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Hopi: our 15/10*

Hopi, the sweetest dog ever, left us at 16 years old. That’s bonus years for an English Lab, and we are grateful for all of them.

We were inexperienced dog parents when we adopted Brin. Somehow I got it in my head that a second dog would make it easier for the first. Ha!

Luckily, we won the dog lottery with Hopi. She was truly the nicest dog and so laid back. I just recently learned that although Robert went to do a meet-and-greet with three dogs, he only had eyes for Hopi. She was his girl, through and through. On the first day with us, she jumped on the couch, put her head in his lap and went to sleep.

Hopi was a purebred dog that found herself in a rescue situation. The woman who cared for her was sick and couldn’t take care of her. The foster mom that fostered Brin was helping to find her a new home.

Hopi was several months old when we adopted her. She and Brin were born around the same time, in December 2006.

Shiny happy Hopi, the English Lab

When we got her, her name was Opie Bean. She was supposedly a puppy cover model for the L.L. Bean catalog. No offense to Ron Howard, but Opie didn’t seem quite right. A friend suggested Hopi, and that stuck. Usually, we called her Miss Hopes or Shiny, Happy Hopi.

Hopi’s crazy backstory was like someone in the witness protection program. We were told she had been injured as a young puppy – kicked by a horse was the story – and that she had a “bad leg.”

When we took her to the vet for the first time, we learned the truth was much worse. Her leg had been broken, was likely never treated and healed badly. In the X-ray, it looked like a pile of spaghetti. That’s probably how a purebred dog ended up a free dog in need of a rescue.

I don’t think I will ever forget the horror on the vet’s face. He wasn’t someone I knew well (I was a new dog parent). He referred us to the local vet surgeons. She was about nine months old at that point, and we decided that repairing her leg gave her the best shot at mobility and a long life.

The surgery was difficult, and she had a lot of swelling. Luckily we were referred to a fantastic physical therapist, and Robert took her there three days a week for a long, long time. She recovered. The leg was a little shorter than the other, but she was mobile. She could play and run. In the beginning, she often only used three legs, and the explanation was, “because she can.” One vet told us that dogs are three-legged animals with a spare.

After that dramatic entry into our lives, Hopi did have the desired effect on Brin. They were always better as a pack. And despite her early interest in chasing our cats, Hopi turned out to be excellent with them. When Hopi’s mobility was impacted three years ago, we noticed that the cat would hang out with her. We started referring to Lille En as Hopi’s emotional support animal. During the last few months, the cat was usually nearby and checking in on “her” dog.

Hopi the black English Lab and Brin, the brindle Plott Hound mix snuggled together

Hopi was a couch potato even as a young dog (we learned this is a major difference between English labs and field labs). We took the dogs to daycare for many years, and Hopi always wanted to be with the people, earning the title “office dog.” She was good with dogs of all sizes. Small dogs used her as a dog bed. She was so laid back that once she fell asleep during a grooming appointment, and the groomer painted her nails.

Hopi loved belly rubs and cookies–all food, really. Because, duh – she was a lab. Because of her leg, she wasn’t great at learning to sit, so at the trainer’s suggestion, we taught her to spin around instead. She never jumped on people, thank goodness, but she did jump up and down when people came to the door (think bucking bronco). When we got ice cream, she had to have her own cone because she was a chomper and not really into sharing. (See this video for a realistic portrayal of sharing ice cream with Hopi.)

About three years ago, she had trouble walking, and X-rays showed pretty bad arthritis. Another physical therapist helped her with mobility and recommended Adequan injections to go with her Gabapentin and Tramadol. She was a trooper through all of it. Her limited mobility made her use her voice in a way she hadn’t before. OMG, the girl had a giant bark! We did okay figuring out what she needed, and she was patient with us through all of it.

Hopi lounging under the smoke tree in our back yard

It’s been hard without her and we miss her something fierce. Going from a family of five to a family of four has been sad and disorienting. There’s a Hopi-sized hole in our hearts that will probably always be there.

*15/10 is the highest rating from We Rate Dogs. Seems fitting for our sweet girl.