[Note from Larry: I have a pal -- went to high school with him at Texas High in Texarkana -- who lost his dear friend Spike late last year, middle of the Christmas season. This guy is a pretty tough cookie -- Vietnam vet, daddy, husband -- and it got to me when I saw how Spike’s death was affecting him. I could not face working on his memorial for Spike until a little time had passed. Neither could Ray. He sent it to us a while after Spike had died. He wrote, “I have worked on this many many times. I can only work for a very short period before the anguish of the loss of Spike becomes overwhelming. This is why it has been so long since I have spoken to you about this.”
My empathy got the best of me until right now. So, here is Ray Hughes’ tribute to his wonderful friend Spike. And I think you will find a very human picture of a family dog who guarded his best friend Ray and was guilty of slipping off with porkchops and helping to steal the holiday turkey. It is no wonder Ray’s heart felt such a loss.]My empathy got the best of me until right now. So, here is Ray Hughes’ tribute to his wonderful friend Spike. And I think you will find a very human picture of a family dog who guarded his best friend Ray and was guilty of slipping off with porkchops and helping to steal the holiday turkey. It is no wonder Ray’s heart felt such a loss.]
Ray Hughes writes:
“The loss of Spike was sudden, although we knew he had started to have a number of problems in seeing, hearing, walking and eating. We knew our time with Spike was ending soon but thought we had weeks, if not months, before he left us.
“Then, about 3 p.m. he had another episode and this one just lasted and lasted and lasted.
“I called the Vet at 3:45 p.m. and the Vet didn't know what was occurring and said I probably needed to bring Spike in the next day if Spike did not get better.
“Between then and about 6:35 p.m. Spike just waffled back and forth. I had my daughter come over (she is training to be a nurse) and look at Spike and she confirmed what I had feared most in my life. I was losing Spike.
“Between 6:30 p.m. and when Spike passed at about 8:30 p.m. all Elizabeth and I did was hold Spike and love him. I was holding him in my arms and next to my chest when he passed.
“I had prayed earlier for him so that he would have a easy passing.”
WHEN SPIKE CAME TO THE FAMILY
“Now back to Thanksgiving 1999. I have Eric to go out to the car because I left some groceries there after a trip to the store. Thanksgiving Day is usually always the most wonderful MADhouse day at the Hughes home and that day was a most wonderful MADhouse: turkeys flying; pies flinging all about, 'taters throwing themselves against walls to mash themselves.
“And of course, the famed dance of the blessed pieces of the National Bird that have been meticulously inspected, ‘VETTED,’ scrutinized and have passed the beauty pageant review.
“This dance is the coordinated choreographed gyrating acrobatic feats of the Giblets as they do their famed Nutcracker ballet upon the most willing stage
of plain sage cornbread oyster dressing.
“The pies were flinging themselves from the hidden ice cave to the blazing hot torrid zone of the enclosed compartment of the finishing house. The pies would, after finishing then would fling themselves to a staging area being at the ready to assault the nearest person in a most grievous way with huge intent to do as much damage as possible to themselves.
“Now some upper class pies are such well-healed travelers that they had booked direct non-stop flinging for themselves to be flung directly from the hidden ice cave to the staging area thus avoiding the blazing hot torrid zone of the enclosed compartment of the finishing house.
“OHHHH, let's not forget all the herbaceous friends then come crawling out of the woodwork at every festive occasion. They come offering multiple sacrifices of themselves for everyone to be pleased upon this day and occasion.
“As for this day, I sent Eric to unload the car. And he brings in this lost dog.
As soon as he opened the front door, she came running from across the street. It was about 25 degrees, more or less, and she was freezing.
“We took her in. Looked at her collar and she had a rabies tag from? Honolulu HI!!!!!!!!!!!!!
“I said to everyone, ‘Oh my God, she got loose or was intentionally let go by someone at DFW (airport)' and she had been out for a while because she was extremely cold and very hungry and thirsty.
“Eric named her Ebony and she seemed to answer to it. Later, we found the owner who said her name was NANI, meaning flower in the Hawaiian language. Eric and Nani were instant companions, mates, whatever you want to call it. We had Nani for 4 years when she passed away.
“After Nani passed away in summer of 2003 there was a hole in our family so in October of 2003 Peaches, at six weeks old, became a member of our family and has been with us ever since.
“Just before Christmas of 1999 I decided that we could not have just one dog and leave NANI all alone every day while the kids went to school and Liz and I went to work.
“So, I decided to see what the North Richland Hills Animal Shelter had.
I was looking for a Chihuahua. When I called, the lady said that they maybe got a Chihuahua in about once a month.
Knowing that they did not have any Chihuahuas, I decided to go see what they had anyway. I ran some errands and after a few hours, got to the shelter. Lo and behold, they had just picked up a Chihuahua about 30 minutes before I got there.
