By Kecia Talbot
It was my first thought when I saw her on the side of the road, and I immediately pulled over and stopped. She was in an odd place – two inches from the solid white line along the shoulder of northbound I-5 about a half-hour south of Bakersfield. She was lying upright with her front paws crossed, seemingly waiting to die.
I don’t remember how, but I got her in the car and went looking for a veterinarian in Bakersfield. This was 24 years ago, before smartphones, and I located a pay phone with a Yellow Pages. The vet I found noted that the dog was in such bad shape that the fleas were jumping ship off her.
After the long drive home, I took her to the small emergency clinic on Redwood Highway in Terra Linda. Despite his thorough examination, the vet there didn’t notice that she had internal bleeding. When I got her to my vet the next day, the full picture came into focus: Besides a broken toe, a luxation in her hip, and massive internal bleeding, she was way underweight and missing her top coat. She was in the hospital for a week, and I went to visit her every day. It was clear she was a German Shorthaired Pointer, nearly all liver colored with flecks of white. An X-ray showed she had a bird in her stomach, so she’d been fending for herself for a while, and she may have been hit by a car.
As soon as I knew she was female, I said to myself, “There’s your Hermione.” I had decided while reading Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale in college that the heroine’s name was the perfect moniker for a dog. So, no, she wasn’t named from Harry Potter! My previous dog, Otis, the love of my life, had died three months prior to that trip to L.A. at the young age of 3 from extensive cancer, so Hermione and I found each other when we needed the other most.
When Hermione was well, I took her to the (then) Marin Humane Society to look for a microchip. None was found. So, I had a new dog. And, for the next seven years, she was a lovely companion. Her vet even called her “the perfect dog.” But her physical injuries paled in comparison to her psychological scars. She was frightened of nearly everything, it seemed, and it took me two weeks to teach her how to walk a straight line down the sidewalk. Loud noises freaked her out, and when she heard the Fourth of July fireworks from the Civic Center, she crawled under the covers and shook uncontrollably.
Hermione liked jumping into the backs of open SUVs and pickups, which caused some embarrassment. One day, when I was training her (smart dog – she had 10 recall words and learned commands in French), I said, “Whoa” for some reason (I was also riding horses at the time), and she immediately sat down and looked straight ahead with a fixed gaze. Well! I did some research and found out that “Whoa” was used as a halt command for hunting dogs. This was a big clue to her history, but much remained a mystery.
And, she was tough. Once, when she was attacked by a Rottweiler, she fought back and survived with only a slightly torn ear. Later, while staying with a friend and her three wolf hybrids, she put them in their places when they were all in the car, the first dog to do so. I’ll never forget, too, the night we were sleeping side by side – until I moved, and she nearly attacked me. I just rolled out of bed onto the floor. Proof positive of the adage, “Let sleeping dogs lie.”
Medically, Hermione had bad luck again when she was diagnosed with a lipoma on her sciatic nerve. The superb veterinary staff at UC Davis operated on her (for an extremely reasonable cost) and fixed the problem. She had a long scar on her right hip and had to wait a long time for her hair to grow back, but she healed and became a new dog.
One day, a couple of years later, Hermione suffered a fit of vestibular disease, an inner-ear disorder, causing her to shake and throw up. I got her to the vet immediately, where the doctor saw her eyes rapidly flickering back and forth, a common symptom of the disease. From then on, she was compromised and held her head at an angle.
About this time, she also had X-rays, which uncovered her original microchip! Back we went to the Marin Humane Society. This time, we learned that she had belonged to a hunting outfit in Southern California. “Whoa,” indeed! I was not about to contact her original owners in case they tried to claim her.
Another day, when Hermione was about 14, she fell over while trying to poop, and I knew it was her time. I had to carry her into the hospital. Her vet was in tears as she administered the final dose to one of her favorite patients.
During our years together, Hermione ran all over the trails and beaches of Marin, happily zooming in tight circles and pouncing on little lizards and collecting her toys around her. It took two-and-a-half years before I was able to have another dog (Larson, my beloved little terrier). At that point, I had started volunteering at the Marin Humane Society as a Dog Pet Pal. Since then, I’ve continued to get my weekly dog fix at Marin Humane!
Kecia Talbot, April 2023