Farewell Hoku

In loving memory of Hoku

“World’s Best Dog”

November 18th, 2000 – May 23rd, 2012

All dogs are special in their own way. They love their people, they make us laugh, they take a house and turn it into a home. A step above those dogs are wonderful dogs. Dogs that have something special about them. Dogs that aren’t loved by just their family, but manage to capture the hearts of others near and dear to them. Above those dogs are extraordinary dogs. Dogs that are amazing in every way, that touch countless lives and leave an impression that lasts a lifetime. This is where you will find Hoku…

From the second she came into my life, I knew Hoku was special. Sure, puppies are full of spunk and adorableness, and this little bundle of fluff was no different. But there was something about her – maybe it was that little sparkle in her eyes that reminded me of stars and earned her the name “Hoku” (Hawaiian for Star), or it could have been her silly personality, most teenagers will agree that it was probably because I brought her home under the warning of “If you bring that dog home you better find a new place to live!”… no. It was the way she took to me, the way she ignored everyone else around us and brought me a toy and flopped upsidedown into my lap, like she just knew she was home with me. Our love was instant. We both gave each other the “Yes, this is the one I want” look. (For the record, on the day Hoku came home, all the threats of being homeless with my new puppy from my mother that I obviously wasn’t afraid of turned into a light knock on my bedroom door after she got home from work followed by a peek into my room with a sweet voice “Where’s the puuuuuuppyyyyy?” Right, like my mom could resist a puppy!)

Hoku was an honor’s student. She had an eagerness to please beyond that of any dog I’ve ever owner or work with. She used to look at me when we were training with her eyes glowing as if she were saying “This is great! Teach me more!” The more I taught her, the quicker she caught on. In obedience classes, she was the dog everyone wanted to handle when the trainer asked us to swap dogs and the one all the owners wanted their dogs to be like. (I’m not being biased here, people said it during every class to their dogs, the trainer, and me.) I continued an advanced training path with her, she learned everything that was presented to her. It was during this time that several instructors suggested I become involved with dog training as a profession. Between multiple training courses, working with several trainers, more books than I ever used in college, having a boss that was a canine behaviorist that had already been teaching me her infinite knowledge for years, and having Hoku with me every step of the way to encourage my new venture, I decided to go for it.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but Hoku was paving my road of destiny. Thanks to everything I learned with her, I took my first real training job at Petco when they opened in our area. Had it not been for Hoku, I never would have even considered going to work for them. (For those of you who know my husky, Lani, you can understand why she certainly wouldn’t have encouraged me to become a dog trainer.) It was through this company that I met my now husband. It is with complete confidence that I can tell you this – everything I have; my husband, my son, my job; is thanks to Hoku’s influence in my life.

Of course, the lessons Hoku had to teach went far beyond just me.  Her infinite patience and nurturing demeanor made her an excellent teacher for others.  She helped countless dogs “study” for their Canine Good Citizen test by taking part in their training program.  She worked with people too.  She had enough experience to teach new handlers and trainers who were fresh out of training.  She helped train new staff at boarding facilities.  She was a patient test subject for new bathers learning the ropes in salons and was more than happy to sit still for new groomers to practice their scissoring skills who had just graduated grooming school.  Hoku had a lot to teach the world and I’m glad to know that more humans than just myself have been educated by such a wonderful professor.

Hoku was a kind soul, a friend to creatures great and small. She never seemed to mind when my bird would land on her head, and she loved going to the bard to see the horses. She used to press her nose against the fish tanks at work to see the eels and loved to sit and watch the guinea pigs run around. I had been working in the pet industry long before Hoku came into my life. When I got her, she would come to work with me almost every day. I believe it is there that she learned to be so gentle with animals smaller than her and to happily greet every animal and person that came through the doors. I used to take care of horses a few days a week too, she loved hanging around the barn with the pigs and one particular pony that wasn’t much bigger than she was.

As more dogs came into our home “Momma Hoku” was more than happy to show them the ropes. She took care of them, comforted them when they needed to snuggle and let them know when they were out of place. She looked out for her own pack, she had a ton of “friends” at the dog park, and she was good to every foster dog that came and went through our home. All dogs seemed to love her. As I write this, her “partner in crime” Lani is laying beside me, clearly missing her best friend that has been by her side for all of her 10 years.

Paging Doctor Hoku!

Hoku was more than just the heart of our home. It all started on Sept. 11th. I was at work when everything was happening, Hoku happened to be home on this day. I walked through the door with the same sense of shock as the rest of the country. Hoku came bounding up to me, excited to see me after only having been gone a few hours, but soon realized something was wrong. Her excitemend turned into concern. She walked next to me as I pet her head, tail still wagging, but with a sense of calm. As I sat down on the couch, she sat next to me and placed her head on my lap. I rubbed her head as I watched the TV. When I looked down at her I realized she had been looking up at me all along with concern in her eyes. I smiled and hugged her, she was the only thing to make me smile all day. It was at that moment that I realized that she was meant to help people more than just me. Not too long after, we got involved in a therapy dog organization.

