Tuesday, April 2, 2013

In Memorium


'Ho Dog'

17 May 2000 - 1 April 2013

This is probably one of the hardest posts I've written.  It was such a sudden loss that it left Dale and I stunned.

There's just so much I want to write, but it all just seems so very hard.  For his sake, I need to give it a try, because that's what he always did - he never was a quitter.

He made me laugh.  And cry.  And want to utterly KILL him.  In the trial arena, he could embarrass me so badly one second, and the next, have everyone's jaws on the ground in awe of his raw talent.   One of his most memorable advanced cattle runs was at the Calapooia Classic in Sweet Home, Oregon.  None of the Advanced dogs had any luck at all with the cattle, soured by two days of trialing.  And then, Ho got out there and without me saying a word, took them at a leisurely, controlled tour of the course (except the centre chute, which we missed due to my incompetence), quietly and without any excitement.  The judge not only awarded him HIT Cattle, she said that it was flat out the best cattle run she'd ever seen, and everyone watching could agree to that.

He hated ducks with a passion.  I could tell within seconds of being in the arena if we just needed to leave without even starting.  Yet some of his highest scores were on ducks, and he had almost as many HIT on ducks as he did on cattle.

When he finished his WTCH (working trial champion) on September 22nd, 2007 in Idaho, he retired from trialing to concentrate on becoming a ranch dog.  It took awhile for both of us to overcome all the years of stringent control required in the trial arena, and for his true talent and natural ability to come out, and boy did it!  I learned to shut my mouth and trust him, and he learned that if he just did what he knew he should do, it all worked.  Not that there weren't times when it didn't.  Livestock is nothing if not predictable.  But he was the only dog that the momma cows trusted when they had youngsters with them, and the ewes trying to be intimidating found that he didn't care about their little foot stomping act in the least.

Ho never met a dog or person he didn't like.  He was one of the youngest dogs and the only intact male EVER certified to be a San Diego Children's Hospital Therapy Dog, and like his great grandma Morgan and his grandma Jazzee, quickly became the fave of both staff and patients (and parents).  And yet, like Jazzee, he could stare down 1500 pounds of beef on the hoof and rock that beef if need be.

He always greeted everyone who visited in the same way he lived his life - full on and full of noise.  If you didn't know him, you'd be sure that you were about to be eaten by a small grizzly bear.  That was actually okay by me, because if someone didn't need to be visiting, they'd usually leave in a huge hurry.  And I hoped that they went back and told all their criminally minded buddies too.  We never had a problem with him around, even tho he was the least likely of all our dogs to do a thing.  And yet, with the kids at the hospital, he'd hop up in bed with them and roll over for a belly rub, so incredibly gentle I used to wonder if that was really Ho Dog up there with that kid.

My buddy Shelly said that barking was his hobby, and she was so right.  We have a driveway alarum to alert us (when it works) that someone or something is coming up the driveway.  One bing and Ho was in full cry and wouldn't stop until he met the invader and gave his okay.  Left in the car or truck, it was the same thing - we were never sure if he was just reminding us he was in there and not to dwaddle, or at least bring him back something for waiting.  We could leave the windows down, doors unlocked and keys in the ignition, my purse and iPad on the seat, and come back to find everything as we left it.  No one, not even a criminal, would be THAT stupid.  And yet he loved to have kids pet him thru the window, altho I usually mentioned to clueless parents that not every dog, matter of fact very few dogs, would necessarily be quite as good with their offspring as Ho was.  He was a dog with things to say and he took every chance given to say them.

A dislocated elbow that was misdiagnosed and thus never fixed and that healed badly dogged him the last few years of his life.  But even in pain, he was stoic.  If a job needed doing, he did it.  Once, my buddy Carla and I had two month old calves that ended up separated from their moms, each of whom had gone out to a different pasture.  We needed to usher each calf out a different gate in the pasture they got stuck in.  Using Ho Dog, it took us almost an hour to finally, gently and without stressing the calves, get each one out the right gate.  The moment the second calf cleared the gate and Carla shut it behind him, Ho Dog dropped to the ground, unable to walk any further.  I had to go get the puttputt and plop him into it and haul him back to the house.  There wasn't an ounce of quit in Ho.  He might drop of exhaustion, but so long as the job needed doing, he'd do it until he just couldn't anymore.

He hated me to leave him.  He'd go into full-on pout mode until I got back, then let me know in no uncertain terms how unhappy I made him by callously deserting him.  Being Ho Dog, that lasted a few minutes, then all was forgiven.  That was just Ho Dog.  No one could stay mad at him very long.  He could crack you up trying to act dignified. 

It was quiet this morning.  I woke up to no snoring, farting red dog next to the bed, barely lifting his head to see if I really was getting up or just rolling over.  Don and Jan came by; the driveway alarum went off and it was quiet until Gem the BC out in the run started her usual hysterical "INTRUDER ALERT! INTRUDER ALERT!" barking because of Jan.  Gem could really care less about people; they scare the fur off of her but so long as the chainlink fence is between her and the canine intruder, she was going to bluff as much as possible.  Don said it was odd, not having the big, red, barking machine gallumphing towards him to rifle his pockets for the treat he knew Don usually carried for Jan.

I know that it was right, that we needed to let him go.  And Ryan, our vet, was so very, very kind to come up to the ranch to help Ho cross The Bridge peacefully, in our arms, on the sweet spring grass in front of a patch of sunny yellow daffodils.  He was, and then, quietly, he wasn't.  He left us with the dignity and quiet that he never had nor wanted to have in life.  He lived loudly.  Everyone knew him; you couldn't help that if you lived around here.

Many years ago, when we lost our foundation bitch and Ho's great grandma Morgan, my friend and fellow Aussie breeder Karyl Heathman of Dreamtime Aussies in SoCal sent me a book.  It's just a tiny thing, mostly pictures with no more than a sentence or three per page.  It's by Eugene O'Neill, distributed by Adrienne Yorinks, and it's called 'The Last Will and Testament of an Extremely Distinguished Dog'.  It made me cry the first time I read it, and when we lost Jazzee 4 years ago and again yesterday, it made me cry again.  I would tell you to find it and keep it close by if you own a dog.  You may only read it once in a great while, but it will be when you need to read it.  And that's all I have to say about it.

Ho joins his mother Catera, who crossed The Bridge on March 8th, his father Chaps, and all his brothers, sisters and other relatives who crossed before him, in fields full of fat and lazy sheep, bouncy calves and no fences.  He is as he was in his prime, fearless, fast and with the stamina of a marathon runner, the strength of wrestler.  He is whole once again.  And we miss him so badly.

5 weeks

1 year, always flying

2 years, still flying

5 months

Trialing, Sweet Home, Oregon.  Photo courtesy Amy Lyle

He might have hated ducks, but when he needed to, he could be awesome.  Sweet Home, Oregon.  Photo courtesy Amy Lyle

About 3 months old

5 years

5 years

About 5 months

About 2, with my nephew Spencer
About 3 months

2002 ASCA Nationals, 2 years old and absolutely fearless

Probably about 7 years old

Cayucos, California, Kathy Warren's boot camp, about 2003 I think

Cayucos, with Spencer
One week before his sudden death, doing what he loved the most

1 comment: