dogs · Family · Grief · Mourning

Saying Goodbye to Hunter

Hunter Abrahamsen May 18, 2003 – January 21, 2021

Today we said goodbye to Hunter after more than 17 years. Eric and I started dating in March 2003, and he got Hunter in August of that same year. 

Puppy Hunter and a very young Eric in 2003

Hunter wasn’t your average puppy. He was flippin’ adorable, but not at all friendly or playful. At first, he wouldn’t even let me pet him, he would just growl and fight. One night I was over at Eric’s place and Eric had left the room to go take a shower, and puppy Hunter was so sitting at attention, fixated on the door, waiting for him to come back. He was exhausted though, so as he was sitting there he kept nodding off. His head would droop and his little paws would start sliding forward on the sheets. After the third time this happened I just pulled him close to me and he snuggled up and passed out. And that was that. He was cool with me from that moment on. 

Hunter always lounged on the back of this couch. It was the perfect spot for him to be able to get up and run full-tilt at the front door if ever the door bell rang.

Hunter (or “Huntie” as his friends called him) was always very suspicious of anyone new, but once you made friends with him he would get excited and jump up and bark and wag his little nubbin tail excitedly. When Eric and I first got married we lived in an apartment complex on North Lamar that backed up to Walnut Creek. One morning we took him hiking with us and he spent the day ferociously biting the water as it made shallow little rapids. Apparently he drank so much water during these attacks that he ended up peeing on Michelle later that evening. 

Hunter never made a great pillow but he was always the perfect snuggle buddy.

Eventually Hunter was really more my dog than Eric’s because, being the one who stayed home, I was the one who saw to all his needs and took him to the vet. I remember snuggling with him on the couch once before I had kids, just marveling at how two beings of different species could be so very bonded.

In this picture you can see Hunter’s tattoo on his tummy; it was a number 1 put there by the breeder because Huntie was the first puppy born in his litter.

When we took Hunter on walks he would run all the way out to the end of his leash and then do a little move I liked to call “Flintstoning it” where his legs were moving really fast but he wasn’t going anywhere. Like Fred Flintstone trying to start up his rock car. We learned that if we were going to take him for a walk it had to be somewhere he could walk in the grass because in his fervor to run while leashed he would rub all the skin off the pads of his feet and then leave little raspberry footprints all over the floor. The first time this happened I made Eric help me put bandaids and neosporin on all his paws. He immediately chewed the bandaids off. The good thing about walking him was that his intense style of walking helped keep his toenails ground down. 

Hunter sitting in Eric’s lap in the car circa 2005

When Hunter was younger we used to joke about how spastic he was, he would do this weird move where he was biting his shoulder, and then would look around in the air, suddenly frantic, as if he was being tormented by an invisible force. We used to call it Hunter’s “shoulder demons” (like in the cartoons where a person facing a dilemma has an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other – Hunter just had two demons). In 2014 he started scratching himself so violently that he was losing all the hair on his back and causing himself to bleed. It took three trips to the vet where they tested him over and over again for mange, they just didn’t believe us that he didn’t have it. Finally they gave us a referral to a canine dermatologist where we learned he had severe skin allergies, which was probably the real source of his “shoulder demons”. So he had to take expensive allergy medicine so that his hair could grow back and he wasn’t a bloody mess. 

Hunter hanging out the back window on Bella’s lap
Bella and Hunter in 2010
Vivienne and Hunter

Hunter was always an anxious dog. He had a love hate relationship with car rides. He would get so upset if we brought him in the car, the only way to calm him down was to roll the windows down and let him hang the top half of his body out the window where he would sniff the air and bark at anyone who had the audacity to look at him. We used to have to hide to pack for a trip because if he saw us getting the suitcases out he would bark and whine at us the entire time we were packing. 

