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Freed of Fred



This is an apology to my daughter, Abby, to animal lovers everywhere, and to the late Yorkshire Terrier called Fred. May his memory always be for a blessing. I can’t apologise for not getting along with him, but I can apparently apologise for writing an article less than two hours after his sudden passing. According to my wife, it was even too soon to be “too soon”. In my defence, however, I was emotional and writing is cathartic. And I had a deadline.

Some context. Fred died peacefully after 13 years of my suffering. Something that was bravely borne (by me). We never got along, but I treated with him kindness and respect, aside from the odd occasions when I might have suggested in front of him that if he didn’t stop abluting under my desk or barking incessantly while we were eating dinner that I would have him put down. For the record, we never did that, and Fred died peacefully last Tuesday after eating thinly sliced chicken breasts that he had me cut up for him, as he didn’t like to chew on his own.

As a family we are, of course, saddened by the loss, and may we know no more sorrow. But just because he’s now dead, doesn’t mean that I have to pretend that he was ever a nice person. He wasn’t. And I have no doubt that had I “gone” before him, he wouldn’t have had a kind word to say about me.

Such was our relationship.

A well intentioned and kindly listener to my show messaged me to say that she had a magnificent pet cemetery to recommend for Fred. “It’s a bit far out of Johannesburg, but it’s worth it,” she suggested. As thoughtful as that was, considering that I have both parents at Westpark and I can hardly find the time to visit them, I can’t imagine dedicating an entire Sunday to spend time with Fred at his final resting place. Besides, I had seen the R450 invoice on the kitchen table from the vet for “cremation of small dog”, so that ship had clearly sailed.

He wasn’t well loved by anyone other than my daughter, whom I suspect did so just to annoy me. So unpopular was Fred (may his memory be blessed), that around a year ago, a security guard, in the absence of alternatives, actually drew his gun and pointed it at him. It wasn’t a pleasant event, and whereas I don’t want to speak ill of the dead – G-d forbid – any more than I need to, it does illustrate the type of reaction Fred caused. After months of having his heels nipped at, the poor bloke finally almost lost it. And no one could blame him. Not even my daughter.

The reaction to my article was interesting. Whereas some enjoyed the take, others were deeply offended. Social etiquette demands that we mourn the loss of our pets. It demands that we call them our “fur babies”, and that we post sad photos in happier times. And I would have probably done that if Daisy or Gatsby had suffered the same fate. Because they are, indeed, all of the above.

The offers we have had in the past week, not for meals to assist in our time of loss, but from people offering to give us their “Fred” to comfort us, suggest that I’m not alone in my experience. Where I might be alone, however, is in my foolishness in acknowledging it. Especially when I did so too soon even to be “too soon”.

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  1. Wendy Kaplan Lewis

    Jul 29, 2021 at 11:43 am


  2. Rochelle

    Jul 29, 2021 at 1:40 pm

    In all this sadness, I still have to laugh, as you have such a dry sense of humour, Howard.

    Believe me, even if you were always kind to your daughter’s furry kid-Fred- he sensed your dislike for him every moment he was in the same room as you. 😁😁 this is why Fred constantly “left his mark” when you were around.

    ‘Long Life’ to your daughter, Abby. If or when you get her another furry kid, please make sure that you love him/her too.

    Take care of the other furries who are part of your household, and your family. 🤗

  3. Margaret Greenberg

    Jul 29, 2021 at 1:46 pm

    I must say Howard as I’m a crazy dog 🐶 lover, I just couldn’t understand how you felt. It did upset 😢 me. I personally had a Yorkie Maxi who passed away a couple of years ago. He was definitely my dog & totally dedicated to me only. He would tolerate my husband if I wasn’t at home 🏡 but only if I wasn’t at home. He was very sweet & loving & also very protective of me. So please find it in your heart to feel a bit of love. Dogs 🐶 are amazing, loving, protecting animals 💕 Have a wonderful Shabbos 🌸🌺

  4. Helen Furman

    Aug 6, 2021 at 9:54 am


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