Summer weather has come early to Toronto and tonight is the first night I've sat outside on the porch to soak in the cool night air. Smitten is sitting beside me on one side and Simone is standing on the other and this reminds me of Stella, who sat, and Rocky, who stood, and we all look into the darkness now as we did then. Smitten looks for critters. Simone makes quick dashes into the depths of the yard when her courage rises but she always quickly runs back and retakes her place beside me. I stare into the back of the yard and I can see shadows of new growth, of still bare branches, of lights from the neighbours beyond that. The AC units in the area have not been turned on yet, the drunks have not started fighting yet, the clubbers have not come downtown yet. Sandwiched as we are between Queen St and King St, it is surprisingly quiet.

I will miss this house. It's been home to several roommates and their various cats. It's been home to Barclay and Stella and Rocky and we've seen them live and play and grow old here. It's been home to Smitten and Simone, of course, and they've made it their playground to wrestle, chase, explore. It's been home to my marriage and it sees the end of that as well.

Simone will be coming with me, Smitten with Elizabeth. The dogs are each other's friends but they are bonded with their humans. Smitten would be heartbroken without Elizabeth and Simone, well, she is my shadow now.

I've spent the last few weeks getting this house ready to sell and it's been quite a bit of work so the posts here have been sporadic. I even missed going into TAS South a couple of weekends and I don't think I've done that before unless I was out of town or TAS was somehow inaccessible. Now that all this decluttering, painting, repairing has been done, it feels a shame to be leaving this place. It's like I've prepped the house for a great party I won't be going to.

After the first eight years of living in the house, my internal clock stopped keeping track and whenever anyone asked me how long I'd been there, I'd say eight years - and believed it. It wasn't until I checked the records, after the decision was made to sell it, that I saw I'd been here for thirteen years. It was a shock. It was like waking up one day and realizing I was five years older than I thought I was.

If dogs have ghosts, I wonder if they are location constrained like human ghosts. Perhaps then Stella and Rocky and Barclay will haunt this place. The future owners will hear the pad pad pad of paws. They will find dusty hair balls mysteriously appearing and rolling across the floor. They will feel the warmth of a furry weight settling in on their laps. And if the new owners are lucky, if they are especially sensitive to these kinds of things, they will feel a sense of overjoyous, crazy welcome every time they come home and walk in through the front door.

As we grow older, each year seems to go by faster, each winter feels colder, and each move becomes harder. Our baggage, physical and mental, accumulates and weighs us down. In the past, it was always a mutual agreement between friends to help with each other's moves: a bunch of boxes, a few pieces of heavier furniture. Not a big deal, nothing a few pizzas and cases of beer wouldn't help cover.

This time, I hired movers - a necessity. The furniture, now several pieces, are all heavy; the boxes, now multiplied in number, have gained weight as well, and the new place is narrow hallways, narrower stairs and three floors. The movers hauled for almost eight hours straight in the heat. By the end of the day, their clothes were soaked through from shoulders to knees.

There were times when I couldn't watch, like when they were carrying the three hundred pound couch up the stairs with a clearance of less than inch on either side or when they were trying to shimmy the awkward TV (a big old console) around a tight corner without scratching anything or busting the screen.

"You're never moving that TV again are you?" one of the movers asked.

"No," I said. "If I ever move again, I'm going to have a smash-the-TV-party and you're gonna be the first to get an invite."

Simone doesn't like living with boxes. She's particularly skittish around them. I bump into one, she jumps. I pull the packing tape off one, she jumps. I slide an empty one down the stairs, she jumps. She'll be happy when they no longer populate every room and hallway.

She likes the new neighbourhood, though. So many new smells. She stops more than she's ever stopped. At every new yard she passes, she has to mark - yes, she's a marker. She's even learned to lift her leg.

This morning as we stepped out the door, across the road was a guy walking two Whippets. They were blonde and sleek and gleaming, emblematic of the neighbourhood. Simone, a Parkdale dog if there ever was one, eyed them with suspicious. They stared back. They bucked and pulled at their leashes trying to get over to us. Simone dared them on. I'm not sure who grunted first but immediately after, the snarling/barking started.

Poor behaviour on all the dogs' parts to be sure but I thought it was kind of funny. It played into a classic narrative friction between the established and the newcomers, the polished and the unkempt, Roncevalles and Parkdale.

Maybe I'll get Simone a shinier collar. Maybe I'll start wearing less trashy clothes.

Or maybe not.

The old house is empty now. I am back one final time to say goodbye to the ghosts. Soon there will be new spirits inhabiting this place.

It's silly, but I feel I'm abandoning this house. Perhaps I'm confusing that feeling with a feeling of having abandoned a big part of my life. I never did all the things I wanted to do here. There was always something that needed to be done, big projects, big plans, as any of you living in old Victorians probably know. I often hated the place, all the responsibilities that came with it.

