“The one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of his master.” Ben Hur Lampman
We have a little buddy whose name is Dell. He’s an 80-year-old man and I met him the day Brian told me he was bringing one of the guys from the shelter to our house for dinner.
“Oh, now we’re going to be feeding the homeless in our own home,” I said.
I cried when I met Dell because I thought he was homeless, but he helps out at the shelter. He’s like Brian, feeding the homeless.
Dell lives in a big house on Erie Road in Rocky River near the Elmwood Playground. He lives alone. We go to his house every Sunday, hang out, go out to dinner, or maybe eat there. That’s how we know Doug and Christine, a couple we met. They live across the street from Dell, their backyard facing onto the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks.
They had an adorable little three-year-old Jack Russell terrier. His name was Mister Jibbs.
We brought Baby, our 140-pound Leonberger, with us one evening. Leonbergers come from Leonberger, Germany. Jack Russell’s are fox and rat hunters and come from England.
“It’s too bad Doug isn’t out with Jibbs,” I said. “I would love Baby and Mister Jibbs to meet each other.”
“Oh, we can go over,” said Brian.
“I don’t know. It’s Sunday night.”
“They’re not going to mind if we stop by and say hi,” said Brian, knocking on their door. They brought Mister Jibbs out and he and Baby played and wrestled. There was some barking, but not like a world war. Doug and I took the dogs across the tracks to Elmwood Playground on the other side of the street.
There weren’t any teams playing baseball, so we let the dogs run around on the fields, although Baby is too much of a lazy lummox to run very long. He’s a big, muscular, working dog, but lazy. Mister Jibbs did most of the running and Baby did most of the laying around and smooching. After we walked back, across the tracks and through their backyard, and were sitting down again, Doug said he was going to bring out champagne.
“Don’t,” I said. “We just came to say hi, goodbye. We’re going out to dinner, anyway, don’t do anything special.”
“No, no, no, stay” he said. “Christine doesn’t like champagne. I’m going to open the bottle and we can finish it.” We were sitting and talking and drinking when Doug got up. “Have you ever seen a train coming down the tracks from this way?” he asked me.
“No, I haven’t.”
All of a sudden Christine jumped up, worried, nervous.
“Doug, grab Jibbs,” she said.
“He’s fine,” Doug said. “He’s been in the backyard hundreds of times with the train going by. Everything’s fine.”
I grabbed Baby.
“Baby’s never seen a train,” I said.
I held on to him because we were literally feet from the embankment along which the tracks were on. Jibbs was running back and forth with his Frisbee. I think he was guarding it, keeping it from Baby, so he couldn’t get it, not that Baby had any interest in it. We were all trying to catch Mister Jibbs as the train came closer. He didn’t realize we just wanted to get him and no one cared about the Frisbee, at all.
“Someone get this dog, someone get this dog.” I tried to jump and grab him, but he took off.
Suddenly, the jack Russell bolted and ran out onto the tracks.
Christine was running an arm’s length behind him. She was wearing flip-flops and a long, flowing summer dress. I don’t know how she didn’t get hit. Obviously, it wasn’t her time, but the train hit Jibbs. Christine had gotten on the other side of the tracks and I thought she was screaming.
“No, it was you screaming,” said Brian.
The worst part was waiting for the train to pass before we could get to Christine and before she could pick up Mister Jibbs.
It was horrible. I drank myself into oblivion that night at home to dull the pain.
“We shouldn’t have gone over, we shouldn’t have interrupted them, we should have left things well enough alone,” I said to Brian when we were back home.
“I told Doug,” said Brian. “Your wife gave you the look. Go get your dog. Now he’s fucked.”
“He was just guarding his Frisbee,” I said. “Should I have walked the other way with Baby? Would Jibbs have followed us? I just can’t believe Doug didn’t get the dog, or do anything.”
“Julie,” said Brian. “When you tell me to do something I will listen from now on.”
“God, I hope so,” I said. “I hope it doesn’t take another dog dying.”
There’s a place at the Promenade in Westlake that sells silver bracelets with little paws dangling from them. I’m going to get one for Christine, and I’m going to Cahoon’s Nursery and get a plant or a bush for their backyard, in memory of Mister Jibbs.
For more than a week I sent a text to Christine every day. I found out she was sitting by the spot where Jibbs died, every day. She was just trying to save her dog and the train missed her by inches. She might have been killed herself.
I wake up at night seeing Christine barely being missed by the train and Mister Jibbs being hit by the locomotive. I hear the train whistle screaming, which is why I didn’t hear myself screaming that day. All I could hear was the whistle screaming. I wake up all night long, jumping, reliving it in my head.
The other day Brian asked if I could move my Honda because he had to take his van to be e-checked. I was backing my car out of the driveway when a box truck came barreling down the street. I started to panic and jumped out of the car at the edge of the drive.
“I’m not that person, I’m not that person,“ I blurted to Brian when he came running.
Nothing freaks me out, but Mister Jibbs being killed by the freight train has freaked me out.
Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus