Thursday, April 13, 2017

A Hobo's Life

Four years ago all I could think about was how I wanted a little dog.  I wanted something smaller, older, slower, and starved for love. He also had to be good tempered around small grandchildren.  Problem was, my husband was not thinking about dogs whatsoever.  And yet I persisted with my search.  Eventually I found an ad from a rescue center for an adorable little guy about two hours from where we live.  It said he was nine years old, trained, and great with kids.  I sent an email to my husband, one he's kept all this time.  The day we brought him home it was clear to us he was just a little Hobo.  So that’s what we named him.

At first he didn't want anything to do with us.  He'd snap at us and growl when we tried to pick him up.  But we were sure we could love him enough to gain his trust, although we would have to kennel him when the grandchildren were visiting.  When we took him to the vet they told us he was older than nine, more like twelve or thirteen years old.   As for what we thought were just "accidents" in the house and would get better with time.....never did.  It eventually became clear that this dog did not care about using the great outdoors for his restroom.  Inside suited him just fine.  You could have just brought him in from outside and he would hike his leg and pee on the floor.  He became a kitchen dog.  But as my husband said, "In for a penny, in for a pound."

One night while fixing dinner he was circling my husband’s feet.  Paul had just put a ham steak on a platter.  So my husband did what we thought everyone did for their dogs, he gave him the bone as a special treat.  Hobo swallowed it whole.  This was 8:00 p.m.  The local vet met us at his office and took some x-rays.  The only way Hobo could be saved was to drive him into the city and have it surgically removed.  We had no idea there were all night animal hospitals. “In for a penny, in for a pound.”  It was about 4:00 a.m. when we returned home.

Hobo went on all of our RV trips, not just local trips but Colorado, Maryland, and Texas.  To a stranger Hobo looked to be a puppy.  He was a true “babe magnet”, especially on the beach.  We liked to imagine this was just a continuation of the life he led before, but now the accommodations were much better.  My husband would tell great stories of Hobo’s earlier life, in Hobo’s voice of course.  Jumping trains, circus life, war stories, and oh the females he loved and the puppies he fathered!!

After some time Hobo really slowed down.  At first it was hard for him to get used to.  He was bow legged and walked with a bit of a prance.  Sometimes his legs would give him trouble and slide out from underneath him.  Some days he’d be in the yard with us and he would literally bounce, what we would call “frolic”.   The next day he wouldn’t be able to get out of bed.
Then we noticed he was becoming senile.  We would let him out and he would forget how to get back to the front door.   Once I let him out in the middle of the night and later I was army crawling under our deck to retrieve him.  After that his eye sight failed.  He would wander around, find himself in a corner, and not know how to back himself out of it.  He wouldn’t be able to find his food and water bowl until he walked through it a couple of times.  At times we were just sure he was not long for this world, but he would always bounce back.  He’s been this way for about the last year. 

Eventually we put two of those small animal play pens together on our deck and when he needed to do his business we would put him in there and then just hose it off.  One thing Hobo would never do was lay down when he was outside.  Last Thursday when we went to bring him in he was lying down.  He couldn’t stand.  We tried rolling towels up creating a cushion for him to lie on with his legs extended, hoping it would help.   By Monday he was unable to lift his head enough to eat.

My husband said it was like he was in hospice and we were just waiting for him to die.  Neither one of us have ever been faced with this decision before.  Is it really humane to decide when an animal should die?  Really?  We took him in on Tuesday.  Unbeknownst to us until later that evening, it was national pet day.  What a complete kick in the pants.

Now there’s an overwhelming void in our house.  Even the house itself seems to be making noises it didn’t use to make. 

Hobo was an old, grumpy, at times pain in the ass who I believe at most just learned to tolerate us.  But we loved the curmudgeon.  And he was as cute as any dog I've ever seen.  My daughter said we gave him a good retirement home.  At least we brought him in from his life on the road.

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