No dog had a better play yard than Drago.
Because, as countless Boston Red Sox players and fans have seen over the past decade, Drago’s playground was Fenway Park.
Sniffing the Green Monster, exploring the dugouts, or simply lounging on the pitcher’s mound before a game, Drago was thrilled. And as valuable as a working German Shepherd for Head Gardener Dave Mellor.
A week ago, shortly after walking on the grass before the Red Sox hosted the Oakland, Drago had a stroke. He died two days later at the age of 10.
“I have been blessed to have him in my life as he saved my life, changed my life, inspired me and gave me hope for my life in a way I had not seen in decades and didn’t know was possible.” wrote Mellor Associated Press. on Thursday.
“I am absolutely heartbroken,” he said.
On the Friday night before the game against St. Louis, the Red Sox recognized Drago on a video board and a tribute was read over the PA system.
“Friends, throughout the 110 year history of Fenway Park, so many people have roamed the diamond and given us memories of a lifetime. But perhaps no one has brought more love and comfort than our head gardener Dave Mellor’s four-legged companion,” the salute read.
“We learned last night that this constant presence and beloved figure in the stadium for nearly a decade has been buried,” the post reads. “We send love and support to his family, honor his service and acknowledge a life well lived. We will miss you, Drago.
Mellor has been tending the Fenway lawn since 2001 and met Drago in 2014.
Drago has always been close to Mellor, on and off the field. Mellor was hit by cars twice in his life, requiring dozens of operations, and Drago helped him cope with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.
A couple of days before the Red Sox played the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2018 World Series, Drago fiddled around the Fenway Park grass with one of his sons, a Bronco puppy owned by then-Boston pitcher Rick Porcello.
Bronco was among five born that summer to Lyle, another of Mellor’s dogs. Then-Red Sox infielder Ian Kinsler also adopted a littermate.
“You see Dave with Drago on the field, you can see he’s a special dog,” Kinsler said the day before the episode.
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 nice, Mellor would say, but not exactly.
“He was born in Slovakia,” Mellor once explained. “They told us that his name means ‘precious’ in Slovak.”
Mellor is surrounded by dog lovers. A few years ago, his wife and family went to the Westminster Kennel Club dog show at Madison Square Garden in New York and spent an hour looking around behind the scenes.
Mellor said that one of Drago’s sons, Guardian, would become his working dog after completing his training.
As a token of appreciation, Drago Mellor asked people to show “extra love” to their dogs and consider donating on behalf of his beloved pet to the Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston or the Home Base program at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“We were stunned by the powerful and beautiful tribute to Drago. He touched the lives of so many people,” Mellor said.
More AP MLB: and