“They said he had been on the streets for some time and was extremely vicious and probably could not be adopted because he was so mean. I asked to take a look at him.
“My heart just broke into a thousand pieces and melted to nothingness.
Three and a half pounds of ‘Muhammad Ali,’ certainly was the meanest Chihuahua dog I'd ever seen.
“Mean and vicious. I decided to win him over and told the staff that if I won him over, I was taking him home.
“I told the staff that I had to work with him alone every day during the 10 days of detention.
“No one could be with me and the dog would not be let out of his cage. The staff did not believe me, that I could tame that Chihuahua. Well, I tamed him and the whole shelter stood amazed when I carried him out for his first walk.
“How did I do it? Well, that first day I went right over to Whataburger, got a order of BACON, and went back to the shelter and asked to see Spike. They said ‘WHO’?
"I said that I mean ‘Muhammad Ali’ Chihuahua dog. They said ‘Oh’.“I did not let them see what I did. I waved the bacon at Spike and he stayed at the extreme back of the cage as far away as possible. He would not ever try to smell the bacon even though I know he did. So, in front of Spike I gave all the pieces of the bacon to all the other dogs around him.
“This was about noon and I told the staff I would be back at about 5 minutes before closing to see Spike.
“Again, I waved the bacon at Spike and he stayed at the extreme back of the cage as far away as possible. He would not even try to smell the bacon even though I know he did. So in front of Spike,again I gave all the pieces of the bacon to all the other dogs around him.
“The next morning, the 2nd day, I was there and I did the same thing.
And did the routine again at closing time. However, this time he was interested in the bacon but he would not come forward. He was just smelling it for all it was worth.
“The morning of the 3rd day, I was there and again did the same thing. However, this time he was even more interested in the bacon but he would not come forward. He was smelling it for all it was worth. So I threw him a small piece and told him that he was going to have to come up front and get the rest. He did not move.
“However, by closing time on the 3rd day, he was even more interested in the bacon. He was smelling it for all it was worth and I once again threw a very small piece to him.
“I held out a larger piece but he was going to have to come get that piece. He grabbed the second piece of bacon and ran to the back of the cage. So I did that again and again and again until all the bacon was gone.
“The morning of the 4th day, I was there and again I did the same thing. This time, Spike came up front just close enough for him to get the bacon. “At closing, I told him that he had to come over to the cage wall to get his bacon. He did and sat there and ate all four strips.
“Now, on the last strip I told him that I was going to rub him while he ate that last piece. He did, and I did.
"The morning of the 5th day, I was there and again I did the same thing. But this time I also told him that he had to sit there while he ate my bacon and I would rub him. He was not too happy about that but he did let me rub him the whole time and a little while after.
“Now that afternoon I told the staff that I wanted to pet Spike. After some heated debate, I won. I went in with BACON-covered, BACON-smelling hands. I got him out of the cage and they could not believe it because all he would do for them was to try to eat them alive.
“I continued to feed bacon to Spike in secret from the 6th day to the 10th day and petted him and took him for walks around the shelter. They neutered him and that made him very irritable for a while.
“As I took him home on the 11th day, the Director, who could not believe that I had tamed the beast, asked how I did it. I said ‘LOVE’ and then I pulled out a piece of bacon out of my inside jean jacket pocket and said ‘BACON is the reward.‘ I taught Spike to wait patiently for his bacon.
“She was totally dumbfounded. Because he still wanted to eat alive the staff at the shelter. But he was my buddy and we went home for food and friends and LOVE.
“It was now the new Year 2000. Spike was a member of our family. Nani assumed the role of Mother to this little puppy. At least she thought he looked like a puppy to a big Lab.
“For two years, you could just see the exasperation in her face, saying when is this baby going to grow up.
“Well, Thanksgiving of 2002 comes around and we are in our own HOUSE finally. We are having pork chops one Sunday. Nani is out in the backyard and Alysha makes a plate and takes her plate to the den and sets it down on the coffee table then goes to get a soda.
“She comes back to find her plate is missing the pork chop.
“She thinks she is nuts, so she goes and gets another one. Again she goes into the kitchen and comes back and find this pork chop is also missing. Now she gets upset a me because I have played tricks on Alysha before and she thought I was doing something.
“I said it was not me and then we asked where Spike was and everyone started looking for Spike.
“We found him under the couch with one bone and him going to town on the other half eaten pork chop.
“It is now Thanksgiving 2002 and the turkey has just come out of the oven.
“Everyone is doing all kinds of things getting ready for the Cowboys game setting up the great Food Spread. Everyone is running everywhere doing everything.
“And after a while no one is in the kitchen. The kitchen is totally empty except just full of such wonderful smells and aromas. Pies, taters, deviled eggs, all kinds of goodies and one more thing: The TURKEY.
