All dogs go to heaven

Death: Like the Clintons' four-legged friend, Buddy, in New York, Molly, in Fells Point, was an adored pet.

January 05, 2002|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,SUN STAFF

These are the dog days of winter.

First, word spread nationally of the accidental death of Buddy, former President Bill Clinton's 4-year-old Labrador. In innocent pursuit of a departing home contractor, the dog ran from the Clintons' home and was struck and killed by a car Wednesday. The driver of the Ford Explorer, a 17-year-old high school student, told reporters she was heartbroken.

Buddy, a chocolate Lab, had a spirited rivalry with the Clintons' White House cat, Socks. But it was Buddy who went home with the Clintons when they left Washington. Dogs rule - and cats go live with presidential secretaries. "He will truly be missed," said Julia Payne, a spokeswoman for the Clintons.

Now word spreads locally of the natural death of Molly, a 13-year-old golden retriever and a regular on Thames Street in Fells Point. For a dozen years, Molly sat outside the Grrreat Bears and Childhood Delights store at 1643 Thames - home also to the famous Fells Point bubble machine.

The ailing Molly died on Wednesday, too. More than 50 stories (and counting) have been written about Buddy; one story will mention Molly.

If Buddy had been the most photographed pet in the nation, Molly might have been the most photographed pet in Fells Point. Tourists - especially international visitors - couldn't get enough of Molly and couldn't give Molly enough: pretzels, spaghetti and particularly ice cream cones. The retriever never had to retrieve anything. "Will Nap For Food" said a recent sign taped to the store's front door, and there Molly would lie, napping for food.

In her last days, Molly, with her perpetual cold, would be seen wrapped in a blue blanket. Two strokes had brought her to a crawl. The shedding wasn't pretty, but what a handsome dog! Up until her death, she still greeted folks walking along Thames Street. The day before Christmas, Cathy Crymes, Molly's owner, retired from the business after 19 years.

"One of the last customers to see Molly gave her his ice cream cone," Crymes says. Along with her business, Crymes knew Molly's days were limited.

"My husband and I slept in the shop with Molly since she couldn't get up the stairs any longer," Crymes says.

What is it about the death of a pet? Lord knows, much worse things can happen and did last year. When news stories reported that the Clintons were in "mourning," that the White House offered its "condolences," and that the driver was "heartbroken," the reactions didn't seem emotionally excessive. It wasn't the end of the world; it was just a miserable start to a new year. Then, we hear Molly is dead, and that's too close to home.

The death of any pet reminds us of losing one of our pets. Maybe we lost a cat to old age or lost a 4-year-old dog who accidentally ran in the path of a teen-ager in a Ford Explorer. Think of the poor driver, 17-year-old Halie Ritterman of Chappaqua, N.Y., who is now named in scores of newspapers here and abroad. The young woman is a dog lover herself and owns a Border collie. One day, she'll have to say goodbye to her dog, too.

Let's hope Halie Ritterman's Border collie goes out in style - snug in a blanket, and taking a final lap around an ice cream cone.

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