But I'm not just talking about the house. There were other things undone as well, in life, in love, undone, incomplete.

I often wanted to leave but I never actually saw myself leaving.

Now it's happened.

I wonder how many times this scene has replayed itself in this house before, similar thoughts from others who have been on the edge of leaving. I've seen this house indicated on a map from the 1880s so it's at least 130 years old. That's almost as old as Canada. How many families have passed through here since then?

There are echoes in here now with all the furniture gone. They are echoes of love, joy, sadness, happiness, anger, hope soaked into the bones of this old house, emanating back out. I leave that behind now.

I lay on the floor and stare up at the ceiling and I think: this once was mine.

May the new owners take care of these old ghosts.

1999 - 2012
These are the lives who have passed through here:

Davian, Gavin, April, Kelly, Jason, Lindsay, all their cats, Barclay, Stella, Rocky, Smitten, Simone, Elizabeth, myself.

32 Comments to “Leaving Home”

  1. monica says:

    wishing you all the best Fred as you embark on the next chapter of your journey.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Your style of writing is just amazing! I connect with it a lot.

  3. deva says:

    A very sad post. May all your dreams come true in your new place. Bless you.

  4. Anonymous says:

    A lovely post. The best to you with your next adventure.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thomas Wolfe....You can never go home again because home is constantly changing..... but there is a bright new future for you to enjoy with Smitten and Simone...who knows what wonderful adventures await around the next bend.

  6. Lynda says:

    I wish you the best of luck in your new home and with your new life, Fred If you ever need a break from the city, please come and see us out Kingston way. We'd love to have you and the dogs out here in the country! It's great for your soul.


  7. You need to write a book Fred......any subject, you decide, I'll buy it. Thanks for the insights on life, dogs, moving on, etc.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Saying goodbye to a place that's been home for so long is always bittersweet. I'm sorry about your marriage, Fred. BTDT too, and lost my home because of it. May you, Smitten and Simone find much joy in your new home and make enough happy memories to last a lifetime.

    You really are an amazing writer and photographer. Even when in pain, you find just the right words to say. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us, and with the dogs of TAS.

    Purple Magpie and Mitzi the Dog in California

  9. Steph Wilson says:

    You're a truly fantastic writer. You manage to create such an emotional response in me in every post. Excellent.

  10. Lori Hyde says:

    Fred! I didn't know this was you - what wonderful endearing writing and photos! I realized when i read Stella, Barclay and Rocky of course...Oh how nice!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this - so beautiful and sad and real and true.


  12. Anonymous says:

    Wow, what a beautiful post, brought tears to my eyes. You really are a very good writer.
    I always enjoy your doggie pics and love the little descriptions of them all., which have me me laugh and cry. You have found so many of them wonderful homes because of your blog.
    All the best to you,Smitten and Simone with your new home and may all your future memories be great ones.

  13. Anonymous says:

    This is has to be one of the saddest Blogs I have ever read. It says everything not only about leaving the house , but the huge change in your life - plus your creatures thank God they are a constant .
    A month from now when new dust bunnies run out from under your new bed - and you think "I must vacuum today" you will know that your new home is YOURS - Dogs will adjust quickly - they may have to mind their manners a little more but only you will be their focus and vice versa.

    Good Luck,
    God Speed
    Will be thinking of you
    Pat Barr.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Agree with all of the above. Beautiful post and thanks for sharing it with all of us. I've passed by my old neighbourhood where I had a childhood dog and I always imagine that I could see her orange self in the windows of my apartment. It makes me happy again to think of it. Best wishes for the future and don't stop writing!

  15. Fred says:

    Just to clarify, Simone is coming with me, Smitten with Elizabeth. The dogs are friends with each other but bonded to their humans and Smitten has always been Elizabeth's dog.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Yes, it is bittersweet, but look at it this way: once you get settled, you'll be able to open the place up to another dog! I know from experience that the difference between one and two is incremental. Someone smaller, lost or abandoned, who really needs you and Simone to save a bleak future.

    And then your new place will start to build those very special memories, too.

  17. chris butkovich says:

    What a poignant blog.. one of many of yours that I've had the good fortune to read. I love the picture you've painted with words of the ghosts of past loved ones greeting the new owners. How fortunate the next inhabitants will be to feel that love. Best of luck to you and Simone in your new place. Hope you still get a chance to see Smitten every now and then.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Fred. What a powerful post. On life love and home. So heartfelt. So real. Brought me to tears as I have felt this way too but don't have the grace with words you do. Hugs and all the best on the next adventures life brings you and Simone.

  19. NK says:

    Aching heart reading this, I hope that Simone and Smitten will still see one another from time to time..and that you all find peace and happiness soon, you are all so deserving.

