Goodbye, Hercules: Our time with our crazy husky was cut too short

Our family has had at least one dog for over 20 years.  Technically, our first dog was one we had for only a little while before his owner took him back, but the first dog we actually owned was a small dog named Whitey (you can guess what color he was), followed by a toy poodle named Benjie a couple of years later.  In 2007, our family acquired a Siberian husky: Hercules, who was every bit as big and strong as his name suggests and quite a bit larger than the dogs we were used to.  But we loved him, and when our other two dogs died of old age, Hercules became the baby of the family.  He was not young but not super old and he was very healthy, which is why it was such a shocker on Saturday when I received a call that he had passed away just a few weeks before his ninth birthday.  My sister, who was like Hercules’ mother, was crying so much that it was difficult to even hear her.

Apparently, Hercules had gotten sick for some unknown reason a few days before, so my parents resolved to take him to Dallas to our apartment so that my sister could take care of him and take him to the vet.  However, he laid down somewhere in the backyard, went to sleep, and just passed away, one day before he was going to come up here.  It was so surprising; even though he was almost nine, he always acted like he was two.  He was healthy, energetic, and goofy.  The last time he went to the vet, the vet said that he was just fine.  I still don’t understand what happened.  Our best guess is that he ate something bad out there and that my parents didn’t know how serious it was.

My reaction differed from when we lost our other two dogs because this was far more unexpected, plus my childlike attachment to them was unique because I grew up with them.  However, that doesn’t mean I loved Hercules any less.  People who know our family know that we love our dogs very much and treat them as a true member of the family.  I often bugged other people by showing pictures and videos of Hercules like how some parents annoy others by showing stuff of their kids.  I was pretty bummed the past two days, but, as I did for my other two dogs, I feel I owe it to Hercules to write something for him.

Adopting a big, wacky dog

My parents first met Hercules on a farm, where he was owned by a Korean woman and her husband.  Evidently, the farm was his domain; he loved to run around in the fields and he even liked to pester cows.  He would mess with cows to the point that they would get annoyed and run after him, and he’d gleefully flee away.  The couple didn’t exactly train him at all, which probably led to his many personality quirks.  When the man passed away and the woman was going to move, she was going to put Hercules into the pound.  My father, not wanting that to happen, offered to take Hercules for a bit until he found him an owner.  However, it wasn’t too long before our family came to love him and just adopt him.

When we first got him, he was already two years old.  He was very friendly but untrained, and he had an astonishing reservoir of energy.  When I came home from college to meet him, I went outside and did battle with him frequently.  He would constantly try to jump on me, and I’d push him back down and tell him, “No.”  He was clearly highly intelligent as most huskies are, but his face often told me, “I understand, but I really don’t care,” also highlighting a husky’s typical stubbornness.  I tried running around with him in the backyard to burn his energy, but not only was he exceptionally fast and agile, I would wear out way quicker than he did (and that was when I was in far better shape).  He was friendly but had no conception of how to play gentle, often running us over in his excitement and being rougher than he needed to be with our two little dogs.  Benjie disliked him and threatened him whenever he got close, and Hercules always looked a bit amused as a nine pound poodle snarled at a 50 pound husky.  Whitey intially loved playing with him until Hercules, in his uncontrolled excitement, accidentally jumped on Whitey and hurt his leg.  After that, Whitey wanted nothing to do with Hercules and even started to go to the front yard instead of the back to go to the restroom.

Still, Hercules warmed up to my family pretty quickly, especially my sister Sharon, who did most of the heavy lifting in training him to behave.  I admit that it took me a little while to warm up to him; I liked him, but I didn’t see him much because I was in college.  Also, in the summer of 2007, just a few months after we got him, I went to the hospital for my first lung surgery and Benjie died while I was there, making me hesitant to attach myself to a new dog.  However, he grew on me quickly, and I looked forward to seeing him everytime I went home or when he came to Dallas.  This is what he looked like when we first got him:

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He was a very good-looking dog, and whenever we walked him, people routinely stopped to tell us that he was a beautiful dog.  He was also a little punk sometimes, but that’s why he was interesting too.

