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A Neighborhood Mourns the Death of a Dogster

A while back, I wrote about my neighbor and her struggle with the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. I was so pleased when Betty told...

Julia Szabo  |  May 9th 2011


A while back, I wrote about my neighbor and her struggle with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

I was so pleased when Betty told me she’d been eating coconut oil and enjoying it – I prayed that it would help keep her brain healthy.

Still, ever since Betty confided in me about her Alzheimer’s, I’ve worried a lot about her and her dogs, a pair of Shih Tzus named Marshy and Happy.

I don’t need to worry about Betty any longer. On Friday afternoon,she was found dead in her apartment. The cause of death was respiratory failure.

Betty lived alone. She’dhad pulmonary problems, so this was not the first time an ambulance stopped outside her apartment building to take her to the hospital. Betty was a very popular person on the block; friends gladly stepped up to care for her dogs during her hospitalization.

Apparently, she was scheduled for a doctor’s appointment on Friday,but she never made it. Her physician was concerned. Calls were made and the police came to investigate.

Yesterday, two days after her body was removed, manyresidents of my blockwere still shaking their heads in disbelief. Betty was a powerful personality, always shouting out a friendly “Good Morning” from her stoop, and stopping for a warm chat. She offered me a great deal of encouragement two years ago, in the months following my final split from my ex-husband; I’ll never forget her kindness and her infectious laughter.

She brightened theday for so many people that it’s hard to believe we won’t enjoy the sunshine of her presence any more.

Bettywas also a major dog lover. Her previousK9 companionhad been a gorgeous Doberman she’d rescued and named Polo. WhenPolo passed away, it tookBetty a while to open her heart to another dog. But when she did, she went all the way and adopted not one, but two – the aforementioned rescued Shih Tzus.

Yesterday morning, the beginnings of a shrine appeared on the front stoop of Betty’s building. By last night, there were several bunches of flowers, plus a couple of candles and photographs. If you look closely, you canjust make out the two dogs sitting at the top of their stoop in the photo to the left of the red candle.

“What a terrible way to go, all alone,” I overheard oneneighbor say. “I’m really depressed about this,” another told me. But I disagree: From the information I’ve been able to gather, Betty was discovered resting peacefully. I can think of no nicer way to go than in one’s sleep, at home,in the company ofone’s beloved dogs. That’s not depressing; it’s a blessing.

One ofBetty’s neighbors happens to work for a prestigious animal welfare organization here in New York City; I saw her holding one of the dogs on Friday, as theEMTs were gearing up to take Betty away. Other neighbors assured me that both of Betty’s dogs would be well taken care of.

Needless to say, I’ll be following up on this.