By D. Allan Kerr
Hyme was already 14 years old in July 2019 when my wife texted me a photo of him and his 11-year-old buddy Fritz, a pair of grizzled old Dachshunds in need of a home.
She said she wanted to foster the old geezers to ensure they would have some peace and comfort in their final days. We had gone thru this just a couple of years before with her Jack Russell terrier, Jesse, who had been by her side for 17 years before we finally had to put Jesse down.
“They were the product of a divorce and I feel they need to have a good home in their senior years like Jesse had,” my wife wrote that fateful day, followed by a series of charming little emojis intended to melt my heart.
As I predicted at the time, we wound up adopting Hyme (pronounced HY-mee) and Fritz for good. And they were sweet, adorable, hilarious additions to the household.
Just before Christmas of 2021, we brought Hyme to the vet, fully expecting it to be his last visit there. Instead, we made some prescriptive and dietary adjustments and witnessed a recovery we considered a holiday miracle.
We wound up getting an entire extra year with the old boy, and there were times he displayed amazingly puppylike vigor. He remained pointy-boned thin the entire time he was with us, but I can tell you I’ve never seen a pup chow down with more gusto than our Hyme.
He had a habit of pacing to and fro under and over our feet as we prepared his meals, to the point we would stumble over him. Sometimes he would get impatient and/or confused and grip our pantlegs between his teeth, and we would have to extract the material from his geriatric jaws. It would seem like he was wandering in aimless befuddlement, but I’m convinced this was his way to make sure we didn’t forget to feed him.
Eventually, right between Christmas and New Year’s Eve last week, Hyme slowed to the point where we had to bring him back to Kittery Animal Hospital. This time, there was no miracle. But we made sure he was surrounded by hugs and family when he drew his final breath.
I’m not sharing this story to bum you out here in the first month of a brand new year. The intent is to encourage people to consider older candidates if you’re thinking of opening your home to a homeless critter.
We already had a pair of 2-year-old, playfully psychotic Dachshund/Jack Russell pups – Marty and Fletcher – when we welcomed Hyme and Fritz into our family in 2019.
We always said Hyme had the spirit of a tough, old World War II vet who had stormed the beach at Normandy, and therefore couldn’t be rattled by anything else he experienced afterward. Whenever Marty and Fletch cavorted around him like crazed maniacs, occasionally bowling him over in the process, Hyme would just struggle back to his feet (we sometimes had to help) and carry on unfazed.
But the younger pups and Fletcher in particular – the hunter/protector alpha of our pack – became mother hens to the older pooches, especially when Fritzy wound up going blind. They hovered over the old boys when Hyme and Fritz started slowing down, licked them like mamas to their pups when they were ailing.
I’m not going to lie to you, taking in an elderly dog isn’t the easiest of missions. You spend a lot of time picking up poop around the house, and you can’t make plans outside the home without coordinating doggie care because they can’t be left alone for too long. They usually require medication and special dietary needs, which tend to be expensive.
There were definitely times I would bitch and moan after they crapped on the carpet, or were being extra pokey when I was trying to hurry. My family usually responded by warning they would remember these comments when I passed 119 years of age, which is how old Hyme was in dog years.
It was emotionally draining when we put Frtiz to sleep a year ago this month, on the 13th of January 2022. He was pretty much blind by then, to the point where we had to rat-a-tap his dog dish on the floor to help him find his dinner. Then we went thru it again with Hyme in the midst of the holiday season, so we essentially lost one at the beginning of the year and the other at the end of the year.
These guys have provided our kids with memories they’ll carry for the rest of their lives. Our daughter likes to bestow all kinds of goofy nicknames on our canines, and for Hyme they were Hempentanture, Heemer, Dibodange and Dangey (sometimes shortened to Dange.)
Even at 14 years of age, Hyme still had surprising speed in his stubby little legs for an old fella when he arrived here with Fritz. If you tousled his left ear, he would tilt his head that way, leaning his whole being into it. If you switched to his other ear, he would corkscrew his head and lean hard in that direction.
There aren’t a lot of things sweeter than a grumpy, grizzled old pup deigning to nuzzle up next to your leg, or even better, resting his long snout on your lap. And as someone getting up there in years myself, the dignity old Hyme carried right up to his last breath was downright inspiring.
The old guys came to us thru Lucky Pup Rescue out of Kennebunkport, Maine, and had clearly experienced trauma. We’ve fostered other dogs thru this organization as well thru the years, and I’m guessing we’ll continue to do so.
In the end, it’s well worth it.