Column: The extraordinary life of Lordy the village dog

09/20/2013 8:00 AM |
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Lordy, a true Greenport celebrity, died last week at the age of 6.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Lordy, a true Greenport celebrity, died last week at the age of 6.

If you’ve been to Greenport Village in the past few years, you’ve probably seen the huge Irish wolfhound walking the street or lying in the freshly cut grass at Mitchell Park, surrounded by children petting his fur.

And if you spent time at a hospital you may have noticed him in one of the rooms there, comforting those getting treatment.

Maybe you were one of the hundreds of admirers who took a moment to snap a photo with the amiable dog, who could pose on command. For those longtime residents, visiting families, business owners and total strangers, the shaggy gentle giant of Greenport was an unforgettable part of the village.

Lordy — the dog who spent hours with children during storytime at the local library and who was once invited to a birthday party at the Blue Canoe Oyster Bar and Grill, where a trio of waiters dutifully served him water on platters — died last week at the age of 6, old for his breed.

In those six years, Lordy brought more joy to those around him than some humans manage to accomplish in a lifetime.

Lord Kilbracken of Killegar (named after the late Irish author and journalist John Godley) was one of 13 Irish wolfhound puppies born in Boston, Mass., on July 23, 2007.

About 100 miles south, his future owners Ingrid and Michael Edelson of Greenport had decided they wanted one of the breed to train as a therapy dog.

The couple had previously worked training puppies to be seeing-eye dogs, and — somehow — Mr. Edelson convinced his wife to adopt an Irish wolfhound, having lived with big dogs himself before.

The Edelsons planned to adopt a shelter dog, but when no wolfhounds were available from the rescue group, they went to Lordy’s breeder. The couple adopted Lordy in October 2007 and began raising him as a therapy dog.

Lordy’s calm demeanor, soft coat and gentle brown eyes meant he was perfectly suited for the task.

“He was a throwback to what Irish wolfhounds are supposed to look like,” Mr. Edelson said as he and his wife sat in the living room of their Bay Avenue home this week, where a black-and-white photo of a smiling Lordy hangs on a wall near the kitchen.

The dog began working with children at Floyd Memorial Library’s storytime program at age 2. The next year, he started comforting patients and the elderly at Eastern Long Island Hospital, Peconic Landing and Peconic Bay Medical Center as a certified hospital therapy dog.

He was just tall enough so that patients confined to wheelchairs could rest their hands on his head, the Edelsons said.

But clocking in at 38 inches tall at the shoulder, the gray-haired Lordy was a sight to see in his prime and routinely stopped traffic in Greenport Village when out on walks.

“People would roll down the window and yell ‘What kind of dog is that?’ ” Ms. Edelson recalled. “You can’t walk down any street, anywhere in the world, with an Irish wolfhound and not be stopped.”

Lordy soon became a fixture in the village, joining the ranks of the carousel in Mitchell Park and Claudio’s Restaurant. Each time the Edelsons went out for a walk with Lordy, residents and tourists alike would stop them for a picture with the giant of a dog.

Walks that started off being only a few minutes long stretched into hours.

“[Michael] would call me and say ‘Can you come back to the house and cook dinner? It’s 7:30!’ ” Ms. Edelson said.

Lordy became so popular that he had a standing invitation to walk into the Whisky Wind tavern whenever he wanted, Mr. Edelson said. The Edelsons have envelopes filled with photos of Lordy, sent or given to the couple by strangers whose days were brightened by their dog.

The Edelsons said they became accustomed to Lordy’s celebrity status. But sometimes even they would be surprised by how far fans would go to catch a glimpse of Greenport’s fabled hound.

Once, on New Year’s Day in 2010, a pair of strangers knocked on the Edelsons’ door.

They had heard rumors of the huge dog that lived in Greenport and wanted to meet Lordy in person. Ms. Edelson said the couple apologized; they had forgotten to bring the dog a present.

Of course, the couple was invited inside the Edelson house and took photos with Lordy as he rested on his mat.

“He got along with everyone,” Ms. Edelson said, pointing to a photo of Lordy lying down at Mitchell Park next to a Yorkie no bigger than three pounds.

Every winter, Lordy would get his picture taken with the families of those who came to use the town’s ice rink. Ms. Edelson admitted she is now dreading having to tell those families about Lordy’s passing. Those who have heard the news and knew Lordy have “burst into tears,” she said, holding back the emotion in her voice.

“He wasn’t just our dog, he really was the village dog,” she said.

While residents across Greenport may know Lordy, Mr. and Ms. Edelson said they have their own treasured memories of their beloved dog.

They recalled how Lordy adopted a kitten as his sibling, guarding over it from behind like a looming bodyguard the moment it was threatened by the Edelson’s other cats.

The top of the first-floor bannister in the Edelsons’ home still bears the scratch marks from where Lordy gnawed on the wood during his teething phase.

And the couple laughed as they remembered the expression of shock on Lordy’s face when he eagerly bit into a bitter unripe fig years ago.

“I basically treated him like another person, and he kind of understood,” Ms. Edelson said.

Toward the end of his life, Lordy was diagnosed with cancer. He was recovering this year and doctors said the disease had gone into remission.

After the latest round of treatment, Lordy returned home earlier this month, bounded around the house and played in the backyard with his favorite toys: empty milk cartons.

“For a weekend, we had our old dog back,” Ms. Edelson said, choking back tears.

He even made a trip to the hospital to continue his work as a therapy dog.

But last Tuesday, Lordy suddenly stopped eating.

On Thursday, he was gone.

“It’s been rough,” Ms. Edelson said.

The couple believe they might go back to training seeing-eye dogs in the spring. But while another giant dog isn’t in their immediate future, the Edelsons said they’ll look back fondly on their beloved Lordy.

“We’re thankful for the time he spent with us,” Mr. Edelson said. “And thankful for what he gave to the village.”

Paul Squire is a staff reporter for The Suffolk Times and Riverhead News-Review. He can be reached at [email protected] or 631-298-3200 ex. 232. Follow him on Twitter @pauljsquire.