Quirky but awesome

One of the funniest things about Hercules was how picky he was.  My mom would prepare food for him everyday to go along with a little dried food (yes, he was very spoiled), but he normally didn’t like dried food, nor did he like eating the same thing over and over again.  When my mom gave him leftover turkey for a few days straight after Thanksgiving, he looked up at her with a face that said, “Again?  Really?”  Also, whenever he tried something new, he would taste test it first; he’d roll it around in his mouth, spit it out, taste it again, spit it out, etc.  If it passed the test, then he ate it.  If not, he left it and went about his business.  Sometimes, he knocked over his bowl when he really did not appreciate what was in there.  My mother and sister found this exasperating, incredulous that a dog could be that way, but as a picky eater myself, I always found this very endearing about him.

He also hated water (strange for a husky) and was afraid of heights, so much so that he didn’t like going up stairs.  At my sister’s old apartment, he could go down the stairs but would require using the elevator to go back up.  However, one day I took him downstairs and we got stuck because it was blocked off due to some construction.  I tried to coax him to go back up the stairs but he refused.  I called over my sister and brother and we tried to call him up, and he still wouldn’t go all the way up.  After an hour, we resolved to pick him up, which he really disliked; everytime we tried to pick him up, he would make himself deadweight and push against us.  Finally, we put a blanket over his head so that he couldn’t see and I picked him up and carried him while my brother controlled his head.  The entire time, Hercules wailed bloody murder and even peed on me.  Of course, when we got to the top and let him down, he was happy and fine as if nothing had happened.  Silly dog.

He was also spoiled in the sense that he got tons of toys, which he would routinely destroy.  He had a wide variety but normally played with squeaky balls that had knobs on him for him to chew.  They normally didn’t last that long; in fact, one time we got him a squeaky orange football for Christmas and he ripped it apart within a day.  He loved playing with them when we threw them around, though he was also very possessive.

As goofy as he was, he was surprisingly well-behaved indoors.  When my sister first took him into her apartment (he would frequently come up here), he rarely ever peed inside and never pooped.  He basically already understood that he wasn’t supposed to go inside.  He also rarely got on furniture, raided the counters for food, or ripped paper up even though he easily could have.  He seemed to understand that things in containers and on tables were off limits.  The only real problem with him being inside was that he shed A LOT in the summertime, as in mountains of fur.  Oh, and he hated veterinarians and getting baths, but that’s not atypical for dogs.

Over the years, he got more and more well-behaved.  He was still silly but he was more obedient.  He listened most to my sister; for me, I was more like his fun uncle, and he knew my tolerance level for his antics was much higher.  Because of that, he did dumb things like steal my contact case from my bathroom and rip up paper in my room.  I normally didn’t mind because I liked that he had such personality.  He often annoyed me when he would paw or nudge at my hand when I was trying to type stuff because he wanted attention, but now, I wish he would do that and interrupt this post.  He was so much fun to have around, and though he took time and energy to take care of, I regret none of it.  I would gladly take the inconvenience of taking him outside the freezing cold if that meant he was here.

Goodbye

My dad called out to him from the backyard door, and he didn’t come.  My parents went outside and found him, laying peacefully as if he was just sleeping, and they were shocked and devastated.  My mom says she doesn’t want another dog because it is so hard to lose one.  Sometimes I feel the same way when I think about getting dogs in the future.  They’re great to have but they just don’t live as long as we do.

When I go home this weekend, it will be the first time in two decades there are no dogs in the house.  There will be an empty backyard and an empty doghouse.  His toys will probably be strewn out but unused.  His blue harness and his leash will be ready to go but will have no dog to use them.  I really don’t want to go and see the vacancy a large husky left.

I wish I could see him one more time.  I wish we got him when he was still a puppy (he would have been crazy).  I wish we had several more years with him.  Seven years of Hercules was just too short, though he left many memories.  I still have a contact case with a distinctive bit mark in it.  I will keep it as long as I can, my way of saying goodbye to a wonderful dog.

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