It’s no surprise that Hoku took to therapy training like a fish to water. She was already well trained and had a heart of gold, we just needed to learn to work together as a therapy team and what was to be expected of us. She flew through the training program faster than our instructor had ever seen a dog progress. It was in no time at all that Hoku was hard at work, and boy did she love her job! We visited schools, assisted living facilities, and hospitals. I remember one day we went to visit my Aunt when she was in the hospital, her room was at the end of the hallway, and by the time we left her room and walked out into the hallways nearly every room had someone standing in the doorway, waiting for their turn to see Hoku. We visited every room. Some people wanted Hoku on their laps, others just wanted to admire her from across the room, every patient had a smile on their face by the time we left. This was the case with every visit we went on. When Hoku would sit with a patient it gave them something to think and talk about other than what was wrong with them. We would talk about the pets they had waiting at home for their return, animals they had when they were younger, even their “granddogs”. People literally transformed in front of us. More times than I can count, employees and family members of patients would approach us and tell us “Thank you so much for coming, I haven’t seen a smile like that on their face in a very long time.” When we would return, we were always told “They haven’t stopped talking about the last time you visited!” To know that my sweet girl touched so many people absolutely warms my heart. Hoku loved her visits too, and though some days were harder than others, her tail never stopped wagging from the moment we pulled into the parking lot and put on her vest to the moment we drove away.

It goes without saying that Hoku’s job went far beyond her visits. At home, during some of the most difficult times of my life, she was with me and refused to leave my side. When my Grandfather passed away, I remember hugging her and crying into her beautiful black fur, and when I looked up she put her paw gently on my hand as if to tell me “Everything is going to be OK.” A few years ago, my family had a scare with my Mother when she had to go in for an emergency surgery and was admitted to the ICU. That night, I may have been the only human in the house, but I was far from alone… Hoku cuddled up next to me in bed and didn’t budge. On the flip side, she has also been there to celebrate some of the happiest moments of my life. I couldn’t have asked for a better “big sister” to bring my son home to…

My dogs had been my only children for a very long time. I’ll admit, I was a little nervous of how they might react when I brought my son home. Not because I was worried for his safety, that thought never crossed my mind, but I was worried that they would feel neglected or jealous. Hoku turned 10 years old just 10 days after my son was born, and unlike with children, I couldn’t exactly explain to her that this little boy was now the center of my universe. Luckily for me, I never needed to explain it. With Hoku’s “willing to please” attitude, if it was important to me, it was important to her. Both Hoku and Lani took to my son immediately.  Of course, both in different ways. Lani was the one who would lay by his swing and watch from a distance, she’s never been much of a cuddler. Hoku was the one who was under my feet for everything – every feeding, every diaper change, every nap, happy to be laying with us.

Hoku was a perfect “Nanna” (from Peter Pan) to my little boy for 18 months. She let him crowl all over her, pick her nose, pull her tail, and do just about everything else little boys will do to her, even being puked on more times that I can remember, and she took it all with the grace of a dog who had been around children all her life. Every day, my son would run up to her and throw his arms around her to give her a hug while her tail wagged in delight. He would lay across her and snuggle with her. Every time I saw the two of them together it would bring a smile to my face, it was a sight that never got old. At the end of the day, when my son was off to bed for the night, I always let Hoku know how much I appreciated her being so good to him.

Above all, Hoku was a wonderful best friend. When I came home she would always greet me with a tail that wagged with so much excitement that it would actually cause a breeze. She was my cup of coffee in the morning, one look at her smiling face and I was ready to go. She was my co-pilot, always ready for an adventure. She was my foot warmer at the end of the day, patiently waiting  at my feet for the baby to finish his goodnight bottle so she could have her turn at a snuggle. She was a comedian, her randomness always made me laugh, and she knew just how to get a giggle out of me. It didn’t matter what kind of day I had, she was always happy to be with me, and that made every day better.

The Bernese Mountain Dog doesn’t have a very long life expectancy. 7 short years is all the breed is given, I’ve known some to pass as young as 4. In typical Hoku fashion of exceeding all expectations, she gave us just over 11.5 wonderful years. Beating cancer over 4 years ago and coping with hip dysplasia for half her life, she took on the major issues that usually shorten the BMD’s life and ran with it, and she ran far. I know that every day with her was a blessing, every day after 7 was a gift. Have you had a daily gift for 4 and a half years? Even though her passing was very fast and incredibly unexpected, I believe this too was a gift from Hoku. I never had to watch her suffer and she was never miserable, her tail wagging meer minutes before she was gone. Sure, she was aging and slowing down, but hey, so am I. I never had to make “the decision”. She was always trying her best to make me happy, and I firmly believe this was her way of making it as easy as possible on me. Once I told her it was ok, she seemed to be at peace and was gone. To her very last minute, she truly was extraordinary.

