2017-12-29 / Commentary

Whitman Hook: April 12, 2006–December 26, 2017

I’m just saying...
Julia Rogers Hook

I’ve always been an animal person, but due to my lifestyle and work schedules, I was more of a cat person.

During my California years, it really wasn’t feasible for me to have a dog as with my reporter hours, I never knew in the morning when I left the house exactly what time I’d be home. A fire, a murder, or some catastrophe somewhere could have me out in the field for hours, sometimes days.

Of course all that changed when I married my husband Marty and moved south, but we still didn’t get a dog. We liked to travel, and we simply didn’t want the responsibility. Until Whitman came along.

Whitman, a 90-pound chocolate standard poodle belonged to my step-son’s mom, my husband’s ex-wife, and my friend Kim. Kim lost her brave battle with melanoma, and one of her last requests of me was to take care of her son and her dog.

I assumed since Kim knew I had two cats already she meant for me to find Whitman a good home. So I brought him to the house fully planning to rehome him with one of her friends or immediate family members.

My cats were incensed and Molly, who had a hurt foot at the time, completely disappeared for two days. I was frantic. I was calling everyone Kim or her family knew who could take the dog. I knew nothing about dogs. It had been over 20 years since I had had a dog. Dogs require far more attention than cats. They have to be walked and bathed and groomed and…well, we just weren’t ready for that kind of commitment.

One night a few days after I had gotten him, I was giving Whit his bedtime walk through the yard. It was a September night and had begun to get chilly, so I was wearing Marty’s sweatshirt and some heavy sweatpants to ward off the night air.

And that’s when Whitman fell into the pool. The deep end. They say dogs instinctively know how to swim, but apparently Whitman didn’t get that memo. I panicked and jumped in after him.

It. Was. Cold.

I got him to the shallow end and showed him where the steps were and got him out. I staggered out under the weight of all those clothes, and Whitman promptly did his doggie shaking out of the water and grinned the biggest grin I’ve ever seen on a dog.

I think he was a bit like the angel Clarence in It’s A Wonderful Life. He jumped in knowing I would save him, so he could save me. And it worked.

The next day, I got several calls saying they could take him, but once you do a midnight September swim with someone, you tend to bond. Whitman and I…our bond was tight. He wasn’t going anywhere, and the cats adjusted. Just like my sister-in-law said they would. They became a trio of love that warmed our hearts. I always smiled when the two cats and Whit were in bed with me and Marty at the same time.

You’ve all read the stories in this column about my and Marty’s journeys with Whitman. I’ve written many about relearning how to become a dog’s human…one of my favorites is when I noticed he was licking himself…in his “private” area…and a LOT. Much to my husband’s chagrin, I took him to the doggie ER thinking he had a urinary tract infection and the on-duty vet tried valiantly not to laugh as she explained dogs do that…because they CAN. Marty never even said “I told you so.”

I’ve regaled you with tales of Whitman’s adventures… car rides and boat rides…his extremely picky eating habits and many of his most adorable antics. I run into strangers who inquire about him and call him by name simply from reading about him here. Whitman has his own fan club, and it reaches across the globe.

That’s why it’s so hard to have to tell you all our boy crossed the Rainbow Bridge Tuesday morning. He had been diagnosed with kidney disease earlier this year, and although we took him to every specialist in town and tried all sorts of medication, the disease won.

I spent three hours at the animal ER with him on Christmas Eve, and that vet told me his body was shutting down. Although he was weak and lethargic, she assured me he wasn’t in pain, so I brought him home for one last Christmas with us. If he was going to go, I didn’t want him to go in a cage among strangers. I wanted him to go at home.

In the end, he took his last breath the morning after Christmas in our bedroom. And I will be eternally grateful I didn’t have to make that final call.

Whitman Hook was one of the best creatures to ever walk this earth. His big old heart held nothing but love for everyone he met, and he never met a stranger. He was patient, and he was kind. He taught me so much about loving and being loved.

If I had known how much it would hurt when he left us, I would still have kept him. The joy and love Whitman gave us was worth every second of it.

Rest well my sweet boy. You loved us completely, and you will live on in our hearts forever. I’ll see you at the Rainbow Bridge.

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