In the fall of 1993, I was working as a colorguard director. You know, those flag wavers in a marching band? Yeah, I taught them. Well, while walking around the mall looking for ideas for the guard's uniforms, I stopped in the pet store to take a break.
I'm not a fan of pet stores. I am normally very opposed to purchasing pets from them because it encourages their business. And yet, there, in their "pet me" box, was the ugliest colored mutt I have ever seen. He was nothing but ears and paws, brown covered in black dapples, and his long tail wagging at any one that looked at him. I stopped and petted him. Then I held him.
Then I was lost in those brown eyes of his.
Here I was with my first "real" job, preparing to move out into my first "real" home of my own. I hadn't yet received my first paycheck for the new job, but I had to figure out a way to take MY dog home with me. He looked like he would grow up to be around 75-100 pounds. A big dog. Not the kind of dog you can keep in an apartment! But, he was my dog.
I could almost feel fate pulling at me. I knew this dog would be home with me in a way that most cute puppies had never made me feel. In a time before cell phones, I only had one option. Beg the store owner not to sell him for 30 minutes, run home, and make a VERY convincing case to my parents.
Lets just say I drove quickly. Very quickly.
I got home, asked my mother and father to loan me the $70 dollars for the dog. They made all the right arguements, they tried to talk me out of it, and they told me that in a week I wouldn't even remember him. Oh how they were wrong.
In the end, my father caved in. He rode back to the pet store with me, only 35 minutes after I had left. I hoped and prayed that my new puppy would still be there. We walked into the doors, and a pair of young college aged girls were holding MY dog. I was filled with insane jealousy and fear. They were talking about how cute he'd be in their apartment, and how they should buy him! I just said, "well, he'll probably be about 100 pounds you know, just look at his feet". They put him down and moved on to the cute small dogs. He weighed 94 pounds at 1 year old.
My dear father mean while, was trying to talk the store owner down on the price of the mutt. Listed as a Lab/Blue Heeler cross, he wasn't worth 70 bucks! A mutt, the type of mutt you could get for free outside Wal-mart! The store owner dropped his price to $60. Dad wrote the check.
So there I was, my very first dog in my arms, as happy as could be. His records said he was born on August 31st, 1993. I had no idea the times we'd spend together, and what a part of my life this ugly colored floppy eared mutt would become. I learned that I couldn't stay out late, because Hobbes had to be fed. I couldn't go on vacations with out making arrangements for his care. When he was young, no one cleaned up after him but me. This was my dog. My responsibility. My best friend.
I went to college, living in a house off campus. There beside me was Hobbes. My roommates fed him everything they could, and he puked half of it back up. When school and work became hectic, I looked into a friend for him, and fell in love with Rottweilers. I bought a cute puppy, and of course named him Calvin. Calvin and Hobbes.
Calvin was diagnosed with a genetic defect at the age of 2, and was blind for the rest of his life. Hobbes took care of Calvin. Hobbes quickly learned to "Go Get Calvin" and lead the poor blind dog back to the door. We lost Calvin last year, at the age of 14. He's buried under the big cedar tree at the back of the farm.
When my house was robbed, Hobbes bit the thief. We never found who it was, but they wrote a lovely message on my door in marker. When I began dating a new guy, I made sure he knew that he had to pass the "Hobbes test". If Hobbes didn't like him, he was history. When I got married, Hobbes was there, and when the marriage went bad, I cried in his fur. When I kicked my ex-husband out, Hobbes got to sleep on the bed.
When I got my first horse, Hobbes was waiting in the car. Of course, he couldn't care less about some big filthy animal, and even acknowledging that they existed was beneath his notice! Then we began trail rides. I'd ride Ash, with Hobbes trailing ahead of us scouting the way, and chasing any stray bunny that happened to run. I knew he'd come back with a simple whistle, and never had to worry that he'd run out of my line of sight. Many spring and fall days were spent romping like that.
Ash is now retired from riding. She watches the foals grow, and mows the yard, and demands her butt to be scratched. Hobbes made his last trip to the barn on Monday. I had to carry him home, because he was just too tired to make the rest of the walk. I could see the depression creep into his eyes that he couldn't do it on his own.
Through the highs and the lows, my "booby dog" has been a constant in my adult life. Grumpy, he has marked every single dog to live in my house with a nice "reminder" bite on the nose, maintaining his leadership of the bigger dogs with a single reprimand. Every one of them has a scar. Just one. After that, Hobbes had their respect. He has tolerated kids, cats, puppies, ponies, and more, and asked for nothing more then a pay on the head, and maybe the left over milk from a bowl of cereal.
I never thought he'd live to see 15, or 16, and I hoped against hope that he'd make it to 17. He did all of those, and more. And in the last week, his age is finally taking its tole. Monday he bagan having trouble getting up without help. Tuesday he spent all day sleeping, and can't walk without help. As of yesterday, he has no interest in getting up at all. I had to carry him outside, so he could do his business. Today, my dear Hobbes is being treated like a king. Pasta for breakfast, homemade bread for lunch. He woofs, and I bring him water, or change the blanket/pads he's laying on. I'm not even asking him to go outside. If he makes a mess, I will clean it. Picking him up makes his bones ache.
Hobbes has always hated car rides. He whines and cries, and worries the whole way that I'm getting ready to dump him or something. He hates the vet clinic, and will gladly bite anyone if I am not in the room. And yet, if he can just see or hear me, he's the perfect example of a canine citizen. When he was neutered at 6 months of age, the clinic had to call me to come in. He refused to leave his kennel, because I had told him to stay. The tech said that he hadn't taken a step in over an hour. When she tried to take him out of the kennel to anesthetize him, he tried to attack her.
I opened the kennel door, and said "Hobbes, come here" and there he was, in my arms, wagging and happy. I put a leash on him, walked him into the room I was shown, and told him to be "good" and that it was "ok". They gave him a sedative, and I petted him as he went under. They called me as he was waking up, and I was there to talk to him. They marked "Owner MUST be present to handle!!!" on his chart. I've never left him alone with a stranger since.
The vet will be here in the morning. Hobbes won't even have to leave his home. I've picked out the perfect spot for him to lay in his last moments. Under the tree where he would lay and soak up the sun. I will be preparing his favorite meal for breakfast...a whole bowl of cereal, all for him. Jae will be preparing his grave this evening, under the cedar tree, next to Calvin.
I can't remember when I started, but I can clearly remember many talks with Hobbes about my plans to own a small horse farm. How we would have land, and he could run and play, and never have to move (because Hobbes always hated moving to a strange place). I swore to him that I'd have it before he was gone, and I'd only bury him on the farm of my dreams. I have that place now. And I plan to keep my promise.
Life won't be the same with out him. His silly quirks: how he wouldn't walk on wet grass, and God forbid you LOOK at him while he's eating! At times, I think that I could treat his symptoms, and get him a bit more life, and then I realize that wouldn't be fair to him. For over a year now, I have known that he has cancer, and I believe that it's catching up with him quickly this week. He's still a grump, and he's still my booby-dog. In a way, I'm glad that he's made it clear that it's time. I don't want him to ever have to suffer.
But I will miss him so.
A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses
I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.