Saying goodbye to a friend

Hoodoo: 1994-2010

 "My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today."
- Rabbit proverb, quoted by Richard Adams, "Watership Down."

A shared life

I made one of the hardest decisions in my life over the weekend. I had my best friend, one who was a part of my life for 15 years, euthanized.

I got her in late 1994 in Kingman, Arizona, when a co-worker's dog had puppies. Impulsively I took one; this one was the oddball of the bunch. While her littermates were shaggy and looked like there was a lot of chow in them, she looked more like -- well, a coyote. Though I set up a box for her to sleep in, she spent that first night on my bed. My wife didn't mind.

That wife didn't stick around long, and I've shared my life with a few other women since then. But the female who slept in my bed every night for the next 15 years was Hoodoo, half Australian shepherd and half who-knows-what.

She rode shotgun on several cross-country trips. We hiked together, camped together, did everything together. She knew not to beg at the table because I would always leave something from my portion for her to finish off. Some of my life choices revolved around her; even this beat-up "P.O.S." trailer I live in now was chosen over much nicer places because the owners accepted dogs. Better to live in a falling-down leaky rattletrap of a place where you're loved than in a mansion where there's no one to say they're glad to see you.
 

Reading material

Pizza, squirrels, and Eric Dolphy

 She was conceived and born in the Arizona desert, so having some coyote in her was not beyond the realm of possibility. She had the coyote's size and markings, the bushy tail, the golden eyes, the foot speed, and the voice. Especially the voice. It took her a while to learn to bark; her first language consisted of yips, cries, and other vocalizations with huge intervallic leaps over a wide tonal range. A friend of mine, hearing her first Eric Dolphy solo on alto sax, decided he sounded just like Hoodoo.

Although fully domesticated and loyal, she had a wild streak in her. I watched her pick a squirrel off the trunk of a tree while we were taking a walk. Even on her leash she moved so quickly I didn't have time to react. She shook that squirrel a few times and laid him down next to the tree, mortally wounded.

In some ways Hoodoo was a real handful. Hyperactive in her youth, a chewer and barker. She chewed up a pair of my favorite cowboy boots. She chomped through the power cord of my computer. I spent a good part of my shopping time looking for more indestructible toys for her. As a puppy she couldn't have caused more destruction if she peed fire.

As she got older she stayed noisy, and above all else she was insanely jealous. She could tell if I was talking to a co-worker, my mom, or a girlfriend on the phone, and if it was the latter she'd start acting up. And if I had someone over? Forget it. All females were a threat to her status.

See, we bonded early. I'd walk her to a grocery store and tie her outside. And she'd wait, watching the door until I came out. A few folks told me she'd never move, never take her eyes off the door.

Did I spoil her? D'oh! Does a cat have its own climbing equipment? Does the ursine mammal evacuate his colon among the cottonwood?

When she was a puppy, I brought her into the supermarket with me a couple of times. It was that or leave her in the hot car. I threw a towel over her head and carried her like I would an infant.

When driving, I would always leave a window open for her so she could stick her head out. This included a drive in southwest Indiana during a snowstorm in a Camaro with a broken heater. The windshield started icing over on the outside and the inside, but I never thought to pull her back in and shut the window.

In Tennessee, we used to go to this pizza place that had a patio. It was the first dog-friendly restaurant I'd ever seen. We'd go there, sit down, and split a medium pizza. The waitress thought that was the coolest thing she'd ever seen.

A pain in the butt? At times, yes, but it's probably no different from raising a child. There are times you may wish for a little retroactive birth control, but when all is said and done your child is your greatest pride. 

And as my life had more turbulence than the law allows, Hoodoo was my steadying influence. She stayed with me through my impulsive acts, through my craziness, through major depressive episodes, through emotional breakdowns. And never once questioned her own sanity for putting up with me. Oh, yeah, she'd give the a thorough sniffing-down when I'd come home late, and pout if I carried the smell of another dog -- or worse, a female of any species -- on me, but she never judged me. If you want true, unconditional love from a flesh-and-blood creature, that's what dogs are for.

