Friday, 11 p.m. Cecilia waits in the darkness for Chewy to collapse. Tranquilizers she buried in the hamburger he gulped down should have knocked him out hours ago.
Cecilia is our neighbor; Chewy, a beautiful stray. This is the story of how Chewy galvanized our neighborhood to rescue him.
Part border collie, part Saint Bernard, with a reddish brown mane and a white blaze down his freckled muzzle, Chewy is beautiful.
"Whose dog is he?" neighbors near Graceada Park asked themselves. Some saw him on Tully Road, or prancing down Ninth Street. Early one morning, Adam, a friend, found Chewy playfully jogging behind him. Denise, our neighbor, out walking her dog, Boss, would suddenly find Chewy playing with Boss.
During the day, Chewy roamed Modesto. Each evening he returned to the bridge over the canal near Enslen Park and sat near the telephone pole. No one knew why.
When you crossed the bridge, Chewy would come up inquisitively as if he knew you. Friendly but shy, never aggressive, never barking, always extremely gentle, he sniffed you and seemingly wanted to befriend you. But when you reached out to pet him, he pulled away. It was as if he were looking for someone.
Chewy became that beloved dog by the bridge. People left food for him. In the cold weather, people left blankets. When the rains came, someone left a large plastic dog house. Everybody worried about Chewy. Many tried to catch him.
Neighbors talked about how to help Chewy. My wife left food each night. That's how we met Gary and Cecilia. Cecilia left food each morning. Gary, who lived nearby, simply fell in love with Chewy.
One cold January night, Gary told us that toughs had been throwing rocks at Chewy. Outrage galvanized Cecilia and my wife to a rescue plan: Tranquilize him, neuter him and we'd adopt him.
On the night Cecilia put the plan into action, it rained. She fed Chewy hamburger laced with tranquilizers. Back in her car, she waited for the tranquilizer to take effect. A rainy hour passed. Two. Finally she went home to sleep. All night she worried about Chewy.
About 5 a.m., she checked on Chewy. He was asleep under Gary's car, out of the rain. Cecilia pulled Chewy from under Gary's car and tried to push him down the driveway to her car. But Chewy weighed too much. Luckily, a paper boy helped her lift Chewy into her car.
When Chewy woke, he woke to a new life.
Five years later, Chewy has adapted well. When my wife walks Chewy even now, people curb their cars to say hello. More than 100 people have stopped my wife to tell her their Chewy story. The other day a man ran out of his house, elated to see Chewy and learn of his rescue. "This," he said, "this is my perfect birthday gift. On behalf of the neighborhood, thank you for saving Chewy."
My wife, Denise, Gary and Cecilia rescued Chewy. But a whole group of neighbors and the neighborhood's goodwill saved Chewy. They did this because this kind, gentle, shy and extraordinary dog touched their hearts.
Klein and his wife, Lauren, are Modesto residents.