Thank you, Mara, for writing so beautifully about Leo! We are very sorry for your loss; it was our honor to be on Leo’s veterinary care team.
It was to honor the memory of my former dog that I reached out to Muttville to foster another “pup” who needed me. On the day I met Leo, I had gone to Muttville to pick up a foster who had actually not yet arrived, but instead of going home empty-handed, I was introduced to Leo. Sherri (founder of Muttville) said Leo “needed a break” for a few days from the other dogs.
When I first laid eyes on him, he was standing outside the kitchen door, alone, and it took some coaxing (with treats) to get him to come inside. While by no means sold on the idea, in fifteen minutes or so, Leo seemed resigned to the fact that he was leaving Muttville with me. Admittedly, on the drive back to my apartment in Burlingame, we were both apprehensive. In just a few days, however, Leo was transferred from “foster” to “adopted” as it became more and more clear how much we needed each other.
Leo was very skittish and nearly intolerant of hands getting near his head (which, we learned many months later, was likely due to some incredible neck pain that [VCA SFVS neurologist] Dr. Klopp thankfully diagnosed and relieved). He was underweight and his skin was raw and sore with yeast and stress.
A fortuitous trip to a Pet Food Express and a conversation with the employee there who had been the volunteer who had actually taken possession of Leo when he was surrendered filled in a bit of his story for me. He had been surrendered by the family of his owner, who had died. Leo had clearly been this woman’s love and yet upon her death, the family had taken him to an adoption fair and handed him over. The employee told me that she had been on the receiving end of many surrenders and never had a family been so cold about it. She said that they handed him over, told her to “have a nice day” and walked away as he simply sat, shaking …
My boyfriend and I were moving in together just a few weeks after we met Leo, so it worked out that everything was new to all of us, all at once, and we were on a big adventure together. Leo became extremely well known in our neighborhood, for both his distinct trot (woozy from the back problems but highly energized) and his “voice” as he made it known to everyone when he was displeased with a perceived invasion of space – or with simply being left alone a minute too long.
All walks – whether down the block or down the hall – were glorious opportunities to scrounge for snacks, and Leo’s pig-like snorts became part of our home, like the rumble of the washing machine. He also completely took over many spaces in the house, but most importantly the armchair in my office, which he had to be lifted to and from, and from which he would stand watch over our sidewalk, “yelling” at anyone who could maybe possibly set foot on our staircase.
Now that Leo is gone, my boyfriend and I realize how much he defined our home and created for us a true “family.” We still take an occasional morning loop around our block and our talks inevitably end up in reminiscing about him. I still stop at patches of sun on the floor and remember him snoozing there. I can’t wash kale (his favorite!) without thinking of him. My boyfriend, who works at home, still finds it far too quiet …
leo in a favorite patch of sun
Muttville saved Leo and Leo – in so many ways – saved us. And thanks to the amazing staff at VCA SFVS, we were able to hang on to our little guy a little longer, and give him the comfort and care that doggies deserve.
leo and mara