I have had the unique experience of spending time with some great animals in my life. Most people love to talk about the most inspiring people they have met, but for me it has been some of the most inspiring animals. Horatio, the lost lonely dog on the side of the road, was one of these.
Before moving to Georgia, I lived in the boonies of Virginia. Loved it – long roads with fields of animals on both sides, no cars pass by for hours, no cell phone coverage (not so great at times), long drives to the grocery store (lots of time to contemplate your life)…. During one of these long drives, I noticed a black dog hunched over on the side of the road. Nothing is extraordinary about seeing dog on the side of the road, Beaverdam (name of the town) is the home of the free roaming hunting dogs. But this dog caught my attention, he looked as though he was extremely old or very sick.
I was compelled to turn the car around and check on him. On closer inspection, I saw that he wasn’t old at all, in fact I thought he was a very large adolescent. Paws were almost the size of my hand, head was a big as a basketball, long gangly legs, long droopy jowls, and super long ears. Almost as if a Great Dane had mated with a Bloodhound and a Black Lab. He was extremely skinny, hunched in his back, one ear was swollen to the size of a baseball, and tears in his eyes. I knew I could not leave this poor guy, so I called my husband.
At that time, I was overrun with animals already in my home – six dogs, seven cats, one horse, and 4 ducks. So you can understand when my husband said, “WHAT?!!??? NO!” I convinced him that I was just going to take him home, take care of him, and find him a NEW home. My husband hesitantly agreed to come help me. Although, he knew that I had said that about the other 10 animals in our home.
As soon as my husband saw him, all hesitancy was gone. He insisted that this lost dog ride in the truck with him back to our house. Upon arrival home, my husband immediately stepped out of his truck and said “Horatio! His name is going to be Horatio!” At that moment, I knew Horatio wasn’t lost anymore.
Oh, did I not know what was in store for me.
Immediately I took him to the veterinarian to determine his health. This guy was not trusting of people, but laid back enough to let you do whatever you wanted. With this in mind, I walk him to the car for our trip. As soon as I open the car door at the clinic, Horatio can’t seem to walk. I was forced to carry this small horse sized dog inside. All the techs came running to my aide and were concerned that Horatio was paralyzed. I was a little confused, I knew he could walk. The hunched posture and the hump in his spine did concern me though. During the examination, he never stood up. We couldn’t find anything that would explain his inability to walk. What we did find was that he was full of worms, heartworms, severely dehydrated, underweight, and incontinent. Several infections required antibiotics. His enormous ear was a hematoma from shaking his head, because of the rampant ear infection. HE WAS MISERABLE!
Determined to help him, I carried him back to my car. (I failed to mention that my car was a two door Mitsubishi Eclipse – TINY!) Safely in the front seat we head home. As soon as I open the car door the previously immobile dog comes bounding out. WHAT!? He could walk just fine. Apparently when faced with fear, he goes limp. No amount of encouragement will make him move.
During our time together, Horatio amazed me and always made me laugh. We were able to get him back to health, but were never able to rid him of his incontinence. He actually leaked urine all the time. Being creative, I made him a diaper. Not wanting to hurt his feelings, we called them in “big boy pants”. He wore the proudly. You could actually see him smile, standing there in his bright white big boy pants. He never fought me when I put them on and he never tried to take them off.
Riding in the car was his thing! I would put the seats down flat in the back, so he could have enough room to lie down. He almost filled the entire hatchback area. Most dogs would hang their heads out of the window or fall asleep, but not him. We would drive down the road with his gigantic head draped over my shoulder. Another little quirk I learned later – he was going to go with you in the car whether you wanted him to or not.
One afternoon, as I was patiently waiting for him to do his business, he disappeared. I ran around calling for him, for hours I am sure. My husband came home from work and started looking as well. We both were starting to get worried. I decided to take the car and look for him. As I am about to start the car, I feel a big head rest down on my shoulder. He had jumped through the car window and was waiting, for hours, for me to go for a ride. He did this many more times over the years, my first sign to his stubbornness.
I got a new car – small SUV. I didn’t want to take him with me as much with the new car. One day, as I was pulling out of the driveway, Horatio was trying to follow me. I had to get out of the car to open the entry way gate. As I have my back to the car, I hear him trying to put his paws on the side of the car. I am saying, “NO Horatio, not this time buddy.” I still hear him, so I turn around. I couldn’t believe my eyes – He WAS ON THE ROOF. The scratching was his efforts to open my sunroof. I can just imagine the laughs the neighbors were getting at my expense – red SUV, giant black dog on the roof, and me with my hands on my hips trying to reason with him. Of course, I caved and took him with me.
From Horatio’s days on the lamb, he picked up some interesting habits. One was stealing. I was working for a horse breeder and he used to go with me. The horses loved him. I think they thought he was a foal. Many times you would find him standing in front of a stall with a horse licking his face. I know I saw him smile! But, as for the stealing, we couldn’t keep a pair of gloves anywhere within his reach. In fact, one day I laid my gloves on the ground for just a second to undo a horse blanket. I returned to only one glove. GRRR!!!!
It got so bad, I had to replace my gloves on a monthly basis. I went to the local feed store and purchased 12 pairs, the owner kind of chuckled. He told me he had just sold another lady several pairs. I laughed and said, “I wonder if her dog is eating her gloves too”. He told me it wasn’t her dog, but it was a dog. Uncanny, so I mentioned the name of the owner of the barn where I worked, it was the same person. HORATIO!!!!!!
Unusually enough, Horatio took a liking to carrots. In the barn, we used them as treats for the horses. One day I bought a large bag of carrots (not the pre-cut ones) and put it on the counter in the feed room. When I returned the entire bag was gone, thinking I had misplaced them I searched everywhere. I heard the owner of the barn laughing, so I came out to see. There was Horatio, lying on the ground (smiling) with chewed up carrots all around him.
I miss the old man, he was such a joy! He definitely kept me guessing and laughing. Horatio was given 6 months to live when I found him, he lived for 6 years. What a journey and gift the time was that I spent with Horatio. He was one of the quirkiest, funniest, and fun loving dogs I have ever met.