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Heritage Living Center

The Dogfather

Dog in pinstriped suit

By Riley Polumbus

“You can usually tell if a man is good if he has a dog that loves him.”

–Bruce Cameron, Author of A Dog’s Purpose

Soon after Maizy, my one-year-old golden retriever, and I moved into the neighborhood, we met the neighbors. Rather, Maizy got to know them while I was at work. The four-foot chain link fence kept her in, yet also allowed her to be seen. Maizy seeks attention from anyone willing to give it, especially if it comes with a side of treats. An attractive pup, Maizy quickly made new friends.

We moved in on the First of June. In Montana that means a mixed bag of rain, sun, and snow, all of which reawakened the yard in earnest demanding my attention. One weekend while I labored away, Maizy napped, alternating between sunny and shady spots. After a while she settled in one particular corner of the yard facing the alley. I noticed that instead of napping, she was facing out, wagging and waiting.

This vantage point offered Maizy a direct line of sight to one of our retired neighbors. Out of respect for his privacy, and more fittingly because he proclaimed it, we’ll call him The Dogfather.

He must have sensed she was watching, and called out to her. This shifted her wag into high speed. He ambled over slowly walking with a cane, talking to her while she could hardly contain her excitement, pacing and whining along the fence.

This is how I met The Dogfather. Maizy was quite pleased to make the introduction.

The Dogfather spent much of his time at his shed, which stood within sight of our yard. In good weather, he’d sit outside the shed, talking on the phone with friends or family, or hosting a visitor. Once Maizy heard his voice, or perhaps picked up his scent, she waited at the corner for him to come say hello.

He would laugh, “The dog trained me.”

A dog parent in another time, The Dogfather was part hippy, part Santa Claus, with long salt and pepper hair and matching beard. The shed, packed full of the remnants of his house painting career, covered in posters, signs, and memorabilia, was also the not-so-top-secret location for a large box of Milk Bone dog biscuits. If we were out on a walk, she could not resist stopping by to see him. If I opened the back gate unleashed, there was no question where she was headed. Going to see him became compulsory.
As The Dogfather and I became friends, Maizy reaped the benefits, foraging treats and affection, often multiple times a day. The first time I hosted a neighborhood BBQ, Maizy nearly lost her mind–The Dogfather was in her yard! In spite of the fact he left the treats in the shed, she never left his side the entire evening.

On occasion, Maizy would get out of the yard, and The Dogfather would bring her home. He was always a good neighbor to me, willing to lend a tool, or provide insight from his encyclopedic knowledge of the neighborhood, including inside knowledge about my house. Yet, what I valued the most about him was his love and devotion for Maizy. Their bond was true.

Five years after we moved in, I adopted Max, a two-year-old golden retriever from L.A. that needed a new home. Max soon learned the ways of the Dogfather, and fell into the habit of waiting by the fence, or making a beeline for the shed when I opened the back gate. The Dogfather loved him too. “You saved his life,” he’d tell me.

In addition to his ability to capture the hearts of all dogs, the Dogfather was a musician. On warm summer nights he’d invite friends over for a jam session. Maizy, Max, and I would come to listen, and the dogs would curl up near him, falling asleep soundly at his side.
The day came when we had to say goodbye. The Dogfather moved over to the east side of the divide. Although we miss him, it brings me joy to know there are dogs near him once again, and he’s retained his title. MSN

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