Hopi's Amazing Life Story
Hopi, the Australian Shepherd, came to us in June of 1998 as an 8 week old pup. She was as cute as could be and the only blue merle in a litter of puppies that needed a home. She had four white feet and big brown eyes, and when she looked up at me, I knew she was the one. Australian Shepherds are born with long, fluffy tails but often their tails are cut off or "docked" at birth. Looking at Hopi's tail you might think that was the case. But the little pup just happened to be born with a short stubby tail of her own.
When I first met her she was alert and seemed healthy enough, wagging her half-tail and licking my face but she was scratching frantically. I wanted to get her to a vet right away so I called around to see who had an opening and ended up at a 24 hour clinic that offered to fit us in at the last minute. When we arrived the place was packed. I sat with Hopi in the waiting room for a very long time where I was surrounded by sick and injured pets seeking the same emergency help. Eventually, we were seen and it was decided that Hopi had a skin problem known as scabies. The standard treatment was a simple injection of an antibiotic called Ivermectin- except for one problem. Dogs with white feet can have a severe reaction to that particular drug and Hopi had four of them! So the poor little puppy was doomed to suffer through the alternative treatment of daily sulfur baths.
As if smelling like rotten eggs wasn't bad enough, a few days after our vet visit Hopi started showing signs of a much more severe illness. Vomiting and diarrhea were the symptoms and when I rushed her in to the closest clinic available it was confirmed that our little Hopi had contacted the Parvovirus. Parvo is a highly contagious, often deadly, disease striking young puppies in particular. It must have come her way from one of the sick dogs at the crowded clinic. Because of the scabies and the possibility of a reaction, the vet had wanted to hold off on the vaccinations until she was back on her feet. It was a lose-lose situation. The vet recommended euthanasia but little Hopi looked up at me with her sad puppy eyes and said,
"Not yet, Mom. Let's give life a try first."
We drove down the street to find another vet office. When I saw the sign "Veterinary Medical Center" I looked over at Hopi and said "Maybe we'll have better luck here." This was my first introduction to Dr Stan Kunin. I told the doctor I wanted to try and save the puppy and he said, "I think that's a good idea".
Hopi would need to be hospitalized and at the time I was still working full-time at the Los Angeles Zoo. Some people are just really special and I'll never forget how Dr Kunin went the extra mile to help me. Hopi would stay all day at his clinic and at closing time he would personally drive her over to the 24-hour emergency clinic where she would spend the night. I would always stop in to see her on my way home from work. Because she was contagious they had her housed alone in the back room. She looked so sad lying there hooked up to the IV line and when she saw me walk in she would get really excited, wagging her half-tail and whining. We were all sincerely "hoping" she would get better so I christened her "Hopi" for good luck and that's how "Hopi" got her name. One week later she was back at Wildworks and when I came home from the Zoo and saw that the house was in shambles I knew she was on her way to a full recovery.
Some people say that animals know when they're rescued and with Hopi I think this was true. Smart and social the young Hopi took on the role of friend, parent and leader to all the wild and domestic animals raised at Wildworks, as well as their human caretakers. She grew up alongside Moon our grey wolf who came to us as a pup that same spring. Then she was a mom to Boxer the serval, Thunder the bobcat, Cliff the mountain lion, our foxes-Fire, Smoke, Fern and Foxy,
prairie dogs, rabbits and she is now the seeing eye dog for MacFly the blind Border Collie. And that's just the short list of her animal companions.
Her second task was education as she became a performer in our Wildworks Presentations. Hopi was known as the recycling dog of the Santa Monica Mountains, opening the show with a short routine where she would begin with a wave "Hello" to the crowd and then retrieve aluminum cans and other recyