The Meaning of Being Best Friends

Richmond, VA

In 2012, a friend asked Claudia if she wanted a dog. Without hesitation, she said, “Yes!” Claudia got in her truck and hightailed it over to her friend’s house with her current dog, Shadow Bear.

She wanted to make sure that the two dogs got along before making the commitment. When Claudia arrived, she opened the door and got out of the truck. That’s when Fred, a four-year-old Australian Cattle Dog, jumped up in her seat, and pretty much said, “This seat is mine!”

Tongue wagging, Fred reached over and rubbed noses with Shadow Bear, declaring him his new best friend. Well, that was that. No big decision to make. Fred came home with Claudia and made it his home without missing a beat.

Shortly after Fred became a member of their family, Shadow Bear passed away due to old age. That’s when Edy, a Collie/Great Pyrenees mix, came to live with them. Fred, ever gracious and loving, made Edy feel right at home.

Ken, Claudia’s husband, was a double amputee due to complications from diabetes. He stayed home on their small farm while Claudia went to work. It was on a stormy afternoon that Ken called a bit frantic.  “I think Fred’s afraid of thunderstorms,” he said.

“Well, he lived in a cage most of his life, so he probably is,” Karen said. “What’s the problem?”

Ken cleared his throat and said, “Well, he jumped up in my lap when the thunder clapped, and nearly knocked over my wheelchair!”

Claudia had to refrain from laughing and simply encouraged Ken to “love on him” and Fred would calm down. But that wasn’t the problem Ken was referring to. “Honey, he’s kind of a big dog to be sitting on my lap.” That’s when Karen did laugh and told her husband to give it a little bit, and Fred would probably jump down. And he did.

But it was a defining moment for Fred. Someone cared enough about him to tough it out. After that, he stuck to Ken like glue.

It was a few months later when Claudia came home from work that she knew something was wrong. No one greeted her at the door. When she called for both Edy and Fred, neither dog responded.

Claudia made her way into Ken’s room and found him on the floor, unresponsive. He had died of a heart attack sometime in the afternoon.

The dogs guarded Ken’s body until Claudia got home. Once they saw her, they left and went outside. Claudia was in shock that her husband had passed so suddenly, and that her dogs had stood guard over him for hours and hours, never leaving his body.

With Ken gone, Fred gravitated toward Claudia. She became his new best friend. Financially, it became too difficult for Claudia to keep the small farm. She sold all of her animals and found a small house with a fenced yard. Then, she lost her job.

Not always on time with her rent, and facing health issues of her own, Claudia’s landlord worked with her. It was one sleepless night that she got up around 4:00 a.m. to sit on her front porch and think.

Both dogs came with her. A man walked by with his dog, and for some reason, both Fred and Edy became very excited about this. Fred jumped the fence and ran out into the road right into an oncoming car.

At first, Claudia thought Fred was dead but then she saw him get up. The bottom half of his right rear leg was turned backward, but he immediately came back to Claudia. She opened the gate and he fell into the grass.

Claudia’s neighbor talked to the woman who said, “I’ve never hit a dog before.” She picked up the broken piece from her car, got in her vehicle and left. The man that was walking his dog, just kept on walking.

Claudia felt like she was in a surreal dream. Instinctively, she called one of her friends, Janie, who came right over and helped her get Fred in the back of Janie’s SUV. They rushed him to the emergency veterinary clinic, Manakin-Sabot.

There, the clinic ran a gamut of tests to determine the extent of Fred’s injuries. The bad news was this: in order to save Fred’s leg, it would cost $4,000. Worse, Claudia only had 48 hours to raise the money.

Frantic, she called her friend, Mari, with Animal Adoption and Rescue Foundation, and told her the problem. Mari was the catalyst Claudia needed to shake her from her grief. “Get an application into The Mosby Foundation right away,” she said. “They will help you.”

She also encouraged Claudia to start a GoFundMe page, which she did. Mari also had Fred transferred to her vet, Dr. Locke Taylor, who could remove Fred’s leg for much less.

It was at this point however, Claudia was having a crisis of her own. She loved Fred but she was afraid of the huge bill she would have to pay. And she had already lived with a double amputee, her husband. She wasn’t sure she could go through that again.

Claudia thought about having Fred put down to save both him and herself the pain. But animals are uncanny in their connection to their pet parent. When Fred was transferred to Dr. Taylor’s office, his eyes locked onto Claudia’s. The message was clear. “Please, I want to live!”

Claudia broke down. That’s when she knew that no matter how hard it was emotionally to live with another amputee, she would. Fred had made it clear he wanted to be with his family.

Claudia’s decision marked the turning of the tide. The Mosby Foundation called. We told her that we would help with a large majority of the bill. And that’s when Claudia broke down again and cried. “Where do I even begin to tell you how wonderful The Mosby Foundation is?” she said, her heart overcome with gratitude. “I can’t say enough good things about them.”

“I’m also so grateful for Dr. Taylor. They were wonderful to Fred and me.”

Fred had his amputation on a Thursday. When Claudia came to pick him up on Friday, she was stunned to learn that Fred had already had a walk that morning. When she brought him home, she told her friend, Janie, “We’ll probably have to help him up the porch steps.”

But Fred had other ideas. By the time the two women bent down to help him, Fred was already at the top of the steps! And his eyes were saying, “Let me in. This is my home!” Both women were incredulous.

Edy was overjoyed to see her friend. She sniffed him from head to toe and made it clear how much she had missed him.

That night, Claudia made a bed for Fred on the floor beside her bed. But Fred said, “No thank you,” and lifted his paw on the side of her bed. Claudia got out of bed and helped him up. He slept soundly beside her for the whole night.

But that’s what friends do, don’t they? When one is doubtful, the other is hope and confidence. When one needs a helping hand, the other is the hand that helps. Fred never doubted his place beside Claudia, she was his BFF, and he never let her forget that.

We should all have a best friend like Fred.