Sunday, November 20, 2011

Saying, "Good-bye"

R.I. P. Uber Hundus Maximus April 1999?- November 18, 2011
This is not the entry I was intending to write.  I knew this was coming, but no matter how prepared I thought I was, the actuality hit with an abruptness, a finality that sucked the air out of my world, left an enormous hole in my heart, left me wandering in a haze of loss.  My Uber Hundus Maximus has died. 

I had thought about writing something earlier and then storing it, like newspapers do when they know a great celebrity is nearing the end of his or her time, and then adding the necessary details at the actual moment of death but I’m superstitious.  I thought that I could delay the process, so I didn’t.  Now, I feel compelled to write something, but there’s just so much I want to say, most of which won’t make much sense to anyone except for me and the people that knew him.  Even so, let me tell you about my Uber Hund:

He came into our lives, October 2000, on his own volition, as he did everything.  He had been wandering the streets of my mother’s neighborhood for a few weeks.  He walked by my parents’ house.  My mother, never seeing an empty mouth she didn’t want to fill, set out a bowl of food and went back to the house.  A few minutes later, as she was doing dishes, she felt like she was being watched.  She turned around and saw the stray looking at her through the window.  Not a pushy look or desperate look, but one of curiosity, as if to say “oh, so this is where you live.”  Then he turned around and left.

My mother called me, saying I should come and look at this dog, come help him.  My husband and I were both working full-time and living in a townhome.  It was an especially stressful time for us because several of our friends were also ill and dying.  Anyone could see it was a bad situation for dog ownership.  In fact, the dog I had gotten pre-marriage, a spaniel mix, was living with my parents, their dachshund and two cats.  Still, my mother encouraged me to see this stray dog.

So, after work, I drove up to her neighborhood, not really having a plan in mind.  She’d put out bowls of food and water, and there he was, eating and drinking.  She hadn’t prepared me for the sight.  He was a medium sized dog, incredibly thin.  I could see his spine, ribs, and hip points.  He was nearly hairless, his skin that dark grey elephant skin texture that dogs often get when they have mange.  But he still had fur on his foxy face and when he turned to look at me, he wasn’t frightened or exuberant.  He was incredibly calm, relaxed and confident.  He gave a wag in greeting, then returned to eating.

When he was done, he came over to me.  He wore a wide leather collar, that was so tight that his skin had grown over the edges.  There were no tags.  He let me pet him.

“Let’s see if he’ll get in the car,” I said.

I opened the car door and he approached and looked, but didn’t want to go in.  I tossed in a treat to no avail.  I tried to pick him up, but he balked and when I let go, he ran a couple steps out of reach, but then returned.

I told my mother that I would try again the next day, since my sister would be there to help.  If he was gone, then it wasn’t meant to be.

He wasn’t there when I arrived, but appeared a bit later, checking in at the window again.  He let me remove the collar.  It made a sucking sound when it pulled off of his raw skin.  He let me put a harness and leash on him and with my sister’s help, we got him into the car and she held his leash while I drove him to the vet.

After a few weeks, the hair started to grow back.
I left him at the vet for a few hours so he could have a work-up and a bath.  I alerted my husband to the situation, and being an animal lover himself, he gave the o.k. to bring the stray home, reminding me that we didn’t have the ideal conditions for keeping a dog.  I concurred and assured him that as soon as the dog regained his health and fur, I would find him a permanent home.  When my husband came home that night, the dog greeted him at the door with what would become his usual reserve.  Although my husband was stunned by the dog’s condition, he was sold on the personality.

Because we didn’t know anything about the dog, that first night I slept on the couch downstairs and the dog slept on a folded comforter.  He slept hard almost as soon as he lay down, waking once to come to the couch and give me a kiss on the nose before returning to his bed. 

I was smitten. 

In the morning, I went upstairs to change.  The dog waited at the foot of the stairs for a minute, then came up.  He stopped when he saw our bed.  He glanced from my husband to me and back with a look that would become his trademark, a look that said, “Wait.  There’s a bed?  Why the heck were we sleeping downstairs?  That’s ridiculous.”  And then he jumped up on the bed.

The next night, he slept on the bed with us.  But the next morning was Monday, a work day.  My husband went downstairs and called the dog.  The dog came.  My husband put on the harness and leash and opened the front door.  It was dark and cold.  The dog glanced from outside to the warm bed upstairs.  “Wait.  I was sleeping in a warm comfy bed and you woke me up to go out into the dark and cold?  That’s ridiculous.”  He ran back upstairs to bed.  And from then on, the dog was convinced that my husband ran a few kibbles short in the mental food bowl.

Even so, once the dog’s fur returned, when I followed through and asked if I should look for a new home for the dog, my husband gaped at me.

“We belong together!” he exclaimed.  “How could you ask such a thing?” 

And so Uber Hundus Maximus remained with us

Uber Hundus was different from my other dogs because he always made it very clear that he didn’t need us, kind of like a cat.  If we did something that displeased him, he would give us a puzzled look as if to say, “I don’t need to take this crap, you know.   That’s ridiculous.” And then he would check out either physically or mentally, until we did something that interested him.  However, he also made it clear that he chose to be with us.  He was willing to work with us, he’d hang out with us, and he’d always come back to us.  His choice was our privilege, and I have to say I agreed. 

