A Tribute to Truman Garfunkel
12/28/94 - 05/16/09
By Seth Garfunkel
with contributions from Aura, Anelisa and Dylan
Truman was born on my birthday, December 28th, which made me feel special, like he was closest to me. Of course we all thought Tru (as we liked to call him) was closest to each one of us. Although he and I got along great, I've lived on the other side of the country for most of his life and am only joking when I say he was closest to me cause even though I loved him and I know the feeling was mutual, the bro, the sis and the mom were with him a lot more. Dylan, who lives his life as much as possible, outdoors in the Pacific northwest, spent some significant quality time with Truman when he took over his care while mom was in Micronesia (and they also kind of look alike). They shared a passion for hiking and kayaking and that brought them together. But, as much fun as it was for Tru, it wasn’t always fun and games.
Dylan lived right on Puget Sound in what everyone called the Beach House. Rumor has it that once, Alex Rodriguez visited for a couple of days in the middle of the Pacific northwest winter and nearly froze to death at night. He told my mother it had been, just g-r-e-a-t, like camping out. Anyway, back to Truman, there was the time he was romping on the beach while Dylan was at work and he decided to go exploring. He went too far and got trapped by the zig-zaggy tides of that area. By the time he was done exploring, there was no beach to walk back on so he never made it home. My brother went crazy putting up signs in the neighborhood hoping someone had seen him. He wondered how he’d deliver the news to mom that Truman had vanished. Just when all seemed bleakest, a little boy came up to him and said, “Mister, are you looking for a big black dog? One slept in our yard last night.” Truman and Dylan were happily reunited.
Then there was the time when Dylan took him to a celebration on the Nez Perce reservation in Washington. Dogs were not allowed into where the sacred ceremony was to take place so free-spirit Truman with his preppy Izody collar was put in a yard with some fierce looking res dogs. Somehow, during the sacred ritual, while some Nez Perce was dancing and chanting, Truman busted in charging playfully at him. (He always did like to dance.) Dylan was mortified but everyone else clapped for Truman-Dancing-Bull. Perhaps someone whose idea of fun wasn’t living in a Beach House without central heating, would have left his dog inside when he was working – not my brother. One day he came home to find Truman had bit into a poisonous jellyfish. He was sick as a dog. (yeah, I know.) When mom returned from Micronesia, she flew directly to Olympia; bought a brand new Subaru outback station wagon, and embarked on a 3 week cross-country Travels-With-Truman, back to Winthrop to resume their lives together. But even though Dylan and Truman were close and definitely shared adventures, the sis was even closer.
Aneli used to take Truman up to Rockport College where she teaches film and keep him through the summer. This would give him a little vacation. One summer, she lived in a cabin on a lake (what is it with my family always needing to be smack on the water - like salamanders or something?). Truman was in heaven; a great swimmer, he would just trot down to the lake whenever he felt like going in for a dip. You could say that Truman was the Michael Phelps of black labs. Not only did he get to swim his summer away but he also appeared in many of her students’ films. You could also say that he’s the George Clooney of black labs. How she got him to stay or walk or sit or bark for all those takes is beyond me.
Another time up in Rockport, Aneli and a bunch of her film friends took Truman to a local bar where he happily accepted treats from bar patrons and enjoyed making the acquaintance of another dog there. Without letting Anelisa know, he decided to follow this canine cutie out of the bar when she left. Before Aneli realized it, he was gone, MIA. She and her friends went nuts looking for him. After a while of frenzied search, desperate now, she spotted a Rockland police cruiser and decided to go beg for help. Well, who do you think was sitting in the back of the cruiser but Mr. T himself. It seems that once Truman realized he was lost, he saw the police station (there were lights and a sign that said police station) so he walked right in undoubtedly to report himself lost. The cops decided to help him out, find his owner, which they succeeded in doing.
Before he got so disabled that he couldn’t go up the stairs, he would go up every night to the third floor and sleep on Aneli’s bed. She would almost not be able to sleep unless he accompanied her. My sister would walk him all over Winthrop, over to Belle Isle Marsh, around Deer Island, rarely on a leash. Everyone knew him – people we didn’t even know would stop and say, “Hi Truman”.
The mom would have to come next on the totem pole in terms of our great love for Tru or Trumancito or Trubador or Trubinski or Trubaduba as I’ve heard her call him. The funny thing is that she would often call us Truman and then correct herself, (hoping we didn’t notice) remembering our names were not Truman – that’s how bad it was. When she wasn’t making up weird names for him she’d call him zen dog. That’s cause he had the personality of a Buddha. He was never possessive of his balls or toys or bones. Did I say bones? More likely it would have been broccoli or cauliflower. He loved veggies and fruit. Of course, some would say he had no other choice. My mom’s house is a meatless one. If another dog came up to him and wanted his ball, he’d let him have it and walk away to sniff the roses. He was very polite, (not that he wouldn’t hold his own if the dog was a bully but those times were few and far between.) He loved to play and romp but he also seemed always at peace.
