Hero was his name. I know it usually a girl's name but my Dad had named the mangy black cur who was my first dog and my first real friend Hero. We lived in northern suburbs of Indianapolis. It was not very populated when we first moved out there as a matter of fact we were in the only home built. Over the next few years home’s were built and were always immediately occupied and pretty soon there was a whole neighborhood around us. So Hero who moved with us from my Grandparent's was the defacto ruler of all dogs by claiming every bush and tree before other dogs with pedigrees and attitude even got their chance to make their mark. Hero ran about the neighborhood free. He accompanied my brother when he had a short lived paper route and everyone got to know the super sweet, tail constantly wagging pooch. He was as much the neighborhood's dog as he was ours.
By the time I was his companion as I traveled along on my bike to see the sights of our neighborhood, Ralston Heights, he had seen it all before. He was getting up in years and now was content to hanging around the house and survey his survey his kingdom from the stoop that led to the back of our house. That’s where you find him usually sleeping more and more as old age was setting upon him.
On July Fourth in 1964 he had reached 16 years of age and though he was an American dog he had never liked the loud noises of Independence Day. The neighborhood sounds of exploding cherry bombs, firecrackers, roman candle and their like always upset him. But the fireworks we're quite legal for adults to purchase and would find themselves in the hands of their children every fourth. That evening we went to a fireworks display at Riverside Park. We left Hero alone in the backyard on the stoop that led to our back room and settled down to a comfortable nap as he awaited his pack’s return.
When we returned home from a totally lame fireworks display, Hero was not around the house and my Mother immediately worried about him. My Dad assured her and me that we would find him lying on the stoop that led to our back room in the back yard when we awoke. He had done this kind of thing for years and there was reason to think otherwise.
The next morning, we all awoke to a banging on our front door. My Father answered it and talked with one of our neighbors for a brief bit and then turned to us with devastating news. Out on the big road that led to our neighborhood there was the body of dog lying on the roadside. My Mother stated to cry and so did I as Dad got in the car and traveled out to see if it was our Hero.
In what seemed like forever Dad returned shortly. He left the car in the driveway which was unusual because he always pulled it into the garage. He got out of the car and slowly walked up to his sobbing family. He told us that he had found Hero on the Big road and he was dead presumably hit by a vehicle. He then told us that Hero was lying in a blanket in the back seat of our car. I wanted to see him but Dad would not let me and my Mother held me back. I turned into my Mother’s arms and dissolved into heaving tears. Dad took Hero to the vet who would take care of Hero's final arrangements.
My Mom stayed at home with her devastated little child. I couldn't stop crying. I couldn't believe how sudden life could be taken away. I've never been able to wrap my head around that to this day. I accept it now but it still leaves me utterly helpless at the capriciousness of death.
Over the next few days, we pieced together the last few hours of Hero's life. After we left to watch the fireworks, a group of boys came by our yard where Hero was lying peacefully on the stoop to back room of the house. They were armed with various LEGAL fireworks mentioned before, lit a few and threw them at our defenseless dog. Hero sought shelter but there was none to be found in the yard and so he bolted out of our yard. He ran through our neighborhood pursued by the pack of boys maintaining their assault on him. He ran out of the safety of neighborhood and onto to the unfamiliar Big Road and was hit by some vehicle and was probably killed instantly. We got this account from all our passive neighbors as they watched the tragic story unfold. In all fairness to them, Hero was a street wise dog and all thought he would eventually evade his torturers. But Hero was old and arthritic and could no longer make the quick turns and have sudden bursts of speed that had been his legend. His fate was sealed when he left our yard.
I wanted to post this today because this is the date I learned of the news. Since that day, the July 4th weekend, no matter what I do, has always been tinged with melancholy as I remember my fallen friend. Sure he was just a dog but to me he was my first and bestest friend.
It was concluded by many that the boys had spooked him and Hero had run away in fear. I can't imagine my loyal friend ever doing that. Instead I always like to remember him leading the danger away from his pack and our home and then tragically given his life for us. After all, his name was Hero.
Marie Fairman July 5th, 2010