|The first picture I ever took of Hugo the day after I rescued him (June 2009)|
|Just before I said goodbye.|
But in the end, it was all so peaceful, so quiet. I got to choose when it was time, which was awful because Hugo tried to follow me... but it was so still and serene at the end. The clinic was amazing and we got to take him home to bury in our yard. I'll admit that the hardest part of all of it was bringing his body from my truck to the garage. It was all too real then and reunited, we both sobbed like children.
The days that followed didn't seem real at all. He was my best friend, the being closest to me... he's been there through the worst and best of my life. I've spent a quarter of my life with this creature that loved me SO fully, so unconditionally -- he never questioned me ever. And now he was gone.
I felt like I had failed him.
What the vet assured me was that as an 11-year-old boxer, he likely had a brain tumor (they have naturally enlarged pituitary glands) and if it wasn't a brain tumor, it was a tumor that had in fact spread to his brain. Nothing we could have done would have prevented or predicted the outcome.
My history with Hugo started with a Facebook post from a friend who was living in West Philly. She was grabbing a coffee at a little place called the Greenline and saw a dog tied up outside. Not uncommon for the area but it was raining that day and he was there a little too long. A few hours later she came back by the coffee shop and the dog was still there so she took a picture of him and made a plea on Facebook to see if anyone knew who this dog belonged to. When no one came forward I asked if he was still there and offered to go pick him up so he could have a safe and dry place for the night (I even borrowed a friend's car as I didn't have one at the time). He was so happy to get picked up and I didn't think twice about bringing this mangy dog into my house. The poor guy had an embedded collar, he was unneutered and absolutely covered in fleas and a bit feral.
|Left, the picture my friend posted on facebook -- right, one year later:)|
Well, no one ever claimed him and after having him looked over by a vet and scanned for a microchip a few weeks later he became mine. The rest is history... he's been with me for the last 10 years... through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. This selfless creature greeted me every day like it was the best day of his life. I often said, "I wish I was excited about anything the way Hugo is about EVERYTHING". That kind of joy for life is incomparable.
He became a part of every family he met, teaching young children to trust and enjoy large dogs (our boys included), spent countless hours in the office with me, and immersed himself into every aspect of my life. While I wasn't looking for a dog to join my life, once he was there it was hard to imagine my life without him.
And here I am in the wake of his sudden death still trying to reconcile what life is like without him. Every day I'm reminded of the love and joy he brought to my life. The absence of it feels visceral and harsh and incredulous. Because even in my darkest days, when I didn't love myself enough to get out of bed he loved me as much as my best days. He taught me the absolute power of unconditional love, and I don't know if I ever deserved it.
When I decided to get a second dog, it was entirely so that Hugo could have a friend. He was never a dog park kind of dog, but he always loved spending time with dogs one on one. Lucy insisted on bonding with him, which initially he was reluctant about.
|She looked up to him for so much guidance:)|
|Even in burger pools!|
|A couple of best friends (A few weeks before Hugo died)|
|I don't think he ever knew the kind of love Travis gave him <3|
|The sweetest old man|
I have so many happy memories of this sweet soul, but I'm currently struggling with the last memories I have of him. It's hard for me to put those out of my mind, seeing him so scared and helpless... and there was nothing I could do.
But a good friend told me to remember him a month ago, or 6 months ago or 9 years ago and cling to those memories, so that's where I am trying to stay.
|In my studio at work, probably 2010|
|In our backyard in Fishtown (he HATED having his picture taken)|
|Probably my favorite picture ever|
|Somewhere along Kelly Drive in Philly|
|This spring, showing his grey|
May you always find the sunniest spot to close your eyes and let the world fall away. Rest easy my sweet Hugo.