included! After observing this over several days I felt bold enough to approach him and ask if he was truly Leslie Neilson. He answered with Leslie’s dry quick wit, “I have been told this,” he said, avoiding my question indirectly. I was stumped before realizing he was just quite a look alike.
He began to frequent the off leash more and loved getting to know the walkers and memorized our dog’s names. We missed him on days he would not show up. I noticed on days when he and I were alone together we would share tidbits on our lives. I learned his wife was away for six months at a time teaching English as a Second Language in China. He had a daughter who lived outside of Ontario who he really missed and loved.
In turn I shared that he reminded me of my father with his great humour and that my Dad had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He learned about my family and always would ask how each one was. I sensed he was very lonely but could not imagine how with such a fun spirit and inner child that people would not be drawn to him.
After not seeing him for a while he appeared walking slower than usual and filled us in that he was not feeling well. I wished him well and hoped he would bounce back and have us all laughing.
One day when arriving at the park I saw Auggie leaving with a woman I had never seen before. I asked if the dog was August and she said “Yes, and who are you?” I told her about getting to know Dick. “Was he her husband?” She said “Yes, he is in hospital at Sunnybrook and told me to bring Auggie here to see the park friends.” I asked if things were serious and she said, “Yes, he does not want to be visited.”
I asked if I could send a card and she asked for my name. I told her my name was Becky, and she then told me I must know how much he enjoyed talking to us at the park when he came. He did not have many friends but she knew about each and every one of us.
I sent a card to their home and was amazed to learn his last name, something I had never asked him for as it was not important. Most dog people at the park learn the dogs name’s first and then the owners. I did not know what to write in the card but once I sat down to do it the words flowed.
I am so thankful to have known Dick, his dog August and the laughter we shared. Our friendship was icing on the cake.
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