Wrestling despite decline

We grew older together. When we met I was 37, approaching my prime, on top of my own world. Now I'm 52, definitely a bit slower and less resilient than when I was 37. As she neared 15, Hoodoo began showing real signs of a decline. Like when we hiked around Santee, SC and she couldn't finish it. She collapsed about a quarter mile from our campsite, and I picked her up and carried her the rest of the way. She slept through most of the next day, which put me on edge as I monitored her breathing.

Later, more decline. Her hips deteriorated to the point where she couldn't walk without falling over. Her equilibrium was shot. When standing she'd lean against the door jamb or my leg to stay up. Her vision became more cloudy. Her ever-sharp hearing started to fade. Worse, she became more confused. When giving her treats out of the palm of my hand, she would miss the treat and start nibbling on my fingertips instead.

Last week, she tried to walk off. She acted out of compassion, I think. It's like she didn't want me to see her going about the business of dying. I let her outside for her morning constitutional, then put my shoes on to join her outside. By the time I got the shoes on, she was in the next-door neighbor's yard, hobbling and falling all the way over. That's when she collapsed. I picked her up, carried her home, and laid her down in my favorite camp chair, with a pillow under her. I set my office chair next to her, had my laptop and coffee with me, and stayed with her while I worked.

As she declined further, I wrestled with the idea of having her put down. Despite her immobility and forgetfulness, she kept that same fighter's spirit she always had. Besides, who do I think I am, God or somebody? Even domestic animals know when it's time to stop running.

At least that's the idea, and a nice one it is. But sometimes unrealistic. Over the weekend I noticed Hoodoo's lips and tongue were so dry they were cracked. I realized she couldn't get to the water dish any more. The only way she could take water was if I gave it to her from a water bottle, and that's only because I taught her that trick when she was a puppy. She stopped eating. She couldn't position herself to go to the bathroom.

So on Monday, I made the appointment. Took her in to the vet's office. Talked to her and stroked her fur as the needles went in, as those last hard-fought signs of life leaked out of her, as she became still.

This wasn't an easy decision. The emotional side of me still feels like a no-good heel, betraying my best friend like that. The rational side of me feels I did her a favor; she didn't need to suffer any more than she already was. And like real life, the real me is probably somewhere between those two polar extremes.

Rest easy, Hoodoo. I'll miss you.

###

 


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Comments 42 comments

ericsomething profile image

ericsomething 6 years ago from Charleston, SC and Riverside, CA Author

Victoria, thank you. Probably the biggest consolation is those 15 years.


lovelypaper profile image

lovelypaper 6 years ago from Virginia

I'm glad you can write about Hoodoo. I understand your heartbreak and your deep love for your dog, as mine is now thirteen and we will have to say goodbye to her one day. May God bless you and I believe we will be reunited with our pets in Heaven.


thevoice profile image

thevoice 6 years ago from carthage ill

terrific powerful touching hub thanks


Lori McLaren 6 years ago

We love you, my friend and are saddened by your loss. If you need anything please let us know. We are here for you.


sylvia13 profile image

sylvia13 6 years ago from Shoal Bay, NSW, Australia

I read this hub with tears in my eyes, thinking of my sister Sonia and her son MIguel, who also had to put their beloved Freddy down back in January. Now we all see white Freddy's, be it here in Austria, or back in Forest Lake in Queensland, Australia. Whether Hoodoo or Freddy, the two are in our hearts as best friends and will remain forever there! !


Your Cousin (Jennifer) 6 years ago

Your biggest fan forwarded this to me. Thank you for sharing this story of Hoodoo. I'm so terribly sorry you had to say goodbye. As you may know, I volunteer some of my time with the local Golden Retriever Rescue. I am a big dog fan and I can't imagine life without them. Hoodoo was very lucky to have you.


ericsomething profile image

ericsomething 6 years ago from Charleston, SC and Riverside, CA Author

Thank you all: lovelypaper, thevoice, sylvia13, victoria, and especially Lori and Jennifer. These comments & support are helping me a lot as I go through this period.

I wrote this Hub partly to get some stuff out of my system, and also to give Hoodoo her due. I'm lucky, even blessed, to have had her as long as I did.

But if what's written helps someone else going through a similar situation, that's even better -- just like some of the Hubs I read on the subject helped me.

Again, thank all of y'all.


Daniel 6 years ago

Eric sorry to hear about Hoodoo. She was one awesome dog and a friend.

