I lost my best friend about a week ago.
She was Pola, our handsome Siberian husky, who we rescued, and fell in love with, four years and four months ago.
She was 11 years old when she passed October 30 with little or no warning from a sudden recurrence of cancer.
I’m writing this for the many “Friends of Pola” (F.O.P.) because it became difficult, nigh impossible, to tell them individually how grateful I have been for their friendship toward my dog in such a sorrowful time. I remain grateful for your welcoming hands, most of which held a treat and a loving pat or hug.
If she could have talked–and she tried hard with her howling husky language to do so–our handsome and loquacious dog, a large girl of 66 pounds with a striking black, gray and white coat and muzzle, she would have thanked you profusely, and I do so now.
Last week, shortly after her passing, I walked the same walk I’d taken with her for four years. It was an odd feeling. Neighbors asked after Pola – “where is she?” – So difficult to answer the question, so emotional …
It was my journalist colleague, Roger Bianchini, whose pit-mix-breed, Luda, we described as “Pola’s boyfriend”, suggested I write this dog obituary. “Write something for publication,” the sometimes substitute Pola walker and Barr residence dog sitter urged.
Not everyone knew that Pola was a “rescue.” We adopted her through Sarah Veach of Pet Harbor near Fredericksburg, who took several months to find “just the dog for you.” The husky was a fit with the diminutive Ophelia, the resident miniature pug AND with wife Carol. She was correct, Pola, then named Molly, was, indeed, “just the dog” for us.
In 2014, when Pola came to live with us, she almost immediately became special. She and I walked the periphery of Shenandoah Golf Course, about two miles daily, plus a night walk along our neighboring cul de sac. I would often sing a song to include her name and she would do the husky howl once in a while to indicate, I guess, that she was listening.
After a few months, I realized how much she was enjoying the couple of regular visits, first to Lowe’s, then to ERA Brown & Rutherford Realty where a lasting love match began with company secretary Cindi Laing. Picking up prescriptions at Lester & Mowery Pharmacy became a regular thing and I cannot begin to thank the counter staff and others at the pharmacy enough for the love accompanied by treats they gave to Pola. To those in the queue behind us, thank you for your patience as Pola’s needs were met at the cash register.
Pola, paws up on the teller’s counter at the Shenandoah Avenue BB&T branch, also temporarily interrupted traffic at the bank where the ladies would greet Pola as their “adopted doggy customer!” – An extra thank you to the bank staff for their love and oft-stated affection for our Pola. And PetCo was a regular and enjoyable stop to buy her food and treats as we drove downtown on Route 522.
For the past three years, several hundred people would see our handsome and vocal dog, leashed by another FOP, Robert Thorne. The pair, along with USAF veteran and local dog trainer Diana Lieber, would lead the annual Memorial Day parade of canines saluting the “dogs of war.” This has become a regular and possibly unique part of the local ceremonial the last Monday in May at the Gazebo.
Tuesday evenings this past year or so, Pola has been a guest of a group which meets at the Virginia Beer Museum on Chester Street. The Hell Town Saloon bartender invariably offered a treat and the customers delighted in Pola’s attempt at “thank you” – a combined bark-howl. Also at the Hell Town Saloon, Pola regularly met another “boyfriend” – Rico, the 5-pound Chihuahua – the odd couple!
Others among Pola’s downtown contacts were Christian and Rachel Failmezger at the Pavemint Brew Pub on Commerce Avenue. Pola enjoyed the open-air part of the restaurant where dogs are welcome and where the operators would quickly hustle up a water bowl for this canine customer.
Closer to home, Rose Mary Comstock, whom Pola visited at her Angel’s Korner child care and learning center only three days before her death, was another favorite stopping-off place. Rose Mary dog sat for Pola and Ophelia. So kind and gentle was Pola that Rose Mary, as a treat for the kids, would show the husky off to them. When Rose Mary wasn’t available earlier this year, Front Royal residents Len Sherp and wife Lu Ann Jacobs did the sitting duty while we were on vacation. Len said after his 10 days with our animals in September, “I can’t begin to thank you enough for letting me spend time with your dogs … so enjoyable.” He reiterated similar sentiments when he learned of Pola’s passing.
Pola would give a bark also to the ladies at Sheer Elegance on John Marshall Highway, the doggy beauty parlor, who helped take care of her coat; as well as to Randolph-Macon Academy for the occasional trips she made around the halls and grounds.
In closing, a warm thank you from Carol and I to our neighbor, James Harper, who responded to my early-morning telephone call for help in loading Pola into the SUV – she had collapsed in our yard minutes earlier – and for Veterinarian Mary Ellen Brown’s care of Pola up to and including her untimely death.
(Malcolm Barr Sr. is contributing writer for The Royal Examiner. Barr is a past president of the Humane Society of Warren County, with 45 years in animal rescue.)