Hunter was also always a very jealous dog. One time we volunteered to watch my friend Davie’s dog, Chulo, who was a tiny little Chihuahua. The first night Chulo stayed with us, Hunter apparently peed in the bed, on top of the covers, and then burrowed down under his pee spot to sleep in this like, pee sandwich as if to say, BACK OFF, TURD NUGGET THIS IS MY SPOT DON’T EVEN TRY IT. I couldn’t convince him that we weren’t adopting Chulo forever. 

Hunter and my friend Erica in 2005. We had been making pumpkin bread to surprise Michelle for her birthday the next day, so we put flour on Huntie’s face to make it look like he had been helping us bake.

He always had a very sensitive digestive tract. If his food varied at all he would have horrible diarrhea. People loved feeding him because 1. he was cute and 2. if you fed him he would be nice to you, but every time he ate people food he would come home and become a whirling dervish poo devil. If it wasn’t so disgusting it would have been impressive. 

New Year’s Eve 2017, we had been making sugar cookies with royal icing at Michelle’s house, no one knows how Hunter got covered in icing, but I always had a sneaking suspicion there are some children who know how it happened.

For the past few years he really hasn’t been himself at all. He got to the point recently where he wouldn’t let anyone pick him up. I could do it if I snuck up behind him but he would keep his little feet swimming the whole time until I put him down. He used to snuggle with me for hours in bed or on the couch. He was never a licky dog but he was a big snuggler. He would even hug Eric and me when we picked him up, putting his little paws on our shoulders and nuzzling his head into our necks. 

Huntie snuggling me in 2018

When we first brought Bella home from the hospital, he sniffed her, growled and bit her hand. We let him know that that was not okay though, so from then on when we brought new babies home he cautiously sniffed them and then backed off. Once he acknowledged the baby as a part of the family, he would stand guard over them as they slept, making sure no one would hurt the baby. When we used to play wrestle with each other he would get really mad and start barking at us to stop. He could never tell the difference between happy squeals and screams of pain so whenever we had giggling kids we inevitably also had an upset, loudly barking dog. 

Hunter guarding baby Vivienne

We have known for some time that it was time to say goodbye to him. We brought him in for a quality of life evaluation in October, but I couldn’t face it at the time, so we brought him back home and spent the ensuing weeks trying to improve his quality of life. For the past few weeks though, he has spent every night howling. When I went to check on him he wasn’t trying to get out, just standing, shaking, staring into the corner and crying. He didn’t know me at the end. He wouldn’t relax when I held him. He didn’t respond to his name. When we brought him into the vet today, and they administered the sedative, he relaxed in my arms, and I realized that he hadn’t done that in so long that I can’t even remember the last time he did it. Because I spent so much time with Michelle when Hunter was a puppy, Hunter spent a lot of time with Michelle’s dog, Lucy. When he was younger, we used to wind him up about it when we were going to see Michelle and Barrett by saying to Hunter, “Huntie! Wanna go see Lucy?!” and he would get so excited and start jumping up and doing this desperate whine bark. Lucy passed away a few years ago when Michelle was fighting cancer. So today, as I held Hunter at the Vet’s office, I told him he was going to go see Lucy. 

Hunter and Lucy, this is a picture of a picture from a photo album Michelle made for me when I graduated college in 2007.

In 2015 when Hunter was old but still himself, I wrote this blog about him called “10 Reasons My Dog is an Asshole”. Reading it today made me realize how much he has changed since then. So many things I forgot he used to do. As exasperated as he made me, I would still wish to have that dog back. Hunter was never what most people would call a “good dog”. He was aggressive, territorial and jealous. He was a little ankle biter and I’m lucky we never got sued. No, he was never a good dog, but he was always a good friend.

I’ll miss you, Hunter.

2 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye to Hunter

  1. They leave such a big hole when they go. Steven’s cat Allegra (age 13) died of liver failure today. They could have put her down, but she would have had to be left there – they couldn’t go in because of Covid. So they kept her home with them and her brother, Zildjian, until she died around 6:30 this afternoon when she died. Steven is really suffering over losing his cat, so pray for him, okay? I love you.

    Liked by 1 person

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