The Pet of a Lifetime: I’ve Had One…Have You?

Since it was National Dog Day this week, I’m celebrating the pet who rocked my lifetime. Have you had one of those? The kind of pet who’s a member of the family, and who is mourned long after they’re gone?

Hoshi was everything a dog should be: loyal, loving, sweet-tempered, funny. She totally laughed at my jokes and she was around for all my big “life milestones.”

And then one day, 17 days after my daughter was born, Hoshi let me know it was time to go. There are so many up sides to pet ownership, but the biggest downside in my opinion is their short life span.

They will always go before we do. Dammit.

Hoshi lived a stupendously long life for a 90 pound dog; she was fourteen-and-a-half years old when she left to frolic in that Puppy Lake in the Sky.

It’s never easy to say goodbye to a loved one, animal or human. The memories, and the lessons you learned from them, are what help you get through it.

Here’s the Top 10 lessons my Hoshi-Moshi taught me.

(Now everyone go hug your pets!)

1)      50 New Smells A Day

It’s said that dogs need to get fifty new smells a day to stay psychologically alert and happy.  Those daily walks are your dog’s version of reading the paper. I KNOW they’re sniffing every bush, light pole and dog bootie on the block but in reality what they’re doing is “filling the well.” You need to do it too (the well-filling, not the sniffing).

2)      Pay Attention

Take notice of the people, places and things in your life that fill your writing well. With the plethora of daily tasks on all our to-do lists, especially this time of year, it’s easy to let the small simple gifts in our world pass through unnoticed.

3)      Treats Help Everything

One of my dearest friends has tons of pets and, according to her, “any one of her dogs would step over her bloody carcass for one bite of kibble.” (If you have dogs like hers, you might want to skip to #4.)

I’m not suggesting that you allow either you or your pet to get too fluffy in the backside but the world is better with steady rewards of coffee, chocolate, wine, cake or whatever treat that says, “Well done!” to you.

4)      Smile and Wag

What happens when your dog bounds across the room with a smile and a wag of his or her tail and slides under your hand? You pet them, and coo over them, AND YOU SMILE. It’s hard to resist your pet when they’re sweet.

Try to remember this concept. You’ll know when you need it by the way your family rolls their eyes.

5)      Find the best professionals (and trust them)

When Hoshi turned eight, she began to get creaky with arthritis. Akita lifespans average about 10 years so I started getting mentally prepared (though, let’s face it, you never are).

My girlfriend, Mary, who’s a dog trainer, heard my concerns and sent me to Dr. Voll. A few visits with this wonderful vet and Hoshi was a whole new girl. Certainly, we did our part, but Dr. Voll took care of Hoshi for almost seven years and went well above the call of duty. Whenever the inevitable ups and downs of a senior dog would occur, I’d worry that it might be time to let my sweet baby dog go.  On one of those bad days, Dr. Voll looked me in the eye and said, “Stop crying! I’ll tell you when it’s time.”

And she did.

6)      Love Without Conditions

I don’t have to explain this one to any pet owners. Dogs don’t see disabilities, disfigurement, neuroses or any of the other things that tend to squeeze the human brain down the narrow path of judgment. Animals manage to see inside your heart and make their decisions from there.

You’ve heard the saying, “I want to be the person my dog thinks I am,” right? Enough said.

7)      Bring Your “A” Game

It’s not in a dog’s nature to give 50%, at least it wasn’t in Hoshi’s. She traveled the entire West Coast, San Diego to Seattle, and explored every dog beach and mountain range with the same focused zeal.

I’m a software trainer by day and, after September 11th the training projects in Southern California dried up. In 2002, if I wanted work, the dog and I had to hit the road.  We traveled throughout the state, stopping at every available doggie day care along the way. Whether it was Elaine’s Pet Resorts in Fresno or Fog City Doggie Day Care in San Francisco, that dog brought her A-Game. In turn, these places delighted in her visits and always made room for her even when they were full.

8)      Invest In Training

One of my ex-boyfriends owned Hoshi’s parents – she and her four litter mates were literally born into my hands.

