Hobie Roach (1999-2012)
Years ago, Jack and I lived in Port Aransas, TX, a small town on the northern tip of Mustang Island. One afternoon, we set off on our bikes with our two black labs, Splash and Hobie. I was flying down the road with Hobie gallumphing joyfully beside me. Jack and Splash followed slightly behind until Jack made a slight left into the University of Texas Marine Science Institute marina to take a closer look at a boat.
Since Jack’s the leader of our pack, both dogs also made a quick left. Meanwhile, I’m unaware that Hobie has suddenly changed directions and is flying perpendicularly away from me. Since he was on a retractable leash, he was also picking up speed. If you’ve seen a water skier propelled outside the wake by a sudden turn of the boat, you know the trajectory I took. Though I’d learned (mostly the hard way) to let go of a tow rope, I was conditioned to hold tight to his leash. He was still a puppy, albeit a 100lb one, and hadn’t yet learned the dangers of running toward other people, dogs, or into a road. It was my job to teach and protect him. There was no way I was letting go of that leash – no matter how hard he pulled.
Once the leash’s slack ran out, so did my luck. I launched off my bike into the air thinking, this is really gonna hurt. Then…impact with the curb and a sound like a branch breaking. An intense bomb of pain exploded on my left side as the bike fell on top of me. Ouch, that was worse than I thought.
A broken hip landed me in the hospital for a couple of weeks and it was months before I could walk again, take a shower, or use a toilet instead of a bed pan. A year earlier I’d run the New York City marathon; now, I wasn’t sure I’d ever walk without a limp again.
Hobie taught me a life lesson that day – sometimes it is better to let go. Letting go of what I think I must protect, control, or manage is extremely difficult for me. So as I try to master this lesson, life keeps offering me the opportunity to learn it.
Once again, Hobie is my teacher: He passed away unexpectedly last month at the age of 13. One day we’re taking a brisk 3-mile walk, the next thing we know – he’s gone. What did I/didn’t I do? Could I have protected him more? Cared for him better? I’ll never know. And the questions have been driving me crazy.
We got his ashes back from the vet a few weeks ago. With his collar they’ve been placed gently in a special compartment of an urn he shares with Splash’s ashes. And so again, I’m learning…failing…trying again…to let go of his leash.