The First Time I Had My Heart Broken

First, a quick addition to my confirmed reader log: old school Army buddy Jessica and older sister Kathy. Confirmed readership up to six, so yippee! (Maybe linking a blog will encourage more posting? Just kidding, Kathy!)

For this, my 200th blog posted so far on this site (I still plan on going back and filling in some gaps from leave in Germany and the deployment. Promise.), I am going to topic #24 from my recently reference Writer’s Block post from “30 Blogs.” So for this post, I will discuss one of the saddest days of my adult life, the day that we made the painful decision to put down the best dog in the world, our Chow Chow Hooka. I will say now that this is my longest blog in sometime, so bear with me.

To clarify, my heart has been broken numerous times in life, especially since that fateful day. But nothing had quite the impact, especially prior to that date. The only other instances where I think my heart was broken prior were no where near the same thing; getting rejected by high school girls did not really compare to the pain felt that day and for many years after. And the breakdown of my marriage and the few years that followed sure were painful, but spreading that over a bit of time lessened the blow. It is hard for me to think of any other instance that was the same.

Before I tell the story of Hooka, I must first say that he was not the first dog that I had in my life that died or had to be put down. I grew up with dogs: Missy and Johan as a wee tyke in Orem (if they were around when I was a toddler), Lady and Harold after arriving in West Valley City. Candy the overweight dachshund. Duchess and her puppies Kissyface and Gump. All the dogs we had growing up and all dogs that are in that Great Dog Run in the Sky. Some others in their too, but that covers the primary ones from my Utah days. Most lived long and lived full lives, some met tragic ends. But because of these great dogs, I have always considered myself a dog person. When I moved to Connecticut, I was hoping it wouldn’t be long before I found a dog again, and in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t.

This far removed from everything, I am a little unsure the actual time line now. I know we found him while I worked at Blockbuster. I know this because when I worked nights, he would wait for me as I came down the hall to the apartment. I think we put him down the fall of 2004 because he didn’t quite make it the condo move in July 2005. But he was an awesome dog. I remember when we saw him at the pet store. We played with him a few times and discussed the possibilities of getting a dog. The day we went back to get him, he was no longer in his cage. We were disappointed, thought he was sold and a little heartbroken. However, luckily for us, he had a cold and was in the back so he didn’t get the other puppies sick. We paid for him but had to wait a few days to bring him home.

When we first brought him home, we were going to crate him at night so he didn’t get into things around the apartment. Boy, did he cry. That in itself was heartbreaking. We’ll just say that the crating did not last beyond that first night. At least the first night, I slept with him on the floor of the living room, allowing him to adjust to being away from all those dogs at the pet store and really begin bonding with him. I think it was things like this that truly made him my dog. Sure, he loved X as much as a dog can, but as I said above, he would be sleeping, dead to the world, but would hear me come through the first door at the end of the hall and wake up to meet me at the door. He truly was an awesome dog.

I think if you ask most people that knew Hooka that they would agree he was a good dog. However, since he was a Chow Chow, he was very territorial and protective of X and me. We (primarily X) took him to dog training and he was pretty good at sitting down and staying. He loved running around at the park and hated going out into the snow. He liked to get his teeth brushed but hated getting his hair cut. He truly was a member of the family, which made putting him down even harder.

Like I said, Hooka was a great dog. There was just three days that he wasn’t a good dog in his short life. The first night was a normal night. X and I were both at work or out and X’s sister was living with us at the time. She stopped by the apartment really quick with her friend and quickly ran up to her room and the second floor, leaving Hooka alone with her friend, whom he had met before but not in circumstances like this. Like I said, he was very protective and was protecting the house from this apparent stranger. She reached down to pet him and he freaked out and attacked, nearly ripping off one of her ears. It was an unfortunate accident, may have been preventable, but it was one strike against our dear Hooka.

The second unfortunate night was another night that I was away with Army. X was home with our friend Jon, who happened to be making tacos. Hooka had been to the groomer that day, which I mentioned he did not enjoy. The groomers even made us put him on a mild sedative in order to deal with him. He was coming down of his “high” and was confused by the presence of Jon in our kitchen and began to growl at him. X was upstairs using the computer and heard Hooka growling, telling him that it was okay and Jon was someone that he knew. Jon even tried to calm Hooka down by offering him his hand to smell. Hooka knew Jon; he may have been living with us at this point. I can’t remember for sure. Well, when Jon offered his hand, Hooka decided again to attack and nearly ripped of his pinkie, opening a wound to the bone. Jon was more upset that he wouldn’t be able to eat his tacos than the fact that his finger was hanging by a thread and was reluctant to show X. Either way, strike two against Hooka.

The final incident occurred in August 2004 I believe. We were getting ready to go out to visit X’s family in Western Pennsylvania. I don’t remember if we were going to take him with us, but we again had taken him to the groomers but they hadn’t trimmed his nails because of how angry that made him. But X wanted to trim his nails so he wouldn’t scratch people when they came over to take care of him while we were gone (Guess we weren’t taking him with us). He was again coming of his sedation high and fighting X on getting his nails trimmed. I was upstairs on the computer, using our fancy dial up internet to do something (this note will make sense shortly). I could hear Hooka growling at X, which was slightly odd, and X getting impatient with him. Suddenly, he barked and jumped at X and I heard her shriek in a way that I still remember to this day. Hooka had bit one of her arms, and after pushing him off, also bit the other one. She had four puncture wounds in one arm and three in the other. I came downstairs but had to go back upstairs to log off the internet so that we could call Jon and maybe an ambulance or something. We took X to the emergency room and had a decision to make after Hooka’s strike three.

After discussing it the rest of the night, we made the difficult decision of putting Hooka down. For the first time in my life, I would be putting down a generally healthy dog, though we were unsure if his three attacks were the result of his breed, the sedatives, or some sort of mental illness. It was at the vet that my heart truly broke. Hooka was giving them difficulties; it was almost as if he knew what was going on. They sedated him and gave us a few last minutes with him before they actually put him down. Then, as a last indicator that he truly loved me, he came over to me and laid down at my feet, trying to comfort me or letting us know that he was sorry. Tears were shed by all in the room as they came back in and did the deed. We all watched Hooka take his last breath and go into his eternal sleep. He was cremated and we buried his ashes and some of his things in X’s parent’s backyard, a place where he liked to run around.

It wasn’t for many years that I could even talk about Hooka or think about him. Seeing pictures of him would often cause tears or sadness. It was only within the past few years that I feel that I am ready to get another dog to replace him in my heart and mind. It sounds kind of hokey or cliche, but he was truly a member of our little family. The days that I miss him are fewer and far between now, but I still miss him on occasion. Even this post has been very difficult, if not cathartic. As I consider getting a dog in the next few months, I figured it was as good a time as any to honor Hooka for the great dog that he was, even though it has been a long time that he’s been gone. I wish that we had more pictures of him as a mature dog, and somewhere there are Christmas pictures that we took with him. Maybe they will turn up eventually.

For those that had a chance to meet Hooka, I hope that you thought he was a great dog. For those that never had a chance, I wish he was still around for you to do so. Minus three days of his too short life, Hooka was the best dog that I ever knew. We made a difficult decision over six years ago, which ultimately was the right decision, but it still doesn’t make the hurt and pain any less, even after all these years. Hopefully, I will find a dog over the next few months that will help replace the Hooka-sized hole that still exists. Until then, I still miss my dog. If that makes me strange, so be it. Miss you, Hooka.

Until next time…

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