I'll never forget the way she barked. RIP Hoodoo


BJBenson profile image

BJBenson 6 years ago from USA

My heart goes out to you.


Feline Prophet profile image

Feline Prophet 6 years ago from India

Sigh...stories like these always leave a lump in my throat. Who can define the relationship between a man and his best friend?


Beverly Bryan profile image

Beverly Bryan 6 years ago from Riverview, Florida.

I just read your story of your wonderful dog...I just went through a similar thing with my horse, Holly Ruffles, who I was privileged to own for 24 years...and she was a joy to own the whole time. At the end, I had to make the same decision that you did, and it was difficult, to say the least...I hope that she has the opportunity to make friends with your dog in heaven...I miss her just as you do your dog.


Allie Johnson profile image

Allie Johnson 6 years ago

I'm so sorry for your loss. That was one of the most beautiful tributes I've ever read & I've got tears streaming down my face now. It seems like Hoodoo was an amazing and loyal companion. I hope the memories of your 15 years together will be a comfort to you during this sad time.Take care.


wordscribe41 6 years ago

Eric, I'm so sorry about your loss. I completely get it. I have a dog who's almost 16 and is deteriorating rapidly. We put another dog to sleep 2 Halloweens ago and it was purely heart-wrenching. Hoodoo was a lucky dog to have such a loving owner. I'm glad the two of you had so many wonderful years together. RIP Hoodoo.


ericsomething profile image

ericsomething 6 years ago from Charleston, SC and Riverside, CA Author

Daniel, it was great hearing from you again. She sure did have a unique way of vocalizing,, yes?

BJBenson, Feline Prophet, Beverly, Allie, thank you. Your kind words are helping me over this hump.

Wordscribe, it's terrible watching this deterioration. I remember thinking, there's not a thing I could do to make her feel physically better. Nothing I could do but watch it happen. The only thing I could do was be there for her, talk to her a lot, and thank her for 15 years of unconditional love and great times.

I described my perspective to a friend: It's like two hikers who decide to split up. One takes one trail, the other explores another trail, and they'll meet at the destination for lunch.


DustinsMom profile image

DustinsMom 6 years ago from USA

Sorry for your loss. I know how attached we get to our pets. They become our children.


dockke profile image

dockke 6 years ago from Michigan

Eric,

I'm truly sorry for your loss. I've had pets my entire life and I understand how they truly become your companion. It is a heart wrenching decision to put an animal down. It took me a few years to get over my cat who I had to put to sleep 5 years ago (he had cancer) and when it came time, I was petting him and talking to him and felt like I was making the wrong decision because looking in his eyes, he didn't look sick, but he knew it was the right thing, and made me see it too.

Hoodoo sounded like a wonderful companion, a piece of her will always be with you.


karent profile image

karent 6 years ago

Beautiful tribute to your beloved companion.


Maria Cecilia profile image

Maria Cecilia 6 years ago from Philippines

My dog Peso will turn 10 this july, he is my everything, just like you there are choices in my life that I always consider him first. I am still in denial with the fact that he will soon get old, and will experience exactly what your hoodoo had experience... my only wish and prayer is not to bring me to a point wherein I will need to force myself to put him down... I can feel for you.. I once brought a beloved dog to rest thru needle, it took years for me to forget it.. more power to us who love dogs,and who see dog in a different light


JBeadle profile image

JBeadle 6 years ago from Midwest

So sorry for your loss. We just put down our dog Quin, a 110lb brown-white malamute-husky who was almost 12. It was a very difficult decision but we feel the right one. He did well up until the last few months. We also had a rat terrier who got a bit depressed and neurotic after Quin was gone and we ended up getting a husky pup way earlier than we originally thought we would.

Thanks for sharing your story.


suny51 profile image

suny51 6 years ago

Yes i know how you feel,I din't go for another,don't really know how would it feel like.


ericsomething profile image

ericsomething 6 years ago from Charleston, SC and Riverside, CA Author

DustinsMom, dockke, karent, Maria, JBeadle, suny, thank you all. This was not an easy decision, and I'll probably second-guess myself for some time. But right now she's hanging out, chewing on some rawhide, chasing squirrels the size of North Carolina, and waiting for Daddy to come home one more time.


