By BEN WALKER, AP baseball writer
No dog has ever had a better garden to play with than Drago.
Because as countless Boston Red Sox players and fans have seen over the past decade, Drago’s backyard was Fenway Park.
Sniffing the green monster, exploring the dugouts or just resting on the pitcher mound before a match, Drago was a delight. And valuable, too, as a German Shepherd service dog for head gardener Dave Mellor.
A week ago, shortly after walking the field turf before the Red Sox hosted Oakland, Drago had a stroke. Two days later, he died at the age of 10.
“I was blessed to be in my life as it saved my life, changed my life, inspired me and gave hope to my life in a way I hadn’t had for decades and didn’t know that it was possible, “Mellor told The Associated Press. Thursday.
“I absolutely have a broken heart,” he said.
Friday night, before a game against St. Louis, the Red Sox recognized Drago on the video board and a tribute was read through the public address system.
“Friends, throughout Fenway Park’s 110-year history, many have traversed the diamond and given us memories for a lifetime. But perhaps no one has provided more love and comfort than our gardener’s four-legged companion. principal, Dave Mellor, “said the greeting.
“Last night, we learned that this constant and cherished presence on the field for almost a decade was buried,” he said. “We send love and support to your family, honor your service and recognize a well-lived life. We will miss you, Drago.”
He has been caring for Fenway’s turf since 2001 and met Drago in 2014.
Drago was always close to Mellor’s side, on and off the field. Better twice in his life he was hit by cars, which required dozens of surgeries, and Drago helped him cope with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.
A few days before the Red Sox played the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2018 World Series, Drago passed through the grass of Fenway Park with one of his sons, the Bronco puppy, owned by then-Boston pitcher Rick Porcello.
Bronco was among a litter of five born that summer to Lisle, another of Mellor’s dogs. Ian Kinsler, then a Red Sox fielder, also adopted a teammate.
“You see Dave with Drago out there in the field, you can see he’s a special dog,” Kinsler said a day before the series.
Many Red Sox fans, aware of the team’s history, often wondered if Better’s dog was named after former Boston pitcher Dick Drago.
It would be a good touch, I would say Better, but not exact.
“He was born in Slovakia,” Mellor once explained. “We were told that his name means ‘beautiful’ in Slovak.”
Better to be surrounded by dog lovers. A few years ago, his wife and family went to the Westminster Kennel Club dog show at New York City’s Madison Square Garden and spent an hour touring the backstage area.
Better said one of Drago’s sons, Keeper, will become his service dog after completing his training.
In recognition of Drago, Mellor asked people to give “extra love” to their dogs and consider a donation on behalf of their beloved pet at the Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston or the Home Base Program at Massachusetts General Hospital .
“We have been overwhelmed by the powerful and beautiful tributes to Drago. It touched the lives of so many people, ”Mellor said.
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