In 1987, we moved into the current house. One of the first people we met was our neighbor, John Laughlin. At the time, there was a simple, four-foot fence or so, marking the line between our back yards. John had a dog.
One of the things we had told the boys about dogs was that in order for us to have one, we had to have a larger home and no one in diapers. Moving into this home, that was the case. We got our first dog, Freckles, a mix of Brittany spaniel and Shetland Sheep dog that looked very much like a Border collie. The biggest difference in this black and white dog was that she wasn’t as smart as a Border collie.
We all remember John Laughlin, a very quiet white haired man looking, not surprisingly, very Irish. Despite being very quiet and keeping a nice, neighborly distance, he saw our new puppy and offered us an extra leash and collar that he had. I remember that he reminded us all of the huge responsibility of having a dog.
John was quite the accomplished man, Notre Dame educated, a lawyer downtown, and a cool surprise later was that he was a great violinist. I used to enjoy hearing him in his family room, windows open, playing and practicing. We even once saw him play in a Lake Forest orchestra.
John was a complex and yet simply pleased man. It was years before he even got air conditioning, and never whole house air conditioning at that. He had one of those on the floor units with a hose put in the window area. His yard was a forest of pines and maples and a few more varieties. His house was lacking in amenities and it didn’t seem to faze him.
During the many years we have lived here, John stands out as the guy who walked his dog. The first dog we remember was Jake. The interesting thing about all of his dogs, including Tosca and Bailey, the next ones, was that they all disliked me. I never figured that out. It was especially rough when I had to help John with the visiting vet, Dr. Mel, who became our vet. Bailey was more than either Dr. Mel or John could handle, so I was called in.
For most of the years I remember, John was pretty much the only person we saw next door. In the beginning, his wife Ella was alive, but she was even less visible than John was. I remember seeing John’s son as well, the youngest of three kids, but they all pretty much kept to themselves, in a nice neighborly way. We would see his two wonderful daughters periodically when they came to visit.
We always tried to get John to come over for holiday events, to get a good meal. He would never do that. We finally got him to accept a plate of food every now and then.
For years we would hear John in the very early morning, talking to his dog. This was after his wife’s passing and the departure of the kids. You could almost set your alarm to the morning back yard event.
Not so long ago, John experienced a stroke. He went to Michigan to be closer to one of his daughters and lived with her and her family for a time. He passed away just a short time ago. He is and will be missed. Rest in peace, John.