BumptiousQ profile image

BumptiousQ 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

Very touching. Thanks for having the heart and courage to share.


Healthy Living Is profile image

Healthy Living Is 6 years ago from allergies, people, flowers. health, diet, art, medicine, mental health

I cried when i read your piece. My dog is going on 13 years and she is the love of my life...my Misha Thank you


Committee of 1 6 years ago

I'm so sorry. It's never easy to part with a beloved friend. I share your pain....please read my Hubpage about my beloved Montana....the best cat ever. I understand completely. Hugs.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

I won't forget the story of Hoodoo. This tribute is wonderfully made and tears welled up in my eyes as we neared the end. This had to hurt. What a good, true, and loyal friend.


cjkoutz profile image

cjkoutz 6 years ago from Texas

I recently went with my friend to euthanize her dog, DW. It was a horrible experience. I held her as she held him. She whispered in his ear until he was gone and then fell to the floor in tears. In her grief, I imagined my grief in the future. I have 3 fuzzy children with four legs that I love unconditionally and can't imagine living without them. My oldest dog is 10 this year. I know it is coming - I just hope I can have a few more years with him. From one pet lover to another, I'm truly sorry for your loss.


valeriebelew profile image

valeriebelew 6 years ago from Metro Atlanta, GA, USA

My word, that was the saddest story I've read in a while. I have three australian shepherds, and I think I'll sleep with Sambo tonight as I often do. Brandi howls as you described, and she and Sambo have a touch of wildness in them. Sambo, like your dog, is jealous of all things male, and you'd best not walk into my house unless I have taken the time to muzzle him. So sorry about your loss. Mine are only five, and hopefully, we have many more years. I feel your pain. (: v


ericsomething profile image

ericsomething 6 years ago from Charleston, SC and Riverside, CA Author

Thank you, valeriebelew. Thank all of you who commented -- bumptiousQ, Healthy Living Is, James, cjkoutz. Everyone who commented -- or just read -- is helping me with my own healing process.


M Selvey, MSc profile image

M Selvey, MSc 6 years ago from United Kingdom

Eric,

As I was reading this, our dog, Lotte, was lying next to me on her bed that she carries around from room to room to be wherever we are. My reading was interrupted only slightly by her groans and slurps. She is 3 right now. But, I kept looking at her intermittently and thinking that someday, this will be her. We hope that she dies in her sleep but the odds are, we will have to make this decision. It's an unbearable thought. But, we have to make the right decision for her, not for us. And it is so hard because they are such a part of our lives and like children/family members.

I feel now like I know Hoodoo and appreciate the opportunity to know your story with her and I truly feel for you. Just remember, she was so lucky to have you and someone who was brave enough to make that very hard decision for her.

All the best,

Margit


JoChris26 profile image

JoChris26 6 years ago

I am so sorry for your loss. I can't even imagine what you are going through but I know this page is a wonderful way to honor her. Your memories will live on as a result of it. thank you for sharing her with us.

Jo Chris

http://hubpages.com/animals/Arizona-Dog-Sports-Dog...


MPG Narratives profile image

MPG Narratives 6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

She was a beautiful friend, carried in a supermarket under a blanket. Now that is love. How many of us can say we have such a close relationship? Thanks for sharing such a lovely story and may Hoodoo rest in peace. Love always M.


Lifeallstar1 profile image

Lifeallstar1 6 years ago

This is the sweetest tribute I have ever read. I went through a similar experience, so I know that something like this is so hard to write but you feel like you have to or want to. Hoodoo was a lucky girl to have someone who treated her like a princess. What you had to do was probably the hardest thing you will have to do in your life. When a decision like that is tossed upon us, it is the worst feeling in the world. You 100% did the correct thing and what was best for Hoodoo. She is not in pain or suffering anymore and you were brave for her and stood by her the entire time. I believe she will be with you forever and you two will see each other again. It's hard to be that strong in a situation like that and I did the same exact thing, I held her paw as she passed, and I felt like I lost a big part of me, because I did. I have such wonderful memories and you need to think of all these wonderful memories you had with her because you were brought into her life for a purpose and she was brought into your life for a purpose, and that bond no one will ever understand how much it hurts when you lose it. Some people think, it was "just" an animal....and that is so wrong, they are so special and you become closer to them more than many humans, so I feel for you deeply and the pain you are feeling will get easier over time but the important thing is that no one can ever take away your memories you have. That's your keepsake and with you forever. She is around in a spiritual way and will always love you as much as you love her. Thank you so much for sharing that with us. It's truly special and I will never forget it. You are a wonderful person and caring so please do not think for one second that you did the wrong thing. You did the hardest thing imaginable because it was the right humane thing to do for your best friend.


