By BEN WALKER AP Baseball Writer
No dog has ever had a better yard to play with than Draco.
Because, as countless Boston Red Sox players and fans have seen over the past decade, Drago’s playground was Fenway Park.
Sniffing along the green monster, exploring the dugouts, or just resting on the pitcher’s mound before a game, Drago was a delight. And valuable, too, as a German Shepherd service dog for head caretaker Dave Mellor.
A week ago, shortly after stepping on the outfield grass before the Red Sox hosted Oakland, Drago suffered a stroke. Two days later, he died at the age of 10.
“I was lucky to have him in my life because he saved my life, changed my life, inspired me and gave hope to my life in ways that I never hadn’t had in decades that I didn’t know was possible,” Mellor wrote to The Associated Press. Thursday.
“I’m absolutely heartbroken,” he said.
Friday night, before a game against St. Louis, the Red Sox recognized Drago on the video board and a tribute played over the PA system.
“Friends, throughout Fenway Park’s 110-year history, so many people have walked the diamond and given us memories for a lifetime. But perhaps none have provided more love and comfort than the four-legged companion of our head gardener, Dave Mellor.” hello read.
“Last night we learned that this constant presence and beloved figure in the ballpark for nearly a decade had been laid to rest,” he said. “We send love and support to his family, honor his service and recognize a life well lived. We will miss you, Draco.”
Mellor has been tending Fenway’s lawn since 2001 and met Drago in 2014.
Draco was always by Mellor’s side, on and off the pitch. Mellor has been hit twice in his life by cars, requiring dozens of surgeries, and Drago has helped him deal with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Days before the Red Sox took on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2018 World Series, Drago got into a fight on the grass at Fenway Park with one of his sons, the Boston pitcher’s pup Bronco. Rick Porcello.
Bronco was one of a litter of five born that summer to Lisle, another of Mellor’s dogs. Then-Red Sox infielder Ian Kinsler also adopted a range mate.
“You see Dave with Drago out there in the field, you can see he’s a special dog,” Kinsler said a day before the show.
Many Red Sox fans familiar with the team’s history have often wondered if Mellor’s dog was named after former Boston pitcher Dick Drago.
That would be a good idea, Mellor would say, but that’s not correct.
“He was born in Slovakia,” Mellor once explained. “They told us that his name means ‘precious’ in Slovak.”
Mellor is surrounded by dog lovers. Several years ago, his wife and family went to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York’s Madison Square Garden and spent an hour touring behind the scenes.
Mellor said one of Drago’s sons, Keeper, will become his service dog after he completes his training.
In recognition of Drago, Mellor asked people to give their dogs “extra love” and to consider a donation in his precious pet’s name to 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 paid to Drago. He touched the lives of so many people,” Mellor said.
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