Unfortunately, this guy went to the “Well, they mind ME” school of training. This wasn’t so bad with Hoshi’s sire, who had an even temperament, but her mother was a really bad dog and it became a dicey business to have anyone in our house. I began training all five puppies, almost before their eyes opened, in an attempt to counteract the unruly bitchiness of their mother. This kind of rigorous training opened a lot of doors for Hoshi.

The money and time you put into learning will always be worth it.

9)      Service Makes You Feel Good

One of the happiest dogs I know is a Corgi named Boris. His owner, Monique is extremely disabled and gets around mostly by scooter. Mary (the dog trainer from #5 above) has taught Boris to fetch Monique’s keys, her shoes, the paper, and a myriad of other items. Like every pet, Boris thinks his owner is a rock star – he lives to serve Monique and nothing makes him happier than making her happy.

I’m not suggesting that you throw yourself on the altar of someone else’s happiness but I am recommending that you give back. You’ll know your service opportunity when you see it if you’re on the lookout.

10)   Leave People Smiling

Like I said, during my second week home after having my daughter, Hoshi let me know it was her time to go. She’d limped along health-wise through my high-risk pregnancy. I really thought she’d miss the birth but she rallied.

Dr. Voll came when I called her and agreed that it was “time,” though she said I could take a few days.

I contacted all of Hoshi’s friends and opened the house for anyone who wanted to visit. We gave her every treat we had, plus people brought her scads of contraband food. Things like McDonald’s cheeseburgers that give a dog pancreatitis were on the menu that week (though I definitely got the “where has this been all my life” look).

On the big day, Dr. Voll came to the door and we sent our daughter out with a friend for a long walk so we could focus on Hoshi. She polished off the rest of a cheeseburger and moved on to the Honeybaked ham, smiling and wagging all the way.

When the medicine was administered, she never knew it.  I’ve repeatedly thought ‘we should all be so lucky.’

Hoshi was my first “baby girl” and I feel blessed to have learned from her.

Now it’s your turn to celebrate your fur babies in the comments.

International Business Times shows their picks for “the Top 5 Dog Stories of the Year.”

Do you have pets? What lessons have they taught you? Enquiring minds LOVE to know these things here at More Cowbell!

~ Jenny

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
This entry was posted in Inspiration, More Cowbell and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to The Pet of a Lifetime: I’ve Had One…Have You?

  1. LauraDrake says:

    Hoshi was such a great dog…

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  2. Sue says:

    Our best dog ever was named Rocky. He was a shephard/collie mix and a rescue from our local shelter. We got him for our kids but he quickly became my dog. He fulfilled all of Hoshi’s Requirements of Being the Best Dog Ever and we miss him every day. Currently we have two ankle biters who are about as opposite of Rocky as you can get and we still love them but they are so high maintenance – it’s like owning toddlers. Well, toddlers that I can put in a kennel… 🙂

    Great post about your sweetheart Hoshi. Thanks for bring up such wonderful dog memories!

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  3. Barbara Rath says:

    There is so much packed into this post. First the tearful ending. I held my dog Angel and watched her eat vigorously in her last moments, giving me that heart-stopping “perhaps it’s not time” thought, all the while knowing it was. Angel was a shepherd/border collie Mix. She helped me raise my children from pre-school through college, watching over them when they were sledding in the side yard, and corralling them when they were running in the back. Then she after she raised Hallie, our amazing little Therapy dog, she finally succumbed. Your dog’s life messages are terrific. My favorite is “Service Makes You Feel Good”. Thank you.

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  4. Jane Sadek says:

    My little buddy is Precious. She’s a 14 year old Shih Tzu. Thankfully small dogs can live longer lives, because life without Precious isn’t something I like to think about. She can’t hear and her sight is not the best, but she knows me and when she’s frolicking around for a treat, you would swear she’s a puppy. I go to bed about an hour before my husband and she gets to hang out on the bed with me until he comes, which seems to be her favorite part of the day. Of course, her joy with snuggle time may be relate to the fact that when hubby comes to bed and puts her other side of the doggy gate (to distance himself from her snoring), she gets a treat.

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Awwwww…Precious? How sweet is that? I’m sure the treat makes her exile bearable. I can attest that dog snores can be louder than human snores.🙂

      You’re lucky to get to keep your small dog for longer. My pal, Wendy, has lost Great Danes at ages 5-7 before, and they never usually live past 10. I really appreciate those last 4+ years with my Hoshi. And I’d build a shrine to Dr. Voll if I thought it would make her happy.