“Mom, after changing clothes and getting ready to eat, goes back to the kitchen to conscript me into kitchen service. Finding me not there she goes on the hunt for me with the vengeance of a banshee and lo I am caught and given the riot act and pressed into service.
“Now Mom heads back to the kitchen and there is the horrible sound.
“ ‘Ray, Where is the Turkey?’ The phrase could have been heard in Texarkana Arkansas. ... I go in there and there is the plate and no turkey.
“OK Eric, Michael, front and center what game are you two playing I am not happy about this.
“After much denial and tempers getting shorter and all the noise we notice that Nani and Spike are missing from all the commotion in the kitchen.
I ask, ‘Where are Nani and Spike?’ Everyone looks around and I say, ‘Spike could get the pork chops but he cannot get upon the table to get the turkey.
“BINGO: The Forehead Light goes ON!!!!!
“Where is NANI? Everyone look for NANI. We find her and Spike in Eric's room under the bed with the Turkey and both of them going to town on the turkey -- hot or not.
“SO much for that Turkey that day.
“I had to go to Boston Market if I remember correctly or to the Store or somewhere that I found that I could get some Turkey for us.
“Alysha says, ‘I remember that Spike was Dad's personal guard dog’ and it only took 10 years for Spike to allow Alysha to get near dad.
"But Spike still had to let Alysha know who was Boss and would growl at her.
“Spike would chase and bark at you all the way to the front door if you were leaving as if to say, ‘You are trespassing on property, now leave.’
“After 10 years he was demanding attention from everyone that came to the house. He would sit and bark at them until they petted him or pick him up. Just ask anyone who has been to our home on Quail Spring.
“Eric says, ‘Spike was always an excellent guard dog’ and would always make such a commotion and racket when Eric was sneaking in after being out late. To keep Spike quiet and to buy his silence Eric has to bribe Spike. Eric had to run to the refrigerator and get a hot dog to pay Spike's Bribe.
“Michael says he came in from school one day and had stopped at Whataburger to get a burger. He was sitting on the couch and watching TV and eating his burger and at first Spike was being a real pain, wanting some of his burger. Michael kept shooing Spike away and finally Spike disappeared.
“Michael kept watching TV and eating, then he felt a tug on his burger he did not think much of that tug until a little later there was another and bigger tug. Michael looked down and there was Spike eating Michael’s burger out of Michael’s hand from the bottom-side of the burger and had eaten about a third of the burger.
“Now sometime back in 2002 December or first part of 2003 in winter, Spike somehow had got left outside in the back yard. And for a long time and it was very cold. But Spike had not forgotten his street skills he had made and pile of leaves and buried himself under them.
“When I went out back and was calling him and looking for him he heard me calling and exploded out of those leaves and raced like a shot to me. He was cold.
“I brought him in the house and scolded everyone for not taking care of Spike.
“Spike was my buddy and in the last year was always close to me. Being an old guy he could not jump anymore and I was always putting up on the couch or bed and putting him down again.
"His most favorite duty was Birth Control duty from day two when he took on that job with much more glee and gusto than a hound dog has ever or could ever have.
“His belief was that I could not get near Mom or any another woman and that no one could get near Mom. He was always checking on that for years. Except that last couple of years since Eric has joined the Marines and Alysha moved out at Thanksgiving of 2010 and Michael left in summer of 2012.
“It has been Spike, Peaches, Mom and I since then. Spike for the past year has kept a close eye on me whatever I was doing wherever I was he would follow and watch.
“When I was in my little corner, Spike would demand to be put up on the bed and for me to make a little nest out of yummy blankets and position him in his nest so he could watch me and then I’d cover him up snuggly warm with more yummy on top and there he would stay watching me intently until he wanted some water or something else.
"Now nearly for the last six months watching me was extremely difficult duty and a lot of the time he would take a nap for hours just snoring away unless I made some noise moving and he would wake up and bark at me Otherwise he would sleep away and then if he woke up and I was not there he would start crying and whining for me to come get him off the bed and to be with me.
“I just cannot go on relating about Spike. It just hurts too much.
“Spike was my best buddy -- there is a huge hole in my heart for him.
"With such sorrow I miss him so sorely.”
The photographs: In the top photo you see Spike in a comfy spot in the house. The dogs out in the yard are Peaches and Spike. And that third photo is Ray’s final picture of Spike. Ray wrote, “Here is Spike all dressed up in his ‘BLUE’ clothes and he is all ready to go for a BYE-BYE. His clothes have his name tag so every one will know who he is. That he is not a lost person. Spike is laying on his brown yummy’ blanket that he loved so much. He would always lay on HIS blanket no matter where I put the blanket. Sometime he would move the blanket to a place he like better. He always like to lay in the sun.”
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