From: Doug Bradley
Columbus and Fort Myers, Florida
Now I walk alone. At least, that’s how it looks.
For 13 years I followed a red sesame Shiba Inu named Chopper all over the Iona Lakes area of Fort Myers, Florida. On vacation a month or so every year, I followed him around Bethel Village when he wasn’t hanging out with the dogs at Wilson’s Kennel.
I came to Fort Myers in 1998 with a fiancee. Two years later, she bought a condo by herself. I was left with plenty of time to work on history projects I knew I had to finish before I die. In the meantime, one of her first purchases for the condo was a black-and-tan Shiba named Chloe. I walked Chloe a few times a week for two years. When I got tired of having her taken away when the former fiancee was mad at me, I bought Chopper at Pet Paradise in Edison Mall.
Not more than a couple of tenants at Iona Lakes Apartments have been there longer than Chopper and me. Not more than a couple of people there know my name. Most everybody knows Chopper.
Chloe had a stroke in December 2013. She died after a second stroke in September 2014 while Chopper and I were in Bethel Village the last time.
I knew Chopper’s time was coming. I went on vacation in late September, leaving him with a friend on Sanibel Island. Chopper pulled out of his collar on a Sunday morning. Four hours later he was picked up by Sanibel Police. It was Thursday before I found out what had happened. After several calls the next morning, I learned he was in a foster home, so I cut vacation short by two days to head home from Burlington, Colorado.
Shibas are easily bored, so I think Chopper’s adventure was good for him. I know it was good for me. I spent Oct. 4 and 5, the last two vacation days, at home with him. I got two more Fridays, my normal day off work, at home with him before he died at 3:15 Sunday morning, Oct. 18.
I took Chopper to South Trail Animal Hospital on a Monday morning for cremation. Before I left there, I made the walk alone that he and I always made after visits with Dr. Ford. Our last walk along Hendry Creek Drive had been six weeks earlier after vaccinations. That time, Chopper had walked only about 200 yards before going back to the car. This time, I walked to the first intersection. I smiled at the street sign: Chloe Circle. I’d noticed it before, but I’d forgotten. Chopper normally passed another three houses before turning around. I remember going to the next intersection at least once, so I went on. I smiled again at the street sign: Heaven Lane.
Back in Bethel Village next September, someone’s bound to say, “Why is that guy walking around thinking he’s talking to a dog? He must be crazy.” I told the ex-fiancee when that happens in Fort Myers, just tell them, “He’s not crazy; he just never learned to walk alone.”