“The best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of his master.” Ben Hur Lampman
When I was seventeen years old, we lost our toy poodle in a sudden and dramatic fashion. She was killed by another dog. Cocoa had been a gift for my tenth birthday. She was far too little a dog for our active family, but she managed to have a pretty nice albeit adventurous seven year life.
For a brief time in the early 1970s, my family lived in Boulder, Colorado. One day, Cocoa ran out of the house and right onto a busy road in the shadow of the Flat Irons of the Rocky Mountains. But in this believe-it-or-not episode, our dog wasn’t hit by a car, but instead struck by the body of another dog that was struck by a car. Cocoa was knocked out, and I can’t for the life of me recall the fate of the other dog as this story was relayed to me after the fact and perhaps my parents did not want to upset us kids. My father placed Cocoa in a cold tub and she was quickly revived. It is ironic when you think about it. Her life was saved by one dog, later to be taken by another.
Flash forward to September 11th, 2001. I was painting in my studio when I heard on the radio that a small plane had struck one of the Twin Towers. I immediately knew something bigger was going on and went inside to turn on the television. Stuck in my living room alone while most people were at their places of work, I watched in sorrow and terror as the tragedy unfolded. I thought then and there, how comforting it would be to have a dog by my side during these horrific times when human companionship was not readily available. I began my campaign to acquire one.
Three months later, on December 27th, in a town about 20 miles from our home, a little Portuguese water dog was born. She was destined to be my special dog. I had seen a progam on Animal Planet and had been captivated by their looks, personality and proclivity for water. I knew my husband, Rich, would share my vision of long runs on the beach and fun sails on the water; this was a dog that could fit into our lifestyle.
On that same day in December, Rich and I were standing on-line at Universal Studios in Orlando waiting for enter the JAWS Attraction. To pass the time, I continued by “talk” about the good points of Porties. Success! I got him to give into my quest for a dog. Yes, we could have a Portuguese water dog he conceded, but only if we could name this pup Hooper after the Richard Dreyfus character in the movie, JAWS. It was a request with which I could live.
And so began our dog’s journey into our lives. The breeders of these very special dogs are very cautious about where their pups end up. After several phone interviews, three on-site meetings at the breeder’s home and answering a lengthy questionnaire, we welcomed a feisty, furry black and white female Portie pup, yes, named Hooper (although I think the breeder cringed upon learning this).
Those of you who have followed this blog since its inception know all the trials and tribulations we experienced raising Hooper. She was not an easy pup, but she grew up to be loving and sweet. She loved humans, especially young children, but never really came to love others of her species. She was sensitive and intelligent and once a young boy told me, “Your dog is really a little human in a dog suit.”
This summer, Rich had a bit of a health scare when it was discovered his kidneys were shutting down. After three months of hospital stays and visits to specialists, he is doing much better and we are hoping for a good report later this month. Through it all, we had no idea that our dog was failing in her own way.
About three weeks ago, I noticed a peculiar swelling and redness in her right eye. She was soon diagnosed as permanently blind in that eye and a series of tests were begun. Sadly, she began to lose the control of her body and walking became nearly impossible. After further consultation, it was determined that her condition was worsening and quality of life became an issue. It was painful to watch.
We had the special privilege of having her for a week before we made the very difficult determination to put Hooper to rest. We used that time to celebrate her life and to grieve. Her last walk, her last visit to a neighbor, her last meal, a small bowl of ice cream (a rare treat) that she barely touched all became poignant moments. How we wish she could have been revived by a cool bath in the same manner as my childhood dog.
Hooper would have turned eleven just four months to the day she left our arms. She was a very special part of our lives and sat by my feet as I posted for this blog and wrote books and articles, mostly about dogs. We miss her terribly and appreciate all the kind thoughts, cards and messages we have received from so many.
So as this year’s observance of National Dog Week approaches, I will continue to honor the dogs of others in America and around the world, it will just be laced with a little sadness this year. Thank you all for your support and encouragement during what has been a challenging summer and all that you do to make this world a better place for pets and their humans…I am sure that somewhere along the way, we will welcome another four-legged family member to bring comfort and companionship through the happy and challenging times to come. I just thank everyone in advance for letting that event unfold in its own magical way.