A pet owner’s nightmare

They were such an unlikely pair, but pair they were. Playing together. Sleeping together. Eating together.

They were Hamilton, 70 lovable pounds of boxer mix, and Winston, maybe 8 pounds of Jack Russell terrier, a bundle of lovable, feisty, endless energy. Winston was boss. No one ate until Winston finished his meal, not even Jesse, the queenly black cocker spaniel.

Hamilton had arrived last fall as a stray at the hilltop home of Dr. John and Marcia Koren of Rogers, and they opened their home and hearts to him. Winston let him know immediately who was in charge. Hamilton was supposed to be “an outdoor dog” but that didn’t last long.

Rather then chance that the two dogs, who ran miles every day to the barn, to the lake, to the ridge, would be safe, the Korens had invisible fence installed around 3 acres and Hamilton and Winston faithfully wore their collars.

On the full moon night of Aug. 15, John and Marcia retired as usual. Hamilton and Winston were peacefully snoring together downstairs. About 2:30 a.m., the dogs began barking loudly, and because they would be contained within the fence, they were allowed to go out and investigate whatever was getting their attention.

(If you are one of us, like the Korens and myself and my inner circle of friends, and are blessed — cursed? — within an in-born affinity for our pets that will not be denied, you may not want to read further).

John and Marcia heard a great commotion, but not until they heard a terrible scream did they realize its portent. The silence after the scream was just as terrible.

(All summer the Korens and their Union Ridge neighbors had been hearing coyotes howl, and several in the area had been shot. Cats and kittens had gone missing, and there had been numerous sightings).

Even though the fence had ensured the dogs’ safety, it did not prevent a coyote from entering, grabbing little Winston despite Hamilton’s efforts to protect his friend — he bears defensive wounds — and ran out.

But because Winston was still wearing his collar, the coyote got an electrical jolt, causing him to drop his already lifeless prey. And Hamilton couldn’t follow because he too was wearing his collar and could not cross the invisible fence.

While John and Marcia did not see this happen, the scenario was easy to read, what with the trampled grass and the location of little Winston’s body. And Hamilton seemed to be almost in a daze. He kept looking for his friend and his tense body language spelled fear.

Even as traumatized John and Marcia were burying their beloved Winston, a coyote appeared on the nearby ridge. It was surely the killer, returning to hopefully retrieve his catch.

All the following day, Hamilton grieved. He searched. He looked everywhere he thought his friend might be hiding. He had seen his lifeless friend, he could not understand his absence.

For not just their own tortured emotions, but perhaps even more for Hamilton’s, John and Marcia on Aug. 18 brought home an 8-week-old Jack Russell, “Alfie,” who already has settled in and let Hamilton know he is boss.

Hamilton can’t quite figure out why his friend has come back so much smaller — his head is the size of Alfie’s whole body — but his world is once again complete.

John and Marcia still can’t shake the trauma they have been through, but watching Alfie climb up Hamilton’s sleeping self and slide down, and watching them being a pair, they know Winston’s spirit is very much with all of them.

* * *

Isn’t it hard to believe Canfield Fair is just about upon us? Where did the year go? Hope to see you there.

About the Author

A lifelong resident of the Mahoning Valley, Janie Jenkins retired in 1987 as a feature writer and columnist at the Youngstown Vindicator. In June of that same year, she started writing her column, "On My Mind" for Farm and Dairy. She loves all animals and is an accomplished equestrienne. Local history is also one of her loves, and her home, the former Southern Park Stables, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. More Stories by Janie Jenkins

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