In February this year, we published, in three parts, Leslie Smith’s compelling account of “the barber’s dog,” dubbed Fella. In the final part, Smith drove Fella to Colorado, to join a famed pit bull rescue program. Fella was renamed Fergus and, Smith wrote, “This is where the story of the barber’s dog ends.” But Smith — and Berkeleyside — had to know what happened next.
By Leslie Smith
For nearly 15 months, the barber’s dog and I spent my lunch hour together. He would flirt from behind a chain link fence, and I would toss treats and reach in through the openings to pet him. Then, ColoRADogs swooped in for the rescue, delivering him from a cement lot in Oakland to his new life near the base of the Rocky Mountains.
On May 16, I boarded a plane bound for Denver and went to visit the dog I hadn’t seen since January. I think he remembered me? To be honest, it wasn’t one of those pup-goes-nuts-when-soldier-comes-home-from-war videos that go viral and end up on the homepage of CNN. It was more of a gradual recognition: Oh, hey. It’s… you.
Fergus took my unbridled affection like a champ. He even offered a wiggle and snort or two of his own, just to prove he was in the spirit of things. But out of the corner of my eye I watched him watch Jessica, his foster mom, as she toured me around the house. She pointed out his favorite spots, and he tracked her every move. I got to see his various beds and the drawer where his bully sticks are kept and the area in backyard where he first fell in love with his leggy foster sister, Panda. I saw that he was both adored and adoring.
Not consciously, but at some level, I began letting go of the idea — the guilt, really — that I should have found a way to keep this dog. Fergus so completely belonged here. I noticed the physical changes, too. New fur filled in the once-patchy spots on his back and there was no sign of his former limp. He seemed so… revitalized.
I suppose I was healing too.
We spent the night spooned around each other in the guest room, and in the morning, nuzzled some more. The visit was too short; by noon it was time to gather my bags and say goodbye. Again.
I started out the front door and Fergus followed me onto the porch until Jess called him: “Come on in, buddy.” I could hear his toenails on the cement as he trotted contentedly back toward the house. I didn’t have the chops to turn around and see him go in.
Last week, I got an email from Jessica. “Fergus isn’t going anywhere,” she wrote. He’d be staying right there with “the lady” and her fiancé and his beloved Panda for always. The decision was official.
I so badly wanted to be the one to tell Fergus the good news. You’re adopted! And not only that, your new parents are getting married! It’s like a real life fairy tale with a happily ever after to beat the band. But the reality is that Fergus — in his own way — probably understood all this a long time ago. Not that official titles or pieces of paper ever meant much to the barber’s dog.
Unless it was my lunch break (when I was specifically there to see him), I used to avoid going down the barber’s dog’s street. Silly, but I didn’t want him to catch a whiff of me — even my car — and think that I was passing through without stopping to say hello. Now, I love driving by the chain link fence that used to separate us. The pigeons still patrol the area around the pickup truck and the rusty basketball hoop remains awkwardly off to the side.
But otherwise, the lot is empty.
Leslie Smith volunteers at the Berkeley Animal Shelter. Read more about the shelter in past Berkeleyside coverage. The stories were originally published on The Dodo.
The barber’s dog, and one woman’s bid to save him
Part 2: The barber’s dog, it turns out, has another friend
Part 3: The barber’s dog: Kindness of strangers ends the tale
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