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  5. It’s such a mixed bag with dogs. We’re so happy when they’re around, and then comes that time when you need to let them go. It’s super difficult. Hoshi sounds amazing. But then again, aren’t all our dogs amazing? Happy National Dog Day! (A little late!)

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I’m with you, Jessica. I haven’t been able to get another doggie since Hoshi. She was so amazing that I’m afraid to get another one who won’t “measure up.” To get a “pet of a lifetime” you have to spend a LOT of time on training them, and I’d like to wait until my babykins is a bit more grown up herself.

      And yes, all our dogs ARE amazing.🙂

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  6. Julie Glover says:

    I have cats, including a 17 1/2 year old whom I’ve had longer than my kids. He’s got several little problems, but nothing life-threatening yet. I will likely be a tangled ball of mess when he goes. In the meantime, he’s taught me: (1) a power nap can give you new perspective; (2) persistence pays off; (3) you are how you see yourself (cats think they are monarchs, by the way); and (4) go ahead and order the meal you want; you’ll enjoy it more.

    Thanks for sharing about your wonderful dog! I’m glad you had her.

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  7. Oh it is with tear in my eye that I post this. I lost my precious little boy – my first baby – the first thing I had ever had that I was solely responsible for its life (scary). He was a beagle mix and he was everything you said above. He loved to ride in the car even more than he loved treats.

    I miss that little boy. He up and died on me while I was away from home for a few days, but he was old and I’m pretty sure he was suffering from some ailment because toward the end he didn’t like to be touched. I think he was hurting. I should have explored that a little more, but it’s too late now.

    I still miss that little dog.

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful story. I read it with tears and a smile at the same time.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Oh! There is nothing like seeing the joy on a dogs face as they lift their nose to the breeze (and slobber all over your window).🙂 That is dreadful that he passed away without you, but it is SO heart-wrenching to put them down. Your sweet boy spared you that.

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  8. Made me cry! You know all about my love and connection with my Toller Tess and the devastation experienced by her loss left me breathless for weeks. That said, I would never trade the time together…the lessons learned…the memories shared…the love felt! Incredible. And I feel so blessed to be doing it again with Arizona and Buddy….

    I know Hoshi and Tess are frolicking happily together in dog heaven eating with wild abandonment and telling dirty jokes together to the rest of the pack! LOL!

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Nat, Hoshi and Tess are definitely raiding the treat closet and passing out yummies to all their pals. I think for a dog endless treats, interspersed with constant petting and play time, are what heaven is all about.🙂

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  9. Heian Woman says:

    What a wonderful remembrance of Hoshi and how lucky she was to have had you and the great vet. My baby died the first of this year. I know to dog people it might sound ridiculous but she was a hedgehog and just over four years old, old for a hedgehog. The last few months of her life she went blind. Other hedgie people told me that hedgehogs adjusted well and I understood. Many are more inclined to hide and stay in shadows (a good idea in the wild). But Wabi sabi loved to explore, to escape for 24 hour walkabouts in her room. She always ran out to welcome me and loved going places in my purse seeing new things. I knew her blindness would be terrible and felt very guilty when I couldn’t stand to release her immediately.

    Hedgehogs when babies or falling asleep make a tiny sound with their lips, rather a cross between a bubble popping and a kissing sound. She had learned early I could make it also and we often ‘talked’ back and forth. When she was blind, I sat beside her cage almost all the time as she was nervous then about being held. I had always sung to her, both in human words and the hedgehog ‘purring’ as the other people with hedgies called it. But for the final weeks before she needed to be released, Wabi learned to ‘sing’ to me. The tone of the sound couldn’t change but she linked the sounds together for long periods, getting faster or slower. Then she would let us rub noses. I will never stop missing her but it was such a privilege to have loved her.

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  10. Amy Shojai says:

    Didn’t want to read this, I knew you’d make me cry. My first “heart dog” is why I’m a pet writer. He got me through a host of issues that …well, that’s between me and him. *s* When he passed, I couldn’t write for 2 weeks and suddenly–I could. And he’s been my furry muse ever since. Now, I have three more “furry muses” living and currently aggravating and entertaining each other but two are “seniors” so this is poking a sore spot. They bless us with such joy while they live and it remains in our hearts forever. Thanks for sharing Hoshi with us.

