The Story of Sydney, The Dog Who Never Found A Home:
A Christmas Tale from our founder.
The first time I saw Sydney, it was on a snowy Christmas Eve before midnight, as he walked the streets of Coney Island searching for morsels of food in the garbage pails in from of Nathan's Famous Restaurant. As I remember, it was 15 degrees that night as I followed him for hours through the desolate streets and windswept alleys of this God-forsaken neighborhood. As people were beginning to celebrate Christmas, there was no celebrating for Sydney. As cars blew their horns at him and people chased him away, I couldn't help but notice that he was freezing as he kept walking with all of his ribs showing–scared, tired, with his tail between his legs and his head down to keep the snow from blowing into his eyes. As I looked at his weary face and into his hopeless eyes, I got the sad feeling he knew that he was alone in this cruel world and that no one cared.
Sydney just kept on walking through the ice and snow, trying to avoid cars and people and crossing the street whenever someone came too close, until he landed inside an outdoor school bus parking lot. He then crawled under a bus to avoid the snow, curled himself into a ball and tried to put himself to sleep. As I soon discovered, this was the place that Sydney was forced to call him home.
I went back to this lot every night to find Sydney and threw bags of food over an eight foot barbed wire fence. I watched him tear open the bags with his teeth and consume the entire portion in just three or four mouthfuls. I soon learned that the school bus company allowed him to crawl under the fence to sleep under the buses, but they never fed him. He served their purpose as they posted a sign which read "guard dog on duty." Although I was threatened by the people at the bus company not to come back to feed him, I did go back there every night with bags of food, and when the time was right, I took Sydney away from that suffering life forever.
I brought Sydney back to my home in Seagate to live with me and my other animals, which I rescued from similar situations, and began the process of his total physical and mental rehabilitation. Since I don't believe Sydney was ever treated kindly by humans, I knew that would require lots of time, so I began taking him with me everywhere I went, riding shotgun in my truck and introducing him to a world he never knew existed. We even went to restaurants, like L & B Spumoni Gardens in Brooklyn, where Chef Extraordinaire Leonardo would be only too eager to offer Sydney his favorite VIP dishes of meatball parmesan and chicken marsala, and always on the house. You could say that we drank, dined, and slept together. Finally one day, not only did he begin to trust me, but also to love me, and I him.
Though Mighty Mutts tried for years to find Sydney a forever home, which we felt he could adapt to and be happy with, Sydney could never completely trust anyone else and made it very clear that he never wanted to leave my side. I always felt guilty about that because with all of my other animals to care for, I felt I could never give Sydney the kind of a home I wanted for him and that he truly deserved. Nevertheless, Sydney never complained or looked the least bit unhappy, and never stopped wagging his tail whenever he saw me coming. Each night when I came home, he was the first to greet me with his tongue hanging out to the side, wanting me to get on my knees in front of him so that he could look straight into my eyes and mash my entire face with his wonderful kisses.
Sydney got along great with his friends, Rusty, Gretel, Spirit, Clint, and all of the others, and even though he knew he had to share my time with all of his other pals, he knew in his heart without a doubt that I belonged to him.
It's been many years since I sold my house in Brooklyn and moved far away to another state, but on a cold Christmas Eve in 2007, when Sydney was about 10 years old, we took a drive to Coney Island and passed by that miserable bus garage he once called home. We parked the truck and walked across the street to Nathan's, the place where he used to scrounge for fallen scraps of food from the customers to survive. However, this time was different. I could see him looking up at the counter with anticipation, so I ordered two very large Nathan's Famous ranks with buns, no sauerkraut or mustard, and both of them for him. After he devoured both of them in seconds, we took a walk through those same streets he suffered on many years ago. It was easy to see he knew exactly where he was, but again, this time it was very different. This time Sydney walked proudly, taking in all of the sounds, sights and smells of the Coney Island Boardwalk. He walked through the streets with his tail wagging, 35 pounds heavier, his head held high with confidence, without fear or desperation in his eyes, and as secure and loved as he could ever have imagined. As we stopped at a corner waiting to cross the street, Sydney paused and looked up at me as if he wanted to say, "thanks Dad, thank you for caring and for giving me your love." As I looked back at his angelic face, I believe that he knew then, that yes, finally someone did give a damn about him, a great big damn. At that moment, I can remember thinking to myself that this night would probably be the happiest night in both of our lives together.
The first Wednesday of June 2013, after a brief battle with kidney disease and at the young age of 16, was the day that Sydney and I saw each other for the last time. Although it was a bright sunny afternoon with lots of white clouds and soft music playing, that day seemed no different to me than the cold winter night when we first met. There was no sunshine for me, just grief, pain and sorrow, because Sydney would no longer be with me and my heart was broken. After many wonderful Christmas Eves together of watching him open his Christmas stocking, Sydney left this world being held in my arms with only love in his eyes, looking straight into mine, as he always loved to do. As I tried in vain to hold my tears back from rolling down my face, I whispered just loud enough into his ear so that I was sure he could hear my voice, and said to him, "Sydney, you are more than a best friend to me, you are the son I never had, loyal and loving 'til the end, and I pray that someday we will both be together again." I know that he heard me and just before he closed his eyes for the very last time, I could see in his face that he was at peace and satisfied with the way things turned out, and ready to move onto his next journey.
At that moment, just before he said goodbye, he licked my face and I believe if he could speak, he would have said to me, "Dad, don't be sad. Though the years passed by all too quickly, and I never wanted to ever leave you, I am not afraid to embark on my next journey. I know I'll be without you for the first time in many years, and though I'll be all alone, don't worry because this time I won't be scared. I'll be excited to see where this road decides to take me and wherever I end up, I know I'll be okay. Because someday as I sit and wait patiently, I know in my heart that you'll be coming down that road to find me again. I had a wonderful life and though I know you tried for years to find me a home you thought I wanted, I have not one regret. You see, Dad, there is only one home in this world that I ever wanted, and that is the one you had already given me, my home with you."
In my heart, I would really like to believe that all this is true, and even if it is, since I'm not as unselfish as Sydney, I admit that I still have one big regret. My only regret is that I can't turn the clock back to that snowy Christmas Eve many years ago in Coney Island when we both first met, so that my beloved Sydney and I could spend all those Christmases together all over again.
Until we meet again, Sydney, have a very Merry Christmas.
As long as I live, I will never stop loving Sydney. In loving memory.
Discovered December 24, 1999, passed into Heaven June 5, 2013