Hope was a force of nature. She came into our lives due to an inexplicable draw to the picture of a nearly hairless, scraggly muppet in someone's arms at a city shelter. She made us get educated. She made us hone our reaction times. She taught us what a long, slow process trust can be sometimes - and that complete trust is sometimes never earned that that doesn't mean there isn't still room for total love.
Since we last updated, Hope had a great year. Her health was good and stable. She hated the groomer as usual. We moved to a new house in the country in upstate New York in August 2012. There was no more sand and beach, just woods and grass. Hope enjoyed meandering through our 1/2 acre we fenced in for the dogs. We called her trips around the yard her "walkabout". She didn't move fast, she just bippity-bopped her way around the fence line. She gained a new brother, a chiweenie we named Bernie, who was a rescue from NYC. She actually seemed to like Bernie. They became partners in crime and sometimes even snuggled (as much as Hope would allow).
Hope's 11th birthday was in January. She and I were inseparable. If we came home from somewhere, Hope would appear as a little white dandelion puff head in the corner of our french door, tail wagging like crazy. As soon as the door would open she would dart out past her Dad to find me and do a little happy dance that I had returned to her - her person. Joy-barking would commence, sometimes she would jump up asking to be picked up. She was a stingy kisser but sometimes...sometimes I'd get one lick. She always got kisses, regardless. She mostly tolerated those. To say we adored each other was to put it lightly.
February 2013 hit us and Hope stopped eating. If you know her story, her refusing to eat isn't a new thing for us but this was days long. Something was very wrong. We took her to our veterinarian at New Paltz Animal Hospital for bloodwork. Hope was yellow. Her blood results were horrible and, frankly, I was shocked she was alive after hearing them. She had lost a full pound of weight, which is a big deal when you are only 5 pounds to begin with. We were terrified she was going to die. We hit her with antibiotics, anti-nausea meds, and anything else we could get her. Hope was so weak she didn't need to be muzzled for treatment. At that point, I was certain she was going to die. I stared at her at night in bed, whispering to her while she stared quietly back at me. I didn't know if she would be with me when I woke up so I wanted to make sure she knew I loved her. We drove every day for 5 days to our vet (which was 40 minutes away) to get her treated. We had a specialist do an ultrasound on her to figure out what was going on. The ultimate issue was pancreatitis but also her renal system was shut down. Every day we drove there we were sure we were not going to leave with her alive but she continued to kick. Her numbers were bad but she was badder - she lived. She started to eat again. It was McDonald's chicken nuggets and cheeseburgers but she was eating. We gave her anti-nausea meds and anything she would eat. We took her home and hoped for the best. She perked up and became bossy again but she only wanted to eat nuggets. Sometimes she preferred Wendy's nuggets - can't blame her.
Hope lived through spring. She accompanied me outside to hang wash on the line, nosing around in the grass and flowering weeds. I kept a close eye on her with the hawks, afraid they would scoop her up but then remembered how mean she could be. Then I felt sorry for any hawk that would try her. She was still on her fast food diet which wasn't the best thing for pancreatitis but when a dog won't eat anything else, which Hope was champion of, you feed her what she'll take.
Fosters came and went, as usual. On a Tuesday in July, a foster we tried to help passed away at our vet while on IV meds. We had only had her 6 days but her kidney failure was too far gone. We mourned her regardless as we get attached to every animal that crosses our doorstep. Thursday, July 11th, rolled around and it was a semi-normal day by our standards. Breakfast included a bossy white dog named Hope demanding some. She had a poop accident on the floor which was unlike her. Sometimes she peed in the house but she never pooped. I didn't think much of it after cleaning it up. She napped beside me on the couch, then demanded I share my lunch with her as well. We had chicken salad sandwiches. I made sure she had a tiny bit and she enjoyed it. We fell back into a rhythm, her napping beside me on the couch again; then it happened 20 minutes later. Hope screamed and her whole body went rigid. I gathered her in my arms and tried to help her. A lot of things passed in the next 2-3 minutes and it was kind of a blur. Ultimately, as I held and comforted her, she seized again, and then the light was gone from my tiniest, most important best friend in the whole world. Hope died in my arms, which in retrospect is the only way either of us probably would have wanted it - to be together.
Hope was a true force of nature. She came into my life, she destroyed what I knew about love, enhanced it, rewrote every rule about a dog-owner relationship with "there are no rules", and then she disappeared just as suddenly. Sometimes I wonder if I dreamed her.
I don't have many pictures of Hope from after she got sick. We focused on time together and her being and looking sickly wasn't something I felt needed to be documented.
As of today, it has been almost 8 weeks since she died and I miss her every day.
Sometimes I hear her old lady bark in my mind. Yesterday while I was in the shower I thought I heard her signature "Hey Mama, I'm on the wrong side of the door" cry which is what she did when I actually made her stay out of whatever room I was in. I still expect to see her come around the corner to find me, or toddle up the stairs to make sure I don't stay out of sight too long. She doesn't and my heart hurts.
There are so many things I could say about Hope and our love for her but I know many others loved her too. Thank you to everyone who followed us, supported us, and laughed or cried with us during this amazing journey. Thank you to the staff at RBVH, Dr. Denise Mulry, and Dr. Allison Soscia at New Paltz Animal Hospital for being some incredible caregivers for my tiny shark. They are all outstanding at their jobs and without them we would have never gotten half as far. Thank you to my husband, Chris, for loving Hope despite being 'second fiddle' to me. He had a completely different relationship with Hope but it was just as intense and filled with adoration from Hope as mine, "just different", as he would say.
I'll leave this blog post off with a poem an amazing supporter and friend of mine named Tricia shared with me. It fits my Hope so accurately, almost like it was written about her. Love you, Hopey, and I will see you on the other side.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers - (314) - Emily Dickinson
“Hope” is the thing with feathers
-That perches in the soul
-And sings the tune without the words
-And never stops - at all -
And sweetest - in the Gale
- is heard -And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -
I’ve heard it in the chillest land
-And on the strangest Sea
-Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.