Updated: Feb 14
In long distance running, it is important to identify your 'why' before you start training for a big race.That way you have something to reflect on when the going gets tough. I'm sure this principle applies to starting a nonprofit as well.
In March of 2020 we adopted a beautiful red husky. He was a year old with congenital deformities that caused significant neurological deficits in his hind end. When we saw him play in the rescue's yard, we were sold. His drive, determination, and adorable bunny hops had us hooked.
My husband and I are avid long distance runners. I qualify for and run the Boston Marathon every year. This race has a lot of meaning for us that I won't delve too far into, other than to say that we ran together in 2015 and my husband proposed at the finish line. We decided to name this sweet boy Hopkington, after the city where the race starts, or Hops for short.
His drive, determination, and adorable bunny hops had us hooked.
Hops was with an amazing rescue in Florida. They worked with us to transport him across the country to Colorado. I picked him up at the Denver airport the same day the US-Canada border closed due to COVID. (Not long after, airlines eliminated animal transportation due to the pandemic. We received our boy just in time.) On our way home I quickly swung by Petco to pick up some essentials for all the animals, but we didn't leave without his new collar and tag to make it official. Given his Florida background, it felt right that his collar should have oranges on it.
Life with Hops
Hops fit right in with our other animals, a myriad of northern breeds, most with special needs of varying degrees. He spent the majority of his time with our other mobility restricted dog. The two of them running around in their wheelchairs could bring a ray of light even on the darkest day.
We walk our dogs around the property at least twice a day. Hops loved those walks, especially after our neighbor had his clydesdale in our pasture (horse poop was his absolute favorite despite all efforts to dissuade him otherwise). Despite his disabilities, he was so full of life and energy and happiness. He was happy in the grass or snow, in the rain or shine. He just loved to go.
After an evening walk in June of 2020, only a few short months after having him in our lives, Hops experienced a medical emergency. He became weak in his wheelchair with thready pulses. I immediately scooped him up while my husband sprinted to grab the car keys. We sped to the emergency room with Hops in my arms in the backseat. My training as a veterinarian kicked in, so I was monitoring him through my tears and pleads for him to stick with me. I felt his pulse stop and started compressions. He went from hopping in the field after the other dogs to receiving CPR within 20 minutes.
We lost Hops that night. They performed several rounds of CPR at the ER, but they were unable to restart his heart. We said our goodbyes, requested a necropsy (veterinary version of an autopsy), and decided on aftercare. The results of the necropsy came back the following morning: we lost our boy to a mesenteric torsion, a rare and often fatal condition that cuts off blood supply to the intestines. As we experienced, the animal can deteriorate extremely quickly.
Losing Hops was a shock to say the least. We were going through the motions, but our minds weren't able to catch up to the reality of what had happened. It didn't feel real. We kept looking at his usual spot expecting to see him playing with one of the other dogs. When he wasn't there, another wave of grief would come crashing down.
the HOPS project
Through the grief, we were able to grasp onto one amazing truth. We may not have had Hops for very long, but we gave him an amazing life for the time he was with us. He was the ultimate Hound(s) Overcoming Perceived Setbacks. He experienced the joys of snow and frolicking in our field. He hopped through our tall grass, played in the pond, and lounged in the shade. He casually snuck horse poop when the opportunity presented itself. He ran and wrestled with a pack of dog friends every. single. day. Hops didn't have a long life, but he had a full one.
And we want to give that fullness of life to as many animals (hounds or otherwise) as we possibly can. Even if they are only with us for a short time, we want to make a difference in their world. We want to see them run and play, to be free and full.
Hops didn't have a long life, but he had a full one.
Cat Stadie, DVM
President, the HOPS project
Do Everything With Love