By Doug Grahn
The evening before Thanksgiving, a 10-year-old “great soul” passed from the Montpelier community, where he’d spent his life spreading love and joy. His name was Ferdinand, and he was a beautiful golden retriever. Ferdinand worked as the “customer service dog” at Botanica Florals for nearly 10 years, where he doubled as store greeter and town therapy dog.
Everyone who met “Ferdie” loved him. He was a comfort to the grief-stricken or those suffering with depression. He offered a brief reprieve to exhausted parents, and was the calm in the Covid storm for others. Children and adults with a fear of dogs slowly embraced him, and some who had difficulty communicating with fellow humans began to open up after hanging out with him. He was always there to lend a soft, satiny, golden ear, a friendly face and a wagging tail, asking nothing in return.
Ferdinand didn’t belong to the store owners (my wife Sonja and my sister-in-law Sarah McAllister). His “parents” were Montpelier residents Bronwyn Fryer and Dan Jones, who loaned Ferdinand to the flower store on weekdays. Of course, Bronwyn, Dan, Sarah, and Sonja all became fast friends and “relatives” to Ferdinand.
I read a story once by a veterinarian named Mark Ferrell about a dog’s passing. Ferrell was called to a home to put a beloved dog to sleep. He wondered whether the 6-year-old child in the family would understand what was going on. Someone in the family asked why dogs don’t live as long as people do, and the little boy answered with a profound observation. “I know why,” he said. “People come into the world to learn to live a good life, like loving others all the time and being a good person, eh? Well, as dogs are already born knowing how to do all this; they don’t have to stay as long as we do.”
Ferdinand suffered from poor health at the end, but you’d never know it by his happy spirit. Here are some lessons the gentle dog would like to pass on to his beloved community:
- When your loved ones come home, always run to say hello.
- Never pass up an opportunity to go for a walk.
- Run, jump, and play daily.
- On warm days, roll in the grass. On snowy days, roll in the snow.
- When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
- And never forget: When someone has a bad day, stay silent, sit close by and gently make them feel that you’re there.
A memorial service for Ferdinand will be held in the spring, date to be announced from Botanica Florals. Meanwhile, please write your favorite memories of him in the tribute book at the shop.