  20. Maggi says:

    Pure poetry, Fred. Good luck in your new home, it will feel like it soon enough. I feel we always leave a bit of our own "energy" in a home that we have lived and loved in..so part of you will be part of the ghosts left behind. You will not be bereft because a new part will be at your new haunt.
    Change is hard, but change is good.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your honesty, openness and beautiful words.

  22. Lynn says:

    Thanks for sharing your life with us, Fred. I am both sad and happy for you. Thanks to your words over the years, I, too, will always remember Stella and Rocky in that house, so I guess all your readers will be ghosts there too. The place will be crowded! I wish all of you the best.

  23. Anonymous says:

    wishing you a new home that in time will be full of wonderful memories for you and Simone. As someone sitting here wondering what will happen to my home and life long collected "treasures" when I go your words touched me, I missed you in the last few weeks. Don't stay away too long the dogs at TAS and your readers need you!

  24. Kit Lang says:

    Wishing you luck and love in this next chapter.

  25. MKlwr says:

    Wishing you all the best in this new chapter (and to Simone, too!).

    It's always eerie walking through the empty halls of a home you spent a lot of your life in.

    But soon Simone will be doing her interpretative dance in your new kitchen. And who knows who else may join her?

  26. 001mum says:

    I missed something in the last few months. I knew you were asking about a rental place to live WITH a dog. Dummy me, didn't catch on re: the break-up of a marriage. (I missed something)
    I'm sorry. and so curious how do people actually take those first steps of leaving/breaking-up? & finding a new place & managing the finances & stepping out on their own? how do you leave? better to move on than stay and be miserable.
    A 4*legged friend during this time is invaluable. A fabulous walking companion.
    Each one of the pets that has been in your home has left behind whispers of hair,
    all scattered throughout impossible to clean corners. They remain forever.

    good luck Fred

  27. ziurande says:

    Thank you Fred. It will get better, maybe not now but soon. Simone is there with you, You are not alone.

  28. Vida says:

    Good luck Fred. I am sure that you and Simone will be fine no matter where you are as home is truly where the heart is. Our very best wishes are with you all.

  29. Antonia Z says:

    Like many others here, I too missed something. Marriage break-ups are always sad, even when they are necessary, or the feelings are mutual. You manage to convey all that beautifully.

    And yes, you really should do a book. Even one of your doggie characters and blogposts!

    On the upside, it is a good time to sell. :-)



  30. Spirits -- well, at least the loving ones-- are also bonded to their people. So Stella and Rocky and all the others will surely be following you to your new place. Hope it's not a one bedroom, because it might get a little crowded. Just goes to show all the hearts that inhabited this house.

    Best wishes to all of you.

  31. rika says:

    Hi Fred, it's been a while since my last comment. But as I'm just about to leave home myself, heading to a new country and a new life, I just wanted to thank you (again) for this raw and yet delicate post. You are a wonderful person and I wish you and Simone all the best.


  32. Fr ed says:

    rika, sounds like you're going to be on an adventure. Good luck on your journey.

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A request

The reason for this blog is to help get specific dogs adopted from TAS but equally important is to try to normalize the idea of shelter dogs being just as good and just as desirable as any other dogs including those which are regularly merchandised by backyard breeders, puppy millers and those few remaining pet store owners who still feel a need to sell live animals. The single greatest stigma shelter animals still face is the belief that shelter animals are substandard animals. Anyone who has had enough experience with shelter animals knows this is untrue but the general public hasn't had the same experiences you've had. They see a nice dog photo in a glossy magazine and too many of them would never think of associating that dog with a dog from a shelter. After all, no one abandons perfectly good dogs, right? Unfortunately, as we all know, perfectly good dogs are abandoned all the time.

The public still too often associates shelter dogs with images of beat up, sick, dirty, severely traumatized animals and while we definitely sometimes see victims such as these, they are certainly not the majority and, regardless, even the most abused animals can very often be saved and made whole again.

Pound Dogs sometimes discusses the sad histories some of the dogs have suffered. For the most part, though, it tries to present the dogs not as victims but as great potential family members. The goal is to raise the profiles of animals in adoption centers so that a potential pet owner sees them as the best choice, not just as the charity choice.

So, here's the favour I'm asking. Whenever you see a dog picture on these pages you think is decent enough, I'd like you to consider sharing it on Facebook or any other social media sites you're using (I know many of you do this already and thank you for that). And when you share it, please mention that the dog in the photo is a shelter dog like so many other shelter dogs waiting for a home. If we can get even five percent of the pet buying public to see shelter dogs differently, to see how beautiful they are and how wonderful they are, and to consider shelter dogs as their first choice for a new family member, we can end the suffering of homeless pets in this country.