grief / Guest Blogger / Life / love / Pets / writing

Guest blogger Susan Smiley – “Hoover- 138 pounds of joy”

It’s 10 pm
I have been working on putting this eulogy written by Susan Smiley for her dog Hoover.
This is the second one that she has shared with us here. Like many others,I followed Hoover and Susan’s struggle to find out what was wrong with him and deeply saddened to see Hoover have cancer. I noticed how much Hoover’s passing has affected Susan,while I have seen other pets pass with her,Hoover’s dying has really hit Susan hard.
I know how much writing can help drain some pain out for a while,so I reached out to Susan to offer her once again,a canvas on which to share her love for her beloved friend,Hoover. This is their story. Thank you for reading.
 

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Those of us with pets experience their unconditional love, embrace their quirks and love them as the special family members that they are. Every so often, there are very special fur babies who charm not only their owner but seemingly everyone they meet.
People who meet that special pet or see a picture of them instantly feel a special connection. It was the spring of 2013 and I knew my 17-year-old German shepherd mix Hercules was not going to live forever. I also had a Bassett Hound mix, Max (who I affectionately referred to as my autistic dog because he was extremely quirky) and I was concerned about him being lonely without Herc.
A pet-of-the-week write up in the Montmorency Tribune caught my eye. There was a picture of a big, black dog named Hoover and his story tugged on my heartstrings: My name is Hoover and I’m a big Labrador Rottweiler mix. I’m just about a year old so pretty much a youngster. I used to live with a little girl about five years old. She was my little buddy and we spent lots of time playing together. I enjoyed every minute and even when she wanted to play with dolls I didn’t mind. I just liked being with her. I don’t know what happened or why they brought me here to the shelter. It wasn’t anything I did wrong, just something in their lives that wouldn’t let them keep me anymore. My little friend was crying when she left me. I didn’t know what to do or why she was crying. I wanted to make her feel better but I couldn’t because we could no longer be together. . . I’m a good boy and my old family taught me many things like not to jump on little ones. I know how to sit and how to walk and I think I’m very smart and well adjusted for a dog of such a young age. . .My old family took the time to teach me to me a good boy. I’m very handsome, sincere and wise beyond my years. . .

I called the Elk Country Animal Shelter in Atlanta, Michigan but someone had already applied to adopt him. I really wanted him but was glad he had found a home so quickly and set about looking for a different pup. That May I ended up adopting a Staffie/Shepherd mix who had been taken to several adoption events without generating any interest. She and old Max hit it off immediately, though, and despite being a little overly protective of me at times, Nellie fit into the furry family just fine.

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One Friday in early August, Hercules finally crossed the rainbow bridge after a long and wonderful life with me. One week to the day after this, I happened to go on the Elk Country Animal Shelter web site to see that the person who had adopted Hoover that spring had returned him! I called I found out the big fella had been returned and was available. As luck would have it, my roommate’s mom was at her cottage in the Atlanta area and offered to pick up Hoover for us and bring him downstate.
As the shelter employee helped my friend’s mom secure Hoover in the back of SUV she confided: “Hoover is my favorite.” It sounds so ordinary and sappy to say that Hoover was a special dog but that is just the way of it. When my friend’s mom got Hoover back to her house and he promptly hopped out of the back of her SUV and upchucked. (The big guy was prone to motion sickness). As big as Hoover was, it was immediately evident that he was a gentle giant – a big baby. Clearly his previous family had spent a lot of time with him and taught him good manners. My roommate’s mom called me after getting settled back at home to let me know: “If you decide you don’t want this dog I’ll keep him.” The old Hoover charm was already at work.
Hoover had no idea that he was enormous and would regularly crawl into my lap and rest his head on my chest and go to sleep. He just had no idea that at 135 pounds he was kind of crushing me. The first time I took him to the vet for a checkup, Hoover persisted in licking the vet’s face while she was trying to listen to his heartbeat which just made the vet laugh. Hoover was that dog that seemed to just draw people to him. He had a very sweet almost puppy-like face and typically carried a plush toy in his mouth all of the time – his favorites being the plush steak and stuffed football. If you were having a bad day or feeling down, Hoover could always make you laugh. It was as if his mission was to bring joy to everyone he met. Every morning when I was getting ready for work, Hoover would sit in the door of the bathroom with his toy and give me a look that said: “What are you putting on those clothes for? Where are your running shoes? Why aren’t we going for a walk right now?”
Hoover and Nellie were about the same age which was great too because as much as Nellie loved slow and sweet Max, he was too old to really play with her. Hoover and Nellie loved running together in the yard and she never seemed to get mad when Hoover would regularly steal her rawhide bone or tease her by repeatedly shoving his plush toy in her face and squeaking it incessantly. Sweet and smart, Hoover did love attention and was one to employ the arm nudge which sometimes sent your beverage flying out of your glass or loosened your book or newspaper from your hand. But of course, you would pet him.