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I hope it was a good cry, Amy.🙂 You got me rolling with this comment yourself. I never knew that was why you became a pet writer. That’s so inspiring.

      And I LOVE sharing Hoshi with my crew here. It’s like having her back for a little while. She loved a great party.

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  11. A touching and moving tribute to your precious Hoshi, Jenny.

    We are facing the loss of Sydney — our gentle giant yellow lab you’ve seen in pictures. She’ll be 12 next month — a good lifespan for a big dog — but, don’t we all hope to beat the odds? Have our pet live well past their breed’s lifespan?

    She’s been diagnosed with the doggie equivalent of Lou Gehrig disease — spinal degeneration. The good news is that she’s in no pain. The heart wrenching aspect? When she’s not up and walking, she has the same smile, the same perk, the same bright eyes.

    Three of us will mourn her loss. This big girl is (so far) my husband’s Dog of a Lifetime. It was love at first sight for the two of them when we adopted her at a year and 1/2. If he stops too fast, her nose runs up his rear. Second? Her non-biological little sis Molly. Molly is SO attached to Sydney we’ve decided to get her true half brother when he’s ready to leave his Mama at eight weeks. (They have the same Papa.)

    I hope we have all three for a bit. AMEN on your advice to invest in training. Molly wants to please. We have not been good, consistent parents. Both Molly And The Duke will get professional help to train them & their parents.

    Well done!

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Oh NO! Your Sydney is ill? I didn’t realize. I hope she’s still with you at this late date. It’s embarrassing to say, but I’m a month behind on everything INCLUDING comments.

      And how delightful that you will have a new puppy!! I want one badly, but I know it’s not time yet. I just don’t have the time to go through all of the training I think a dog should have. I want puppy pictures!!

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  12. I’ve been wanting to see pictures of your beautiful Hoshi! Thanks for sharing more of her with us. You’re so right about dog training. It’s a gift to them as well as owners. And man, talk about loving without condition. As you know, Zoe was my Hoshi. I hope they’re pals in Pooch Heaven.🙂

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I think they are pooch pals, August. Those girls would have gotten along like a house on fire. Hanging with their people and getting the pets. That was nirvana for both those gals.🙂

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  13. Barbara Rath says:

    Reblogged this on Toss the Typewriter and commented:
    As a dog lover and an SNL fan (more Cowbell), I truly enjoyed this post by Jenny Hansen. Ms. Hansen shares the lessons learned from her beloved pet. Enjoy!

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  14. I definitely know what you mean. I’ve never nodded my head in agreement more while reading an article! My ‘son’ Oliver is definitely a pet of my lifetime. He’s 11 years old- I’ve had him since he was 2 months old and I cannot describe a stronger bond. Yes I’m childless, but to have a being so committed to you through your household’s ups and downs and everyday in between is definitely worthy of praise now a heavenly afterlife. I want to say he’ll live forever because thankfully he’s healthy still and I tell him I love him everyday at least 10 times- that’s my rule. To family events he goes with us on the road trips and is family just as much as I am. The saying, “If it’s good enough for the dog then it’s good enough for me.” is how I live and dogs and other pets teach us to be patient, show gratitude and most of all to be thankful for the NOW life. Oliver and I are team, a small pack and he knows I have his back just like he’s has mine! What a blessing to discover and experience this kind of love. Blessings to you for giving Hoshi a great life to live. May she rest in peace and await your reunion in the afterlife!

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Thanks, Dottie! Oliver sounds delightful. Still, he’s a senior boy now, and they are so special and funny and WORRISOME when they achieve senior status. We owners are constantly worried that “it’s time.” Thank God for Dr. Voll! I hope you have someone like her for Oliver.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. My first and only dog was a huge Samoyed named King when I was growing up. I still thnk about him to this day.

    Hope you have a terrific Labor Day weekend! Enjoy and have some fun. Sorry I have not been around in a while as I have had some family matters to attend to recently.

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I can picture you having a Samoyed named King! Those are such beautiful dogs. Send me a pic of that gorgeous boy via social media if you get a chance. I’d love to see him.🙂

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