It would be a lie to tell you that all is well with me. I miss Hoku more than words can ever express. She took a huge piece of my heart with her when she left, a piece that can never be repaired or replaced. However, it is being healed by memories of great times. Memories of her wagging tail and smiling face and cries of joy when she would see me. Memories of my son using her as a jungle gym as she turned to kiss his face. Memories of how many other people she touched. It makes me laugh to think of the times she would run up to me, entire body wiggling in excitement, and let out an enormous burp knowing that it made me laugh. It makes me smile to know that her gentle nature helped shape the sweetness that my son shows when he runs up and gives hugs like he did with Hoku. It warms my soul when I think of all the fun we had together. It gives me strangth to know that she was happiest when I was at my happiest, and I would never want to disappoint her. Christmas morning will never be the same – she opened the dogs gifts every Christmas morning, but not until she was handed a present and told “ok”. Her birthday will surely be a difficult day for me, but a day to celebrate a beautiful life. Waking up and not having her there, coming home and not hearing her wine in excitement for me, and going to sleep without her next to me have all been very difficult, but I get through because I feel like she is here with me.

And so it is now that I say goodbye to you, my dear Hoku. Gone from our sight but forever in our hearts. You made our house a home with the dents and dings you leave behind. You made our famile whole with your endless love. I know one day we will meet again. Until that day, play well, keep my family and our other loving departed dogs company, and be ready to show me that beautiful face with the excitement its shown me for over 11 years. You are missed by all of us here at home, but as I promised you, we’ll be ok.  You were more than a pet, you were family, and you really were the world’s best dog. I love you…

 I Loved You Best    

So this is where we part, My Friend,
And you’ll run on, around the bend.
 Gone from sight, but not from mind,
new pleasures there you’ll surely find.
I will go on; I’ll find the strength,
Life measures quality, not its length.
 One long embrace before you leave,
Share one last look, before I grieve.
There are others, that much is true,
But they be they, and they aren’t you.
And I, fair, impartial, or so I thought,
Will remember well all you’ve taught.
Your place I’ll hold, you will be missed,
The fur I stroked, the nose I kissed.
And as you journey to your final rest,
 Take with you this…I loved you best.
~Jim Willis 2002


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  1. This was a beautiful, well written tale (tail!). I’m sorry you lost Hoku, but I appreciate you writing all this. After reading it I feel less alone in my own dog grief, you were able to say everything I couldn’t. As Rebecca can attest to, from the first sentence till the last I was sobbing, but true to Hoku’s memory, you’ve provided me the same much-needed therapy she gave to all those people. Nothing can ease the loss of a pet, but today you’ve helped me deal with my own loss by sharing yours so eloquently. Thanks Jordan.

    • Thank you Tana! As you know, it hasn’t been easy, and you’re in good, understanding company when it comes to the loss of a fur-child. Hoku made big impressions with her life, I’m happy to know (and she would be too) that she can continue to do so now that she’s gone.

  2. I loved reading this! Sobbed like a baby… But u forgot to mention her going in between legs for a good butt scratch lol… Again im sorry for ur loss Jordan she might not be here physically anymore but she has left u with so much more..a heart filled with love, giggles, and im sure life lessons that even some humans could never teach another. 🙂

    • The famous Hoku butt scratch! That was surely her thing, and she taught it to other dogs as well. 🙂 I loved the way she used to stomp her feet like she was hopping when you would get the right spot. lol Thank you so much. She was one of a kind, and she loved coming to work and seeing you all 🙂

  3. Pass the Kleenex please.

    • I should have bought stock in tissue! I’m even out of napkins here at home!

  4. Amazing story! Tommy and I never really realized she brought you and Joey together therefore creating Riley. Pretty cool. She was an amazing dog. I cried like a baby but rejoice in all the wonderful memories you two shared. You guys were blessed to have each other. We send our deepest sympathy and our love.

  5. Jordan this was absolutely beautifully written. I seriously couldn’t stop crying at this beautiful story. Knowing Hoku was a gift. I’ve always said she was the best dog I’ve met. I always loved doing the butt scratch for her when I would see her. Even her just hanging out between my legs when I’d stand lol. Again I am so sorry for your loss but all these wonderful memories will put a smile on your face. And know she is always there with you.

  6. […] To see the story of Hoku, Worlds Best Dog, click here… https://wild4creatures.wordpress.com/farewell-hoku/ […]

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