Sunday, September 30, 2018

On the Life of a Hobo

Note: I'm not really sure this blog is ready to be written and published, but I'm going to give it a try.

In May of 2009, Owen and I purchased our first home. After moving thirteen times in ten years, I was very ready to stop wandering. We had been searching for a couple of months when a rural rancher became available. Driving up the damaged two-acre long driveway was an adventure, but the little house, sitting in a one-acre clearing, surrounded by a protective barrier of trees was perfect for us. It was a foreclosure, and it needed some work, but the price was perfect. Unbeknownst to us, until after we had bought and moved into it, the house also came with a dog. The neighbors had been feeding him, along with their outdoor dog for "a few years or so." and called him Hobo.

When we first met Hobo, he was very skittish, with matted fur everywhere. We had Aspen at the time, and Hobo even seemed afraid of him! As we settled into the house, we noticed that Hobo would hide under our porch during storms and roam between the properties during the day. Attempts to get close to him seemed fruitless. Honestly, it was kind of annoying as I thought we'd just be "putting up with" this stray- a feeling I've come to regret.

Then the breakthrough happened. It was late October, and I was in the front yard, placing multiple layers of newspaper down where our future garden would be. Hobo had been pacing around me, then suddenly came and sat in my blind spot. I went totally still and calm, then slowly reached behind me, without looking, and pet him. He not only tolerated it, but he also leaned into it a little. Over the next month, petting him behind me turned into petting him next to me, then in front of me with both hands. We started talking about bringing him into the house, as winter was coming... even though the neighbors insisted all he did was pee everywhere and tear things up. We put our old moving blankets onto the porch, along with a water and food dish, and waited to see what happened. Bit by bit, Hobo started sleeping there. We tried to get him into the house, but he was still too scared.

Then, in late January 2010, Hobo got into a fight. I was leaving for work when it happened and got it broken up. It was an abandoned hunting dog that did it. Reaching over to comfort Hobo, my hand came back bloody. His ear had been torn up. Risking being late, I ran inside for water and a towel and got it cleaned up. Hobo was waiting for me on the porch when I got home, a first. That night, we put him into the basement, so he could stay warm while healing, and told the neighbors. "Oh, just give him an aspirin." No. Owen and I decided that enough was enough and started luring him inside in the evenings. By the time the neighbors came over, in Feb, to say they were moving and to take Hobo or they drop him in the shelter, we already had him coming inside willingly and even allowing us to cut his matted fur!

February 14th, 2010 is the day we permanently moved him inside. He was housebroken by February 17th and had claimed the recliner in our computer room as his own by February 20th. He and Aspen got along well. Hobo did have one quirk, though, he insisted on sleeping in our bedroom closet. It was a cave for him, just like under our porch. The first two years were spent learning to help him overcome his fears while trying not to gag when he brought presents home for us - opossums, dear carcasses, bones etc. We managed to get him to accept being on our dog-run, something which had to happen because he'd take off down the driveway to go mark the mailboxes and roam "his" territory, and I was terrified he'd get hit by a car even with all of his experience living outdoors.

Hobo ended up teaching me so much about love and trust. From that first moment in Oct 2009, to how he handled moving into the house, to first vet visits (where he was diagnosed with 6 tick born illnesses and had to trust us when giving him months of meds) to learning to walk on a leash, to working through the phobias from storms. He'd come into the bathroom every time I was there and would stand in front of me to have his snout, itchy eyes and ears rubbed. It was "our time" together. While he often went to his closet to rest, he also loved being in the living or computer room with us. When I'd go into the hobby room to sew, he was my companion. I even made him a little bed for when he was back there with me. I soon realized that I had never loved an animal the way I loved Hobo.

When we first brought him to the vet and told him what the neighbors had told us; he agreed that Hobo seemed around 6-7 years old. Though he had excellent care with us, those first years left their mark. He soon developed arthritis from the Lymes, and his back legs were "numb" by the time he was ten. Hobo didn't let it slow him down much. He made it through a bout with a plasma-cell tumor on his paw pad with barely a wince. With some coaxing, he'd get up on the couch for every bandage change. It was him suddenly starting to hop onto the couch on his own which raised the first red flag for me after that.  Ever since we had gotten rid of the recliner, it was rare to see Hobo on furniture, but here he was, next to me almost every day. I told him, "I know, Hobes, we're almost out of time, aren't we?" He then started to lose bowel control and his hips got much worse. We took him to the vet for tests and pain meds, knowing we probably didn't have much time left.

We didn't even have a week...

On Saturday, September 22nd, 2018, I was resting from a book show when Owen let the dogs out. Five minutes later, he screamed that Hobo might be dead. We ran over to where he was laying in the yard. His eyes were open and alert, but the rest of his body wasn't moving at all. We pet him, checked for damage, tried to get him up, but it was no use. Crying, I called the emergency vet to say we were on the way and that it looked like goodbye. While I was on the phone, Owen was petting him and his eyes were closing on their own. We got him onto a sheet, loaded him into the back of the Crosstrek, and started the 40-minute drive. I pet him the entire way. Our normally afraid dog was acting as calm as could be. Once in the clinic, they agreed his body was shutting down and gave us time alone with him. Even while petting and talking to him, his breathing was off. When his eyes started to shut again, we knew it was time. Hobo was fighting with everything he had to stay with us, and it wasn't right to keep him in pain. Our beloved boy slipped peacefully from this world before even a third of the syringe was injected.

We plan on scattering some of his ashes around the perimeter of the house. It feels right to let him continue to protect the house the way he has for most of his life. The rest will be in the house with us, as those best years of his life were spent. That is the life of our Hobo.