Two weeks ago we put our beloved Husky-German Shepherd dog, Hope, down. I know that most dog owners will make this claim about their dog, but she truly was the greatest dog ever. Even friends with their own wonderful dogs would argue she was the best. She rarely barked, when she did we all looked at her in confusion about the sound coming from her mouth. She never hurt anyone or anything, one time she was being attacked by a pit bull while we were walking and she just stood there, waiting for the other dog to lose interest and go away. Although we’ve known for a few months it was coming, it has taken awhile to process.
I remember the first day I met her. She was my brother’s dog and he was moving back to BC after spending a few years living in New Brunswick. They flew in from NB and my brother had her in a travelling cage, one which would later become her “house” where she got sent to on the rare occasion she was bad, when she was let out after the long flight she warmed up to each member of my family right away. We took her out to our truck and she jumped into the back like a pro, something she could do without even lowering the flatbed gate.
Having wanted a dog for years I was so excited to take her for a walk around our neighbourhood that evening. Being the responsible new dog owner I took baggies with me to clean up anything she wanted to leave along the way, something I was dreading and didn’t know how I would handle when the time came. I quickly learned that she doesn’t do that, she would never poop anywhere aside from her own backyard. Even when we went camping she wouldn’t poop for the first couple of days until it became absolutely necessary. She never did it within view of people. She was a lady after all.
We became walking buddies right away. We’d wander for hours and only once did she poop on our jaunts. I remember it clearly, we both looked at each other wondering what the hell just happened. I’m sure she was embarrassed that she would do something so horrible in public and I was embarrassed because I had nothing to clean it up with. So we walked away like nothing had happened.
It was in an abandoned lot, so I don’t feel too bad.
As she got older our walks became shorter. She’d still get really excited every time anyone said the W word, but her age would show when she got home. In pain and unable to do much for the rest of the day.
Aside from walks, Hope had three loves: chasing the ball, treats and my dad.
She had multiple balls hidden around the backyard, when she wanted to play she’d drop it at your feet and run after it after you threw it. Jumping so high to catch it, we’d worry she was going to land wrong and break her legs. She would follow my dad around as he cut the grass and drop the ball along his path, waiting for him to kick it and then bring it back to him. She was his shadow. And although she was technically my brother’s dog, she became my parents when my brother moved again and couldn’t take her with him. She remained loyal to Dave whenever he’d visit, but she understood my dad was the boss. She loved all of us unconditionally, but she listened to and wanted to please my dad the most.
This photo perfectly represents my dad and Hope. We were camping and he was going to the washroom across from our site, she was walking along behind him but knew she wasn’t allowed to leave the site. So when she got to the edge, she sat there and remained there until she saw him reemerge from the bathroom. At that point jumping to her feet and dancing around in circles, excited about the return of her best friend.
Hope gave everyone unconditional love. She loved everyone and you could see that she knew when something bad was happening or you were sad, because she would always come over to you and try to make it better. One of the things that sticks out in my mind the most about her is when I was at my parent’s house watching Toy Story 3 alone with her. The end, the scene with the toys in the incinerator and they all grab hands, just killed me. I was ugly crying, actually sobbing, and Hope looked at me from over at her blanket, concerned. Then stood up and came over and started to lick my hand, then did my most favourite thing in the world where she would snuggle up under my hand trying to get me to pet her. She was there for me and everyone else when we were sick, sad or just needed a friend. She couldn’t say anything but you knew she knew and understood. And loved you no matter what.
When my dad injured himself last December and was off work after knee surgery for a couple of months she would lick his surgery scars all the time. She would see him limping around and grabbing his knee in pain, would then limp over to him herself (with her bad hips and all) and “kiss” his scars better. Without prompting.
At one point, while camping with my brother, she was sprayed by a skunk. A smell that didn’t wash out for about a month. She earned the name Stinky from me, one that stuck with her because of the skunk incident as well as her bad breathe. This nickname then gave birth to multiple other nicknames: Stinks, Stinkenbaum (what I was told by my translate app was Stinky in German) as well as Hoffen, which was German for Hope (she was half German Shepherd, I figured she understood).
In the past couple of years she was no longer able to jump for the ball, even stairs were hard for her. While younger she’d run up and down the porch stares hundreds of times a day to chase the ball or to run after some squirrels that happened to be close to the yard. During a visit to the vet last fall he made it clear to us that she was older, 97 in human years, and wouldn’t have much longer.
We agonized for months about when we would know. While she couldn’t go for long walks anymore and stairs were a problem, she was still smiling and happy to see everyone. When I’d visit my parents she’d always be like her old self, my mom would remark that she would be hiding it from me and that it was not like this at all when I wasn’t around. It was just like her to look out for others, selflessly. Because of this I always joked that she was the reincarnation of my maternal grandmother. They had similar eyes and personality, Hope came into our lives a few years after she passed.
We decided to go to the vets on a Saturday afternoon so we could all be there, well my parents and I, my brother is not living in town and wouldn’t be able to be back for months. I went out to my parents in the morning and we spent most of the sunny Spring day with Hope. Each of us looking for distractions, but wanting to soak up every moment with her. Finally, an hour before it was time to go to the vet, the three of us sat on the front porch as she sat on the grass. We cried and she looked around the yard. I’m sure she knew what was happening and was just surveying her land.
All day we had been giving her treats and food. She was so well fed that last week. But when we got to the vet’s office and I gave her one last treat, one of her favourites, she just dropped it to the ground. When I tried again she dropped it again. It was like her way of saying she was done.
On April 12, 2014 at 3:37pm my baby girl and one of my best friends was put to rest. She was smiling her trademark smile until the very end. It was important to us to all be there, even though each one of us was in our own personal hell, I’m sure. She was there for us through so much and we needed to be there for her. I stroked her fur and reminder her how we loved her, that she was the best dog ever and irreplaceable. The life left her beautiful blue eyes and I knew she was gone before the vet could even tell us. She passed and we spent another few moments in the room alone with her. I rubbed her soft ears for the last time, gave her a kiss and whispered that I loved her.
I know I will never be able to replace her, but I would want to get another dog in the future. My parents refuse, saying that they would never find one as good as her and they couldn’t go through that again at the end. While I think this is true, because the end was truly painful and one of the worst experiences ever, I wouldn’t want to deny myself the pure and unconditional love that dogs give.
Hope passed away on a Saturday, by Monday I had already done this as a tribute to my girl:
It says hope and Love, on my ankle to remember my walking buddy.