Six years ago this month, my brother Richard and his beautiful red Doberman, Hershey, moved in with us from Florida after my sister died unexpectedly. Now Hershey is gone at the age of almost 14, practically ancient for a Dobie.
Luis, Chris and I had been living with our beloved cat, Tigerlily, in cosy quarters, necessitating a swift relocation to a larger house to merge our family. We were unapologetic cat people who considered felines the superior species. Hershey challenged our assumptions and changed our lives.
One of the reasons we selected this house is that it has tile floors only, no carpeting. Tigerlily had never lived with a dog and Hershey thought cats were chew toys. Thankfully, a pissing turf war never materialized. I went to great pains to befriend Hershey – truthfully, I spoiled her rotten – and to install Tigerlily at the top of the pecking order. Tigerlily seemed unafraid of the big red dog and Hershey was bemused by her fluffy new roommate.
Here is one of the earliest photos from October 2003 with Hershey upstairs and Tigerlily downstairs.
Hershey claimed our La-Z-Boy love seat as her own, but I put a stop to that pretty quickly.
She spent a lot of time hanging around the kitchen, waiting for special meals or treats I prepared for her.
Another reason we selected this house is that the city Bark Park is right outside our tract, down the street and around the corner. Hershey loved to take my brother for walks, sometimes twice a day. She was completely devoted to him and even learned sign language commands.
Adopting Hershey was the best thing our sister ever did for Richard. Richard was born deaf with learning disabilities but an enormous capacity for love. Hershey was the love of his life.
When Tigerlily passed away nearly four years ago, Hershey became the undisputed queen of the house. The avocado, almond, pomegranate, fig and loquat trees in our backyard attract squirrels, possums, and a variety of birds, which kept Hershey entertained for hours. She was also the self-appointed neighborhood watchdog.
In the past year, tumors started popping up through her fur and she slowed visibly. About six months ago, she started eating at herself compulsively. No medication, balm or spray would give her peace. We made her wear the cone of shame, but then she got depressed and stopped eating. Then we would take it off and she would chew bloody holes wherever her teeth could reach. Her breathing became heavily labored and we stopped her walks for fear of a heart attack.
Finally, Hershey's appetite began to deteriorate and her organs started to fail. On her final drive to the veterinarian, she could barely climb into the van. Hershey was the reason we got the van. When we went to Disneyland or on weekend trips or to holiday dinners with the extended family, leaving her behind was unthinkable.
I have a son and I have had beloved pets. I understand the difference, but cats and dogs are also created by a loving God. Hershey has been an unexpected blessing to all of us and I will never forget her as long as I live. Mere hours after she died, Luis and I both heard a sound exactly like her claws going clippity-clop across the tile floor. She has left a big, red dog-shaped hole in our hearts.