When his fur grew back and he went from 25 lbs. to 45 lbs., people would literally stop their cars and back up to compliment how handsome he was and ask about his breed.  My husband and I assumed he was a shiba inu mix, perhaps some type of dingo, since he didn’t bark.  However, whenever I walked him through our townhouse neighborhood, Koreans would stop us, saying we had a beautiful jindo (their national dog) and asking if we wanted to breed him.  They were horrified to discover I’d had him neutered, saying he was a perfect jindo specimen.  The breed was relatively new to the United States, the first introduction being during the L.A. riots.  They were the dogs guarding from store rooftops.  When I looked up the breed, they looked like my Uber Hund, although Uber Hundus Maximus was even more handsome, as he would concur.

The Uber Hund didn’t like bullshit.  He had to take a variety of pills throughout his life because of his compromised immune system during his life on the streets.  At first, I tried to hide his pills in food.  Regardless of the kind of food, he would spit out the pill.  One time he spit out the pill and stood on it, “You think you can fool the jindo?  Ridiculous.”  From then on, I gave him the pills straight, but I’d open his mouth from underneath and give him a treat chaser.  He was perfectly fine with that.  He also hated baths, but wouldn’t suffer the indignity of being lifted into a tub.  Once he was in the bathroom, he’d jump into the tub on his own and take his “punishment” like a dog.  After the bath was over he wanted to chase me or my husband around as payback.

Very unlike jindos, the Uber Hund loved people.  He enjoyed parties and would work a room, greeting everyone, but never jumping up to take a plate or to counter surf.  When he volunteered as a therapy dog, he loved working the sitting room of the assisted living facility.  And the Uber Hund was an exceptional flirt.  He always picked out the prettiest girl in any situation.  He’d sit in front of her, and put a kindly paw on her lap.  He’d work her with “big eyes” first, and if cute didn’t work, he’d break out the “sexy eyes,” where he’d narrow his eyes just a little and give a little head chuck, as if to say, “Hey, baby, how ‘bout a treat?” 

Uber Hund with my niece.
He was exceptionally gentle with children.  When he saw children, his eyes would go soft and he’d want to visit.  They were entranced by his foxy appearance. He loved having them ruffle his fur and would let them play with his fuzzy ears.  When my niece visited, she would pet him as she colored and he would fall blissfully asleep.  When my later-to-be nephew visited, he wanted to walk the Uber Hund.  He strutted as the Uber Hund walked easily at his side.  When I asked my nephew why he wanted to walk with the Uber Hund, he said it was because it was like walking a wolf.  I think even Uber Hund liked that idea.

Although the Uber Hund liked to play the role of lone wolf, he eventually allowed other dogs into the household, so long as they didn’t cramp his style.  He’d never admit it, but I think he more than tolerated the company of Wee One and Muzzy, a dog we adopted but died before we moved.  There are even a few photographs of the Uber Hund touching – he would vehemently deny “snuggling” - the other dogs while they slept together.  When I was training the other dogs, the Uber Hund wanted to participate.  But, he didn’t want to do what the other dogs were doing.  He made up his own routines to get a treat.  Then he’d look at the other dogs as if to say, “Top THAT!  What you’re doing, it’s ridiculous.”

He loved cheesecake, smoked cheese, car rides, and supervising in the front yard as we gardened.  He was a great supervisor.  When we briefly lived in an apartment, I came home to see the jindo’s tail wagging as his front end was under the sink with the plumber.  When I called away the Uber Hund, the plumber actually protested.  “He’s o.k.  He’s just keeping me company.”  So, the Uber Hund returned to the task at hand.

Working the "sexy eyes."
Uber Hundus Maximus always had That Look ready, the Uber Hund look, the look that said, “don’t even try to understand the way of the jindo,” the look that wondered at human ineptness, “What?!  Why did you make it rain on BOTH sides of the house? That’s ridiculous!” the look that said, “You don’t know how to do it.  I’LL DO IT.” We got to know that look and love the look.   

We knew the Uber Hund was old, fragile with health issues.  In the last few months, he had a bout of pancreatitis, breathing issues, and something going on with his liver.  We thought we’d have to make The Decision a few weeks ago, when he started to become incontinent, drinking lots of water, breathing heavily.  We even prepared by asking our vet if he could make a house call when The Time came.  We should have known that the jindo wouldn’t let us do that.  However, over the last few weeks, the jindo prevailed, as he has been known to do.  He regained energy, held his bladder, ate with enthusiasm.  He wanted to go for walks and climbed the stairs. 

Friday, November 18, was a regular morning.  Uber Hundus ate a whole chicken breast and some special kibble.  The dogs did their business.  I took Rock Star and Wee One for their walks.  Uber Hundus was in my husband’s office and when my husband went out for a second, the Uber Hund and Wee One migrated to my office.  I was upstairs, with the Rock Star, changing clothes.

 There was a yowl. 

My husband rushed to my office.  Each dog was in their usual place, Wee One on the couch, Uber Hund lying on the carpet next to him.

“Uber Hund?” my husband said, touching the jindo.

Uber Hund yowled again and went lax.

And then we realized.  He had just said, “Good-bye.”

1 comment:

  1. My heart breaks for you. I have a handsome 16 year old Shiba Inu that is in the very twilight time of his life. I dread going through what you are feeling right now. My deepest sympathy goes out to you and your family. I am so VERY sorry for your loss. Thank you for giving Uber a chance in this often animal cruel world. You will be blessed for your compassion. - Maria


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