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One night, a friend who was having a relationship crisis stopped over late night for an emergency glass of wine. She was sitting on my couch crying and holding her glass of cabernet when Hoover nudged her arm with his big head, spilled the wine and made her laugh. He was doing what he could to cheer her up. It wasn’t long before Hoover had quite the Facebook following. Countless friends looked forward to seeing his pictures – usually with a big, plush toy in his mouth – and many expressed a desire to meet him in person.        Hoover loved everyone and everyone it seemed loved him. He even managed to reconnect with his original family when a picture I had posted to the Elk Country Shelter web site prompted his original owner to message me. I set up a reunion with her and her daughter and Hoover at my roommate’s cottage last fall and it was clear that Hoover remembered them. When his little friend sat on the floor, Hoover gave her a kiss then laid down and put his big head in her lap – just like old times. We agreed that we would all get together annually so that Hoover could stay in touch with his little friend. Hoover’s original mom told us a secret about him too; he was NOT a Rottie/Lab as advertised by the shelter. He was actually a Rottie/Pit Bull but they were afraid if they had told the shelter the truth, no one would have adopted him. In truth, his sweet disposition and loving nature would probably have overcome any reservations someone had about Pit Bulls.

 

About four weeks ago, 4-year-old Hoover did not eat his dinner one night. He ate his treats, he ate some plain hamburger and was excited to go for a walk with Nellie but he just did not eat his dinner. I’ve had dogs with a fussy appetite but Hoover the 135-pound lap dog was not one of those types. When he didn’t eat a second night and when he laid his big, black head in my lap and I saw his eyes were glassy I called the vet. Sure enough Big Hoov was running a fever and his bloodwork indicated that he had some kind of infection going on. It was late on a Friday afternoon and his regular vet sent us to a 24-hour emergency vet where he could get IV antibiotics and round-the-clock care. My roommate and I rushed him over, checked him in, helped him get settled in his kennel, and went home hoping that he was on the road to recovery.
It took about 24 hours for his fever to come down and for him to start eating again. I made boiled hamburger and took it to him and the vet techs made him chicken and rice, took him for walks, and massaged his leg which appeared swollen. My roommate and I visited several times during his four-night/three-day stay to walk him, feed him and bring him one of his treasured plush toys from home. I could see already the vet techs had taken a big liking to Hoover. They took pictures of him with his plush ball and when he was not getting his IV, he was allowed to come out of his kennel and hang out in the vet’s office and socialize a bit. One of the techs told me: “Hoover can stay here any time! He is the best patent ever!”
Hoover was tested for Lyme Disease and several other things but all of the tests came back negative. Bloodwork showed his kidney and liver function was normal. Something was causing his infection but what? The vets were perplexed. One of the vets who seemed to feel especially close to Hoover suggested that I take him to a specialty vet for an ultrasound that might show something that the blood work could not. Although we had already spent nearly $3,000 on Hoover’s hospitalization and medication, I took him for the ultrasound because more than anything I just wanted him to get well. But like everything else thus far, the ultrasound was inconclusive. Everything looked normal save for some swelling in the lymph nodes around his colon. The doctor – who thought Hoover was about the sweetest dog she had ever seen – wanted to do more very expensive tests: a chest XRAY, a CT Scan, and more. She handed me an estimate for close to $3000 but said she would start with the chest XRAY and depending on what that showed, she might not need to do all of the other tests. I wasn’t prepared to pay for anything but the ultrasound – which with her consultation was more than $400 — that day so I told her I would go home and discuss everything with my roommate and figure out what we wanted to do and what we could afford to do.
I started a GoFundMe with the hope of being able to at least get the $300-plus for the X-ray. I just wanted to find out what was wrong with Hoover so that I could help him get well. Hoover’s fur siblings Nellie and Derek were super excited to have their big brother home. Nellie wagged her tail and gave him a kiss and Hoover grabbed his toy football and trotted around the house. Although I could tell he was not 100% he was clearly happy to be home and seemed much more himself than he had been the night we rushed him to emergency. My roommate and I agreed to call Hoover’s regular vet and discuss the recommendations of the specialty vet and go from there. A chest x ray, it seemed, would be a good idea and possibly a blood culture as well. It was so good to have Hoover back home nudging me, standing by my bed and putting his big head on my chest and sitting in the doorway of the bathroom while I was blow drying my hair.