Shona Venter profile image

Shona Venter 6 years ago from South Africa

Our animals are often the closest family we will ever have. No matter if they are our dog, cat, bird or even hamster.

Eric, you have my most heartfelt condolences, as I know what it is like to make that decision and have had to do it here as well, although I was also told that "it's only a hamster." She was part of my family and I was closer to her than I am to most people.

Hoodoo will always live on in your heart and soul, no matter what.


tiger-lily profile image

tiger-lily 6 years ago from UK

Sorry for your loss, remember the happy times and the time you spent together. You were both lucky to know each other.


AEvans profile image

AEvans 6 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

Oh my goodness the story at the very end was a tear jerker, born in Arizona how lovely and what a great companion she was, you were not at all cruel for making that decision you loved her so much you were not going to let her suffer. The memories you have will be forever etched in your heart and from what I have read she will never be forgetten. What a beautiful tribute to a very important ball of fur. :) Thumbs up! :)


RevLady profile image

RevLady 6 years ago from Lantana, Florida

What a beautiful tribute to a beloved member of your family. How excruciating loss of loved pets can be. How much joy and love Hoodoo must have brought to your heart for so many years. What precious memories she left you as a parting a gift.

Bless you dear friend!

Forever His,


twogroce profile image

twogroce 6 years ago

Ericsomething, I am so sorry for your loss. God must have sent her to you. From the way you speak of her she was a good friend and companion who brought laughter from time to time and comfort. Now that she is gone she has left many memories that you will cherish and share. Thank you for sharing her with us. God bless!


ericsomething profile image

ericsomething 6 years ago from Charleston, SC and Riverside, CA Author

Wow, I need to keep up ...

Thank you twogroce, RevLady, AEvans, tiger-lily, MPG, JoChris ... she definitely was a gift from above. I have all these happy memories of her, and even those moments where things looked intolerable she brightened them up.

Lifeallstar1, Shona, MSelvey, you're right. I've had a few people try to tell me she's "just an animal," and my response wasn't always civil. It's like talking about my child.

Letting go. As far as love goes, that's got to be the biggest test of 'em all. Doesn't matter if we're talking about a spouse, a child, a dog, or a hamster; the rules don't change.

Everyone who commented: All of y'all have helped me a great deal, and I'm heartened because everyone who commented "gets" it. Of course I occasionally second-guess my decision, but then that's my nature sometimes. But she's not hurting now. Next time I see her it'll be just like old times. She'll have that smile on her face, one ear sticking straight up and the other bouncing as she walks.


lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 6 years ago from Bishop, Ca

Oh boy, ericsomething-what a sad, sad tale. By the comments above, I guess it's been about 2 months now since you made that horribly difficult decision. You did the kindest thing-but it's an awful choice to make.

Hoodoo was a lovely girl-her photo is adorable-who had a best pal in you.

She'll always be in your heart with love.


izettl profile image

izettl 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

yeah thanks a lot for making me cry. What a tale- what an awesome dog. How sad, but 15 years is a long time- she must have loved you- duh!


ericsomething profile image

ericsomething 6 years ago from Charleston, SC and Riverside, CA Author

izetti, you're right, 15 years is a long time. Maybe that's why it was so difficult.

And lorlie, thank you.

Admittedly, the past couple of months have been a little rough. Too quiet around this joint. What doesn't help is that I found unopened packs of dog treats and rawhide in my pantry a couple of days ago.

I imagine at some point another four-footed type will enter my life. But I'm waiting on that; trying to find another Hoodoo isn't the way to go here. Each four-footed type has his own character and his own eccentricities.


izettl profile image

izettl 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

ericsomething~ it sounds like you're a caring dog owner so I do hope another dog comes your way.

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