He had some loves in his life: Blanche was probably number one. And he had some buds as well: Rudi, Nina, Muggsy, Shea, Neo, his Winthrop buddies, and Faith, way up in Franconia, NH. Then there was Jackson and Butchy up in Rockport and his cousins, Kado and Suka and Beau who he saw on the holidays. He even had a feline friend, Niko. Niko and he were like ships passing in the night but every now and then they would actually do nose bumps. He also had lots of big people-friends like Carla and Jimmy who enthusiastically took care of him whenever my mother and sister took trips together. And Adrien, who lived with him for a time, and Mary, who drove dad and Truman to BU a couple of times a week. Then there was Eric, who helped so much with him when Truman was beginning to seriously fail and my uncle Ray and aunt Virginia who, Truman knew, cared so much about him, especially towards the end. At Christmas, my cousins Pam and Lauren would make sure he had toys under the tree while my uncle Chuck would always be sneaking treats to him and my aunt Joan would take him for walks on her cigarette breaks. He had another host of people-friends in Olympia like Mark and Angie and Tara and also friends in Rockport like Patrick, Aranchia, Daniel, Brooke and Andrea. I can’t believe how many people he got to room with! Last but definitely not least, he had some very special little people-friends, Marsden and Elliott, who would come over during the summer and go boating with him or throw balls out for Truman to fetch. But mostly, he just liked to wander off by himself.
The mom, the matriarch of the clan, was the pillar in Truman's life. She might not have run or swam as much with our lab, but she sure took care of him. During the summers she’d take him on kayak trips, that is, she, in the kayak and he, swimming behind her. She would also take him down to visit my aunt Virginia in New York. She and Aneli even took him to Cape Breton Island a couple of summers ago. Mom took care of Tru more than anyone in his last days and years, and along with the sis, is who I really feel for.
But still, there is one person even closer than the mom - and that would be Dad. They were like two peas in a pod. Truman was an assist dog for my father who was in a wheel chair and needed a companion to help him and to just hang out with. Tru was always at his side obeying his commands, fetching fallen objects, assisting him with unquestioned dedication and devotion. The two became fast friends and best buds. Both were scholars: Truman went to school (NEADS) to become an assist dog. We even have his class graduation picture at Holy Cross. Mom is convinced he was the valedictorian in the group. He also attended Boston University where my dad taught. He was always there in class with him. He would tag along whenever dad went out to observe doctoral students teaching in the classroom. And, at Rockport, he likewise got to be in class when Anelisa was teaching. So how could he not be a scholar? Both also shared a love for reckless abandonment and good eats. They would go to movies and take airplane rides together. Being an assist dog Tru could go anywhere Dad went and they definitely took advantage of that.
One trip was out to Olympia; Truman, right up there in coach where little kids could come and pet him and adults would marvel at how well behaved he was. Tru and dad would often be seen cruising around Winthrop together, both holding their heads up proud to be with one another. When dad passed, Tru was very sad. He’d lost his best friend. It was and still is rough for the fam with the dad gone but Truman had alleviated that a little. Why? I feel like dad lived on in the soul of Truman. Truman took over as the man of the house when dad left this part of his journey for the next step in the evolution of his soul. Someone needed to be around the family house and who better then the Tru man. I always felt like he carried some of dad in him. It’s ironic that like dad, in the end, Truman’s legs gave way. My mom tried out some fancy support wheels on him but like dad, he was too stubborn to use them. Even a harness that could have helped make it easier was shunned causing him to go limp, like an anti-war protester, whenever she put it on him.
Bottom line is we all loved Tru and will feel a painful void for a very long time but at the same time I have to smile or even laugh when I think of him running as fast as he could in circles to impress anyone watching, or barking back at the dogs on the screen at the Omni theater and everyone in the audience cracking up, or running to get a toy so that you would chase him as soon as you came home, or barking for attention when dad tipped his wheel chair over in the park and the fire trucks had to come rescue him, or swimming out after two or three tennis balls and trying to put them all in his mouth at the same time before coming back to shore. All of us are very proud of the life he lived and the way he lived it: friendly, respectful, adventurous, warm, cuddly and loving. Rest in Peace Trumanski, you'll be missed but never forgotten...