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The next morning he went outside with Derek and Nellie and seemed to enjoy lounging in the grass and monitoring the squirrels. The emergency vet called the day after Hoover came home to check in. “He stole one of the other dog’s biscuits last night,” I said. The vet chuckled: “That sounds like him.” Then the next night he didn’t eat his dinner. The next morning his breathing was labored. He threw up clear liquid. Back to his regular vet who was alarmed that four days of IV antibiotics and continued oral meds had not had more effect. She sent me back to the emergency vet to get back on the IVs. The emergency vet was also very concerned. I told him that the ultrasound had showed nothing and that the specialty vet had called for a number of very expensive diagnostic tests including a chest x ray. Although they did not have the ability to do a CT scan or MRI, the x ray was doable so he took it and him and I looked at the pictures together. “There is no tumor that is visible but his chest looks terrible,” said the vet. “There is something going on there.” He wanted me to take Hoover to the specialty vet right away with the x-rays to have the internal medicine doctors and oncologists read them.
After the roller coaster week of emotions and running Hoover to three different vets multiple times, racking up a colossal bill, I just was not up for going the rest of the way alone. I needed to wait until my roommate – the only person on the face of the planet without a cell phone – got home from work and we could take Hoover together. Hoover stayed at the emergency vet for the day and after work, my roommate and I picked up Hoover and took him to the specialty vet.

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Four different doctors at the specialty vet looked at Hoover’s x-rays. All of them said the same thing; cancer everywhere throughout his lymph system. There was nothing, the vet told us, that could be done to save him. Worse, with his labored breathing and frequent vomiting he was suffering. We said a very tearful good bye to “Big Hoov” that night. I’m still heartbroken. By far the worst pet loss I’ve suffered in 57 years. The difference between losing Hercules and losing Hoover is the difference between losing your grandfather or your kid. Losing a four year old dog to cancer was just not expected. The big, black dog that had given so much joy to so many people was gone. More than 100 people commented on my Facebook post about Hoover crossing the rainbow bridge. “I felt so connected to him” and “I looked forward to seeing his sweet face every day” were typical comments. His regular vet sent a single red rose in his memory and all three vets sent cards. One of the vet techs from the emergency vet sent a beautiful email with the pictures she had taken of Hoover with is plush ball during his stay. It meant so much to me because those were the last photos of Hoover ever taken.
“I am one of the vet technicians who helped care for Hoover. First, I wanted to say how sorry I am for your loss of Hoover. He had the best personality of any dog I have ever met. I feel blessed to have met him and even play a little catch with him and his favorite ball. He was very lucky to have such a loving family. You really did everything you could for him and I’m sure he knew that. Hoover is definitely one patient that left paw prints on my heart and I will never forget him.”
In the midst of my grief I’m trying to pull out something positive. Plans are underway to create a fund in Hoover’s name to help other people like me with a family pet in need of expensive diagnostic procedures or extended hospital stays. When everything gets set I hope to write about the Hoover Fund here and to be able to help other pets. Hoover, I think, would have approved

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Michael here….reading this reminds me of my own wonder kitty,the mighty Derek Jeter. Derek,my constant friend and companion. How many times he let me weep into his fur as Lori lay dying and I was powerless to stop it. For some of us,our dogs,cats,birds and yes,even cheetahs,are our kids. Losing a great friend like Hoover ,especially so young,is just crushing. How many of you with children would pay any price to save them?
For some of us,its the same for our pets…..hence why sometimes we go that extra mile,no matter the cost.
If you can help Susan with some of medical bills that she has,we would be very grateful. Please help me get Hoover’s story out there via social media by sharing this entry.

If you want to contribute to Hoover’s GoFundMe page just click on the link.

Comments are most welcome.  Thank you.

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One thought on “Guest blogger Susan Smiley – “Hoover- 138 pounds of joy”

  1. Our pets are part of our family when they pass breaking our hearts. I had to say good bye to all our pets leaving with a collar, favorite blanket or empty cage. They bring so much love and joy.
    Thanks for sharing Susan’s story.

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