Hazel the Hero

Hello, I’d like to introduce you to Hazel.

Hazel the Hero

Oh, no, wait. If you’ve read Blessing of the Lost Girls, you’ve already met Hazel. That little barky dog is the only entity in that whole Tucson RV park who instantly recognizes Charlie for the monster he is. The difficulty, of course, is that it takes everyone else a long time to figure out what she’s trying to tell them.

(By the way, I’ve studied that sentence for quite some time, worrying if the word entity should be referred to with the pronoun who or that Grammarians with more expertise than I will have to sort that one out, but I digress.)

People who read my blogs know that when I’m writing books and need to name a new character, I often go shopping through my memory bank. The name Lefty Lefthaut comes to mind, although right this minute I can’t remember in which Joanna Brady book he made his cameo appearance. So that was what I did when it came time to name that little pup in Blessing—I went shopping in my personal history book.

As far as blessings are concerned, one of the great ones in my life has been my almost lifelong friendship with Pat McAdams Hall. We met in fourth grade. She lived half a block from me if I cut through Mrs. Corbett’s yard. To follow the streets down Yuma Trail and then up Cole Avenue to Campbell, it would have been closer to a half mile walk.

There were two kids in the McAdams household, Pat and her brother Ted. There were seven kids in ours. Pat had a bedroom of her own. The Busk kids were stacked cheek by jowl in one. Unsurprisingly Pat and I did most of our playing at her house. Her mother, Thelma, like mine, was a stay-at-home mom. Her dad, Mac, worked for Phelps Dodge.

In Miss Stammer’s fifth grade class, Pat and I ate garlic pickles at home at lunchtime and spent each afternoon reeking of garlic. We also passed notes back and forth on a clothes hangar at the back of the room. If Miss Stammer saw us, she never let on. (By the way, this was back in the Fifties. Miss Stammer was definitely a MISS! Floyd Lucero was the troublemaking the kid she muscled out of her room by his shirt collar.)

In high school Pat and I were co-editors of the school newspaper, The Copper Chronicle. Our senior year we were both hauled on the carpet for passing a petition asking that Linda, a classmate who was married and expecting her second child. be allowed to graduate with the rest of us. Eventually my father was informed by the superintendent of schools that I had been selected to receive a scholarship to the University of Arizona. He was told that I would receive it, but only on the condition that Pat and I stop passing that petition. We stopped. I received the scholarship. Linda was not allowed to walk through graduation. She received her diploma in the mail. Decades later, at a book signing in Tucson, Linda’s brother came up to the table, introduced himself and said, “I’m Linda’s brother. Our whole family knew what you tried to do back then. Thank you.” Whoops, there you go, yet another digression.

But that’s some of the texture to Pat’s and my connection. We were both good students. She had boyfriends in high school. I didn’t. She went to NAU in Flagstaff. I went to the U of A in Tucson. I finished in four years. She took a slight detour, married, and had a baby, but she graduated a year or so later than I did. We both became teachers. Teaching didn’t last for me, but it did for her, and she loved teaching kindergarten.

For a number of years her husband’s job took her in and out of the country. Although we stayed in touch occasionally, we weren’t that close. We came back together in the nineties when I learned through Pat’s mother that her second marriage had come to a sudden, unexpected end. In actual fact, with her living in Florida and me in Washington State, sending emails was a lot less expensive than making long distance telephone calls. Those back-and-forth emails between us were some of the first ones I ever sent, and they firmly re-established our friendship.

As I said, Pat loved teaching kindergarten. When she retired in 2014, one of her students came from a family that bred and raised miniature poodles. The gifted Pat with one of their puppies as a retirement present. That puppy was the Hazel you see in the photo.

A number of years ago, Pat suffered a stroke and lay on the kitchen floor for the better part of twenty-four hours. She was in and out of consciousness at times before she managed to drag herself into the bedroom and pull the cord to her landline phone off the night stand. The whole time she was crawling, Hazel was there, licking her face and encouraging her. And when the EMTs showed up Hazel was on top of Pat and wouldn’t let them near her. A neighbor finally came and collected her. I’m sure poor Hazel was frantic at that time, and no doubt she was equally distressed during the time Pat was hospitalized and in a rehab facility, but she made an important contribution to Pat’s post-stroke recovery by spending hours each day snoozing in Pat’s lap.

During all this time, I never actually met Hazel in person, but when I needed to name that little miniature poodle in Blessing, that’s the name that came to mind. After reading the book, Pat let me know that I had Hazel down to the letter because she barked like crazy at strange men who happened to turn up in Pat’s and Hazel’s orbit. Just for the record, she always barked at Pat’s ex as well.

This past week, Hazel went into kidney failure. With a breaking heart, Pat did the right thing. So far I know of two people who have made donations to shelters in Hazel’s honor, and I’ll be doing the same.

The fictional Hazel tried to warn people that there was a monster hiding in their midst. The real one stood by her mistress when she was trapped on the floor by a massive stroke.

In my book, that makes both of those canine Hazels tiny heroes.

32 thoughts on “Hazel the Hero

  1. Your blogs are as wonderful as your books. I cannot wait to read your blogs every week, they have so much wonderful information in them. Thank you so much.
    Hazel was like a real person. Thank you for telling us about her life.

    • Okay, this one got to me. I adore dogs. None of mine have ever identified a serial killer. At least not as far as I know. Maybe I just didn’t understand them. But losing every one of them broke my heart. My sympathy to Pat.

