The bright, yellow and blue basket filled with tennis balls placed lovingly at the entrance to Carousel Park’s Bark Park quickly caught the eye of strollers and, naturally, dog walkers.
In addition to fuzzy yellow balls, the woven wicker basket included a bittersweet message: “A year ago today, I lost the best boy a girl could ask for. In his memory, enjoy some playtime with your pup and think of Midas!”
It didn’t take long for the heartwarming, anonymous tribute to a treasured pet to go viral – professional photographer Rhonda Bowman shared a photo on the Hockessin Gossip Girls Facebook page and it instantly caught fire with hundreds of likes, shares and comments, with many dog owners wondering just who was the person behind the unique gesture.
One good-natured soul, Beth Sonchen Bannister, even took up the cause, buying large bags of tennis balls to replenish the basket and making arrangements to collect used balls from local tennis players.
After a few days of investigation, TSD tracked down Midas’ adoring owner, who was overwhelmed at the reaction to her gesture. Some visitors to the park have written notes of condolence to Struble and her dog. “Thanks for the nice gift. Sorry for your loss. I will think of Midas when I play ball with my two dogs,” wrote one park goer.
“I’m 66 years old and my four kids are grown and gone. But my 18-month old mutt pup keeps me going. Sorry for your loss,” wrote another.
The day after the post hit the internet Carrie Struble was heading over to her family’s house to celebrate her 38th birthday. Then her phone started lighting up. “I started getting texts from friends with pictures of the basket and I saw dozens of comments and likes. I was really taken aback. I got emotional and happy thinking about all of these people thinking about Midas and it was honestly the best birthday gift I could have ever asked for,” she said.
Midas was about 10 months old when Struble adopted him from the Chester County SPCA in 2010. He was the first dog she ever had. “We had an awesome time together.”
She says Midas loved being outdoors and going for car rides. And incredibly, he also would sing to Peter Frampton. “That was pretty hilarious. It was like a howl that he would do to certain parts of Frampton’s songs, and used to do it when he would hear a harmonica, too.”
And what about Struble’s time with Midas in Carousel Park? “Midas actually was not good at fetch. He was more of — you throw the ball. I’m going to run past it and then go lay somewhere in the sun.”
The pit bull was 8 and a half years old in July of 2018 when he was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor. That was tough for Struble who says there are no words to describe her love for her pit bull. “He meant the absolute world to me. He was a huge part of my heart, that’s for sure. And my life revolved around him for eight and a half years. So afterward it was a little weird. It was a huge loss and hard to navigate into normal life after.”
As August 16th approached, marking the one year anniversary since Midas’ death, Struble wondered what she would do.
“I had taken the day off and was trying to think of something to do to mark the milestone. Originally, I just thought I would come take a walk through Carousel because this is where we always came. He definitely loved his walks here.
“But I started thinking that I was probably going to be ugly crying in the park because it’s emotional. And it was tough leading up to the one-year, and I knew it was going to be difficult. So I just thought I wanted to try to do something positive. And that’s when the basket idea came to me. And I thought, if it gives people the opportunity to maybe play a little bit longer with their pup that day, then that’s all I wanted — something to put a smile on people’s faces.”
When Struble learned about the reaction to her gesture, she thought she would allow things to play out while keeping her identity anonymous and the focus on Midas.
But then someone put two and two together, posting a picture of Midas from his daycare in a closed Facebook group. And at about the same time, TSD learned of her identity by reaching out to folks at Carousel Park.
“This makes me really happy to be able to share his memory with so many people. He was really just a big pile of love and just wanted to love other people,” said Struble.