View From Lodi, CA: Joe Happy With Hoppy, His New Dog

Since

my mother
died in July 2005, my life has been
different. Simply put…no more Mom.

And making things tougher yet for me, shortly after
Mom passed, my best friend died and a beloved family pet
was killed in a freak household accident.

During those eighteen months of nearly unrelenting
sadness, Hoppy—my new three-legged Labrador-Chow
mix—helped me get through it.

How Hoppy entered my home to lift my spirits is a
circuitous tale.

A few months ago, I ran into my friend Daunis
Bradshaw at Robinson`s Feed where she was overseeing
cat-adoption Saturday.

Bradshaw, the president of

People Assisting the Lodi Shelter
, asked me if I
would be interested in giving a home to a three-legged
dog currently residing at the shelter.

Since I already had two dogs, two cats and an African
Grey parrot, not to mention considerable emotional
baggage, I didn`t hesitate to answer, “No, thank you.”

But since PALS does such great work for the
community, I made a deal with Bradshaw.

I`d pick up Hoppy every day at noon and let him

join Fido
,

Sparkle
and me for our outing in the dog park until
such a time as he had a permanent home.

So it began…Hoppy ran around like crazy, chasing the
tennis ball and the other dogs until he couldn`t go
another step. I`ll admit that I would never have guessed
that a dog missing his left rear leg could get around
with such ease.

During the first week when I dropped Hoppy back at
the shelter, I had a self-satisfied feeling of having
done a good deed for a homeless puppy.

But then, two things happened. First, the daily park
romps turned into more about reuniting myself with Hoppy.
And second, the drop-offs became harder every day.

When I drove away, I wondered if Hoppy got lonesome
during the long evening hours. How hard was the shelter
floor? Did he worry on those infrequent days when I
couldn`t pick him up?

Finally, I bowed to the inevitable and made
arrangements to take Hoppy home for good.

Hoppy and I were, after all, the same. Both of us
were operating at 75 percent efficiency but still able
to get everything done that needed done.

Shortly after I brought Hoppy home, the irrigation
canal filled. And the dogs began their summer swimming
regimen.

Although I wanted to keep Hoppy leashed for his first
canal trips, it was impossible to restrain him. He
wanted to dive in to swim side by side

with Fido
.

And to Fido`s great irritation—and my amazement—at no
time was Hoppy further behind than a half a dog length.

Not all Hoppy`s canal trips were uneventful—far from
it. After a week, when Hoppy`s confidence was high, he
took off at full speed due west across the vineyards
without looking back.

When Hoppy was no bigger on the horizon than a
licorice gumdrop, I realized I might never see him
again.

Then, when all seemed futile, Hoppy turned around and
ran right back to us.

His pattern of long disappearances followed by
unannounced returns became standard.

Although I never grew totally used to Hoppy`s
absences, I realized they were part of him. The only
ways to deal with it would be to deny him swimming—a
totally unacceptable choice.

Hoppy spent the summer roaming free.

As for me, the time I spent with Hoppy—and Fido and
Sparkle—taught me that as trying as life can be, better
times are usually around the corner.

And nothing helps bring things into perspective
faster than your pets—the new ones and the old ones.

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English
at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly
column since 1988. It currently appears in the


Lodi News-Sentinel
.