  2. I just finished _Blessing of the Lost Girls_. What a wonderful novel! Thank you for shining a bright light on such a serious issue in our communities. I am also delighted that Jenny is obviously going to continue her mother’s important work, perhaps alongside her. Eagerly awaiting the next Joanna-Jenny adventure.

  3. Thank you for telling us about Hazel. She was really the heroine in Blessings. I’m sorry she is no longer with us, but that’s life. She won’t be forgotten.

  4. Thank you, Judy…beautiful blog and poignant memories.
    Blessings to you and Pat and for memorializing Hazel.

  5. What a beautiful and touching post! I love your weekly blogs almost as much as I love your books and often read them aloud to my husband and daughter. Now I am going to read Blessings again and pay more attention to Hazel.

  6. Oh, Judy, I want to weep at knowing Pat had to let Hazel go when that sweet little companion could no long function. I have been through that.
    Then I weep at the thought of your beautiful friendship with Pat. I had a very similar friendship all through grade school, high school, and many years after that with my best friend, Sharon. My circumstances were so much like yours. You have brought back a multitude of childhood memories. Thank you.

  7. Enjoyed meeting Hazel. I haven’t read Blessings. I insist on reading books in order and I haven’t gotten there yet, but I am reading as fast as I can. I’ve read all of Beau [to date] and am now in the middle of Brady. Next will be Ali, but I’ll eventually get there. Love your books and your blog. I even read all the comments.

  8. This made me cry. I had to put my cat, Kaycee to sleep last week. She would have been 17 this spring. She had the same condition, but it’s never easy. She was my rock after my husband died. I have no family and I don’t know how I would have survived without her. My heart goes out to Pat.

  9. Had to get out the tissue on this blog. I will have to go back and find Hazel again in Blessings.

    Great tribute to Hazel

  10. That story brought tears to my eyes. Such a special friendship you have with Pat. Stories like this make me get to know you more. You are a great story writer and I so appreciate your books. So sorry to hear of Hazels passing. We adore our animals as they are part of our family.

  11. My condolences to Pat. I have had to say goodbye to many canine friends and it is not easy.

  12. I really enjoy your blogs, it’s wonderful to read how many of your characters came to appear. I enjoy them almost as much as your books, which I really do enjoy greatly.
    Thank you for all your writings.

  13. My oldest friend, Valerie, lost her black miniature poodle, Brodie, age 14, several weeks ago, and is devastated- Shortly after that, I read an article in the Atlantic Magazine online, which described how loss of a beloved pet is just as painful as losing a human family member or close friend-
    I sent it to Val, who thanked me, probably because people often do not understand how our relationships with our “animal companions” are just as profoundly important as our relationships to our spouses and children-
    I am half-way through “Blessings…..” as I have been unable to read due to a neck-problem, but I look forward to getting to know, “Hazel the Hero-”
    What a blessing Pat has been in your life, Judy- I love that in High School you were
    “Co-Conspirators” in your fight for justice, and against sexism, for Linda’s right to
    graduate in the Public Ceremony- Unfortunately, the powers that be felt threatened by the pair of you and forced you to end your campaign- Yet that did not prevent Linda and her family from feeling the impact of your support and validation- I’m sure that has had a positive effect on her for all these years- In that way, you and Pat won a victory- When there is trauma of injustice, the way “Bystanders” react, by standing up for the victim, is extremely important- You and Pat showed Linda that she was not alone-
    Pleas let dear Pat know that I send my deepest condolences to her on the loss of her beloved Hazel, who was truly a hero in real life as in “Blessings….”

  14. I love these slice-of-life stories. I think they are equal to your fiction writing. Thanks for sharing them!

  15. Thank you so much for sharing this story about Hazel. I have been enjoying your books for many years.

  16. Hazel was the hero in the “Blessing of the Lost Girls”. She is such a cutie! I just love how you draw from your past to bring people and animals to life in your stories.

  17. Thank you for sharing this story. The dog in Blessings of the Lost Girls caught my attention immediately for two reasons. In my opinion, dogs are usually much better judges of character than humans. You know that saying “If my dog doesn’t like you I’m going to question you too.” It’s proven right to me several times. The second reason is we have always had a variety of dogs including many Boxers. Our last Boxer was named Hazel! She was a rescue abandoned in a Petco in Illinois. We lost her to kidney failure at the young age of 7. Hazel loved everyone and every dog or cat she ever met. I guess by the time we got Hazel we were better judges of character than in our younger years. 😉

  18. When I was a paramedic, I often met dogs that would let us get to close to their masters who were needing help. Once we picked up a blind lady. Her dog rode in the front seat of the ambulance to the hospital. The lady was admitted. The dog would stay in the room with the lady. We would take Walker out for walks and potty breaks during the day. Make sure he had food and water. We made more runs to the ladies house. Walker would meet us at the door and lead the way. He knew us all. When the lady passed. Walker was taken in by a lady who lived nearby. Us medics would drive by and visit. We loved Walker

  19. Mega-ditto to every above comment. Hazel IS the hero.
    Katie Darling, a Queensland/beagle mix, literally wandered into our yard one day looking for water and food. Her coat was so unkempt you couldn’t see the brilliant colors that marked her. She lived with us for the next 12 years. During which I had a stroke, and we came realized she was a seizure-alert dog. Once the stupid humans figured out that she KNEW when one was coming and we identified her signaling, I never had another seizure caught unaware again. Life with Katie was truly as vibrant as she was. She just wanted to be with me… every moment of every day. “What’s on tap for today?” I’d hear her ask each morning. When she passed, the silence in my head was as deep as the black hole in space.
    Thank you, Judy, for sharing your family and friends with us. Thank you for sharing YOU!!! These blogs are a treasure.

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