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Tails from the Past: When Friskey Landed in a Ravine

Your first dog leaves a mark on your heart forever. Tails from the Past is a new feature from Where The Love is Animal Shelter offering followers an opportunity to recount how their first dog impacted their lives. Please send us your personal essay for consideration for publication in our blog, The Sniff, which is posted on our Facebook page and website.

This week's heroic rescue of Rippy, a terrier mix, from a North Canaan, CT quarry made national news. The event prompted a Waterbury family to recount a long-ago trip to Gillette Castle with their dog, Friskey.

By Bobbi Cremins.

I grew up I in the era of cheap gas, when family entertainment took the form of Sunday afternoon drives. My parents would load their seven kids into the ’63 Chevy station wagon and drive around, sometimes having a special place in mind, other days just getting lost on the country roads of Connecticut.

On this particular day, we had a special destination. We were going to a castle! Baby Chris was hooked in front between my parents. My sisters, Susie, Mimi, Liz, and I were cozy on the bench seat, and my brothers, Richy and Michael, climbed into the back-back, along with our pet dog, Friskey. Our 25-pound, mongrel beagle was a best friend and playmate to us kids, and was always included. My Mom treated her as the eighth child, but really she was like a babysitter, who helped to keep us kids together.

  As Dad drove along, we sang “On Top of Spaghetti” and “There’s a Hole in the Bucket” at the top of our lungs! When “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” was feeling monotonous, my mother quieted the chorus and told us a little about this rich actor, William Gillette, who had built himself a huge stone castle overlooking the Connecticut River.  She described the magnificent autumn view we would see, and the picnic we would have on the lovely park grounds.  We were so excited!

“Are we there yet??” Michael whined.

  Finally, my Dad pulled into a gravel lot and parked the car. WOW WHEE!! There stood a fairytale-like, gray stone castle, impressive at the top of the hill. “OK! You can unlock the doors! Everybody out!” called Dad. 

“WOW! This place is so BOSS!” my sister said. “Last one there is a rotten egg!” 

We saw the wide stone stairs looming before us and we charged up them!

 “SLOW DOWN! Be careful or someone will get hurt!” my Mom yelled after us.

Of course, we raced as fast as we could, to see who could get to the top first, not wanting to be the rotten egg. Friskey ran along side us, barking and nipping at our heels.  We stopped at the top of the steps, and then ran to the huge stonewall that surrounded the patio, to take in the view of the golden-leafed mountain and the winding river below. 

Friskey followed along and leaped onto the gray stone wall. Her pointed nails slipped on the cement, and………. OH NO!  She toppled over!!

  AHHHH! FRISKEY!!! We could hear branches cracking as our beloved pet plummeted into the ravine below.  Listening to her loud yelps and shrill whimpering made us all cry louder!  My parents were frantic trying to sooth us, while restraining Richy from trying to climb over the wall.  Our whole family was sobbing, and other visitors noticed our distress.

  Soon, there was just a horrible silence. It was over. Our dear dog was gone. Dad walked away, intent on climbing down the mountain to retrieve a body. But then…and then…wait a minute… we just couldn’t believe our ears, we heard barking!  Then a frantic howl! 

“FRISKEY!!!!!” We hung over the wall screaming her name. “SHE’S ALIVE!! Come on, girl!  We’re up here! Come on girl!” We screamed her name as we circled the wall, hoping our voices would guide her. IT WAS A MIRACLE!!!  She had a bloodied nose and her frightened eyes were glassy and shining.  But there she was, bounding up the steps into our waiting arms. Her slobbering kisses never felt so good!

  Our little tricolored mutt lived to be 19 years old, and continued to accompany our family everywhere. She protected us, comforted us, and was a constant companion and helper to my Mom. You might think Rin Tin Tin was brave, or that Lassie was courageous, but let me tell you, on that crazy afternoon, Susie, Mimi, Richy, Michael, Liz, Chris and I learned that our pet had the powers of a superhero!

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