Moe’s gift: Ties that bond extend to family pets
Special to The Union
Moe is our family dog. She’s an American Eskimo, looks like a miniature Husky with long white hair, but she’s only about 30 pounds.
She should be 22 pounds, but over the years she’s gotten pretty plump. She’s a talking dog, purrs like a cat, bares her fangs to play but never bites hard, barks a warning and gives our family tons of love.
She plays rough with Hank, cuddles up with Sophie, but she’s really Dorene’s dog.
They have a special bond and seem to understand each other in ways none of us completely understand.
Moe loves to go on outings. One morning, Hank and I got up early (an amazing feat for a teenager) and headed out to go fishing on Rollins Lake. We had to make it a quick trip as Hank had a doctor’s appointment at 9:45, so we had to be off the lake by 9.
Moe was excited as she needed a running start to get into the Yukon and laid down in the back seat as we pulled the boat out of our driveway.
As we launched the boat, Hank prepared the fishing poles as I parked the car. Moe explored the shore for any interesting scents, and as soon as I walked down to the dock, she immediately followed me and jumped right into the boat. Hank petted her and called her MoeMoe as we pulled away from the dock.
Moe sat in her spot in the back of the boat, and Hank took over driving. He got the V8 engine purring at 4,000 rpm and we zipped along the calm waters up to the places on upper Rollins where we’ve had success fishing.
I thought of how Hank looked the mountain-man fisherman part that morning wearing his red plaid shirt, Gabe’s army fatigue pants, vested black jacket and fishing hat.
We fished a couple of rocky and brushy coves with no luck and kept working our way up to where the river empties into the lake. Water temperatures are lower there and the fish would hopefully be more active.
Hank barely contained his excitement when he caught the fish, “fish on Dad,” and then “Whooo-hooo.”
It was not quite a keeper but still worthy of taking a couple of pictures before throwing it back into the lake.
It was time to get back to the dock, and get Hank to his doctor’s appointment. I hurriedly cast another 10 times, not wanting to get out-fished by my son, and not wanting to take the teasing and abuse that would come with it. We zipped away from the fishing hole and headed back the 15-minute boat ride to the dock.
The windchill made both of us sit down low behind the windshield until we slowed in the “No Wake Zone” up to the dock. Suddenly we realized that we didn’t see Moe. We quickly looked under the seats.
“NO, NO!” The look of horror on Hank’s face was unforgettable.
“We’ve got to go find her,” as we zipped the boat around and started to retrace our path. Still, we had no idea where she would have fallen out. I tried to think when I saw her last. I remember seeing her. It was when we first left the dock that I recalled here lying in the back. She could’ve fallen out anywhere.
We desperately scoured the now wavy waters as the wind had come up and several boaters were adding to the choppy waters. This would make it much harder for Moe to swim and survive I thought.
Plus, she’s 12 or 13 years old, overweight, and lays on the front porch all day long. To make matters worse, she has that long hair that would get saturated with water and keep her from swimming.
Hank and I both didn’t think she could survive swimming several hundred yards to shore in these conditions. Still we looked, driving the boat rapidly, scouring the waters for any sign of Moe. Hank over and over kept saying “NO, NO. This can’t be happening.”
Tears were running down his face as we finally made it to the farthest point up the lake where he had caught his fish. We called out for Moe, but in vain. There were no signs of our family dog anywhere on the lake.
Hank still had time to make his doctor’s appointment, so we headed back, still looking for Moe, but now pretty sure she had drowned. She had fallen out of the boat, probably tried to swim to shore, gotten confused and swam in circles or got too tired to swim very far. She was GONE.
With heavy hearts, Hank and I pulled the boat out, driving directly to his appointment. We were upset about losing our dog, but more so, were worried about how Mom and Soph would take the news.
Hank kept saying, “This is not good, this is not good.”
We pulled up to the house where Dorene was preparing for her day. In the football room, she was working on the computer printing some lesson plans for her teaching.
“Moe’s gone,” was as far as Hank got, Dorene collapsed into tears. Her response was understandable considering all we’ve been through this year.
How were we supposed to take another shot? A son with cancer and all that’s come at us with that, and it’s been Moe who has been the steady source of unconditional love. That’s what she has taught our family, to unconditionally love no matter what the circumstances that we face.
It would be awhile before my wife reached a little better place in losing Moe, that for Moe to die this would be the best way for her to go, doing something she loved doing. We started to accept that her burial ground would be the lake she loved to go on family boating trips.
Later that evening, around 7 p.m., I scrolled through my pictures in my iPhone. I like to look through the pictures, and it makes me feel good about the places we’ve been and the smiles its captured.
Here was the picture I took of Hank’s fish from earlier in the day. Lo and behold, there was Moe in the background in the back of the boat. If she hadn’t fallen out of the boat until we were all the way up in that fishing hole, then that’s probably where she fell out. I knew that her chances of survival were still very low, but I had to go back out and look specifically where she had probably fallen out.
Gabe agreed to go with me, and we hurried as dusk was fast approaching.
We launched the boat and zipped up toward the fishing hole. Gabe and I both knew that she could’ve fallen out anywhere along the way back. We knew that she probably didn’t survive, but still it’s worth not giving up completely. We reached the quiet fishing hole.
The shoreline was rocky with a steep bank. Above the bank the trees and brush were thick. Usually I enjoy the beauty of the mountainous slope of trees and thick brush, but I looked differently at it now.
Now my eyes only saw what Moe’s chances of survival would be if she did make it to shore, how long could she survive. We both called out her name,
“Moe Moe, Moe Moe,” yelled with voices not overly hopeful of finding our family pet. We slowly drove the boat for half an hour back along the shoreline calling out her name, scouring the shore, trees and heavy brush.
We pretty much gave up on Moe, and decided to fish a little bit before heading back home. Dorene called on my cell phone and asked how it was going. I told her that we’d gone back out to look for Moe, but with no success. She said she’d reached a better space about losing Moe, but I thought she was partly saying that to help Hank and I cope with the guilt.
Gabe and I worked our way back to the fishing hole, casting bass lures toward the shoreline. Darkness was starting to take over; Gabe encouraged me to make it one more cast then we’d take it in.
“Pull the electric motor up,” I asked of Gabe, and as he released handle, I saw a little white thing on the other side of the cove struggling through the brush.
“MOE, MOE, Gabe pull that motor up quick!!”
“There she is!!”
We sped across the lake, and Moe had jumped into the water and was dog paddling toward us. Gabe scooped up our soaked, exhausted sticker-infested dog into boat. We hugged her, loved her, and celebrated together an amazing day.
I texted Hank, “Never give up on a Humphers.”
He called me within minutes and I told him the story.
He was so happy, so excited, “I love you Dad,” were the best words I’d heard all day.
I called my wife next. She was driving home and answered my call on the car’s Bluetooth. I wanted to keep the surprise, so I told her I’d had a nice evening with Gabe fishing. I ended the call though with, “You should never give up on a Humphers.”
She excitedly asked if we’d found Moe. I made like we had a poor cell phone connection, and with an intentionally gloomy voice said, ‘We’ll see you soon.”
The reunion of Moe at home was unforgettable. I had Gabe film the moment when Dor first saw Moe. Six months of emotion and hope poured out as we sat on the couch, held Moe and cried as we told the whole story of the day we almost gave up. The day we hoped a little more, believed a little more. It was the day we learned to never give up.
Dave Humphers is a teacher at Nevada Union High School and the former head coach of NU football.
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