Herbert Mendix was known as a perfectionist. In fact Herbert’s insistence on doing things in a particular way drove people crazy. He was one of those people who always knew better. In the office when someone did something by the book, those actions were called a ‘’Mendix.’’
As a credit collection officer for Revenue Canada, Herbert commanded respect or he had a bag of tricks at his disposal to demand it. He had moved up in the bureaucracy from starting as a low lever gopher type, to being named the head of his division.
After twenty glorious years as a Government employee, Herbert spent much of the day dreaming about retirement. He only had ten more to go, and he would retire with a healthy pension and many years left to travel. Herbert had always dreamed about buying an old villa in Florence, Italy. He had the plans for a place called ‘’Villa Il Forcado’’ in frames around his dining room and would look at them every night and dream the dream. Villa Il Forcado had been built in 1776 and Herbert was determined to rebuild it back to the way it was, stately and impressive. It would be an homage to the way he saw himself.
Besides the rebuild, Herbert would paint, grow grapes, and ride his bicycle to the fresh fruit and vegetable market in town. He would come home and make gourmet foods and in the evening he would bake pizza in his stone oven that sat in his back courtyard. He would bottle the wine when the grapes were ready and would press his own virgin olive oil. All day long Toscanini and Pavrotti would be playing in the background. It was his vision of heaven.
All these plans made sense and looked doable until Covid-19 showed up on the scene. Damn Corona Virus. He had been put on furlough at the tax office and was in home isolation in the Glebe. One of his Senior Administrators had talked about giving him and two other co-workers early retirement packages. This did not sit well with Herbert as he still felt young, and enjoyed his job.The way the Covid-19 plague was ravaging Italy, he didn’t know if he would be able to ever visit again, let alone buy a villa.
The Glebe was a lovely neighbourhood in Ottawa, featuring old houses that were magnificent. Herbert had bought his when he started working, and was thrilled when he made his last mortgage payment the month before. The house was his and Horton's free and clear.
Horton was his best friend, they had been together for thirteen wonderful years, and Herbert had enjoyed every second.
Finding Horton was one of the happiest days of Herbert’s life. It had all been accidental. He had been dating Lillian Vashti and she had decided she needed a twenty four hour companion and Herbert wouldn’t commit.
On a bright Sunday morning they went to Lois Tremblay’s Dog Rescue and Lillian adopted a one year old poodle. The owners had been elderly and couldn’t look after ‘Ginger’’ so Lillian had filled out the paper work and got herself a new friend.
As they were leaving Herbert noticed a puppy and he immediately knew he had to have him. He was a Beagle and looked at Herbert with big eyes and Herbert knew they were connected.
After discussing the puppy with Lois, it was determined that Herbert would be a great fit. The puppy had been put in a basket and had been dropped off at a Tim Horton’s restaurant. There was a note that read ‘’My girl just had six other puppies and this guy was the runt of the litter. I didn’t know where to take him, so I hope somebody there will figure it out. You make great donuts, so you should know what to do.’’ It was completely sequitur non-sequitur.
Lois had a friend whose son worked at that location and as soon as he saw the note he called Lois and that’s how Horton ended up at her rescue shelter. His name was ab obvious choice, who would call their dog Tim?
That was five years ago, and Herbert had actually looked in to seeing how Horton could come with to Italy. At the moment it didn’t seem like he had to worry about it, the death toll in Italy from the Corona Virus was horrible, and it seemed the number of people who were infected with Covid-19 in Ottawa was spiking up. That meant a strict home isolation policy for Herbert and Horton.
He spoke with his brother Arnold every morning, and he spent time with Lillian and Ginger in the afternoon via facetime, but it was basically him and Horton twenty four hours a day.
Every afternoon at two, Herbert took Horton for a walk around the block, making sure to practice safe distance when he saw other people. He wasn’t interested in any contact with anyone.
On Thursday, April 2nd at ten ten in the morning, Herbert opened the door to get his mail, when Horton did something that he never did in the past, he ran outside by himself. He sprinted so fast that Herbert was aghast.
It took approximately four minutes for Herbert to grab Horton’s leash, put on his shoes and get his coat. He ran faster than he had run in years looking for his dog.
Herbert yelled Horton’s name at the top of his lungs, and they only thing that happened was an echo.Herbert was in full panic mode when he turned on to Brighton Avenue and there he saw Horton. He called his name and Horton stopped and looked at him and after some coaxing and promises of a plethora of treats, he ran over. Herbert never felt so happy or relieved.
As he was clipping Horton’s leash onto his collar, a Pitbull came running at them from nowhere. He was a sizeable dog and he looked determined. Herbert’s first thoughts were that the dog wanted to eat Horton as an appetizer and Herbert for the main course.
Horton stood looking and barking at the oncoming dog, like he was ready to rumble. It was the last thing Herbert wanted. There was only one choice. He scooped Horton up and started walking away. Horton was no lightweight and Herbert was not in great shape but he knew if he left Horton on the ground the Pitbull would have an easy target.
Horton was barking more veraciously in between the occasional growl. He didn’t listen when Herbert asked him to slow his roll.
The Pitbull was getting closer and closer and Horton was moving around in Herbert’s arms. Things were tough when a car pulled up beside him. The passenger side window came down and a woman asked him if he wanted to get in as she didn’t know the Pitbull and could see he was heading for them very quickly.
It was decision time for Herbert. If he got in the car he would be breaking the safe distance rule, but they would be guaranteed to be safe. The question was what would the long term effects be.
In a snap decision he said ‘’Thank You for the offer, I’ve been in home isolation and I don’t want to pick up the virus.’’ The woman looked at him as the Pitbull was getting closer. ‘’I don’t have the virus, you can get in.’’ Herbert once more shook his head. ‘’Thanks for the offer, but how do you know you’re not asymptomatic?’’ The woman gave him an astonished look, closed the window and drove away
Herbert resumed walking, Horton kept moving around in his arms and the Pitbull was now four feet away and closing. Herbert stopped and looked at the Pitbull and the dog sized him up. At the top of his lungs Herbert yelled ‘Look You, I’m not having it. I lost my job, I lost Italy, I have no desire to lose Horton, so GO HOME NOW!!’’
Much to his complete and total amazement the dog stopped in his tracks. Herbert turned around and started walking away again with a very anxious and now quite heavy Horton still in his arms. Herbert didn’t look back for a block but when he did the Pitbull was gone. It was one of the Best miracles he had experienced in a very long time.
He gently put Horton down, and his dog’s first response was to make a crap. He had obviously had the shit scared out of him. They walked together back towards the house and a different feeling came over Herbert.
Herbert no longer felt bad about a possible status change regarding his job. He would look for new opportunities. If he never got to buy his Villa in Italy, that would be okay. He liked his house and maybe he would just do some remodeling, adding some Villa like touches, including putting in an outdoor stone bake oven.
It was weird how epiphany's happen. Being home wasn’t really the worst thing that could happen to Herbert. He had Horton. They were safe and life as different as it had become was still pretty damn good.
As they headed to their front door and Herbert was unlocking it, he looked at Horton and felt a sense of relief. It had been a very scary situation that had resolved itself very nicely. It was also a huge reminder to Herbert Mendix about what was important for life. As they entered the house he looked back at the road, and sitting there, staring at him was the Pitbull. Herbert and Horton would be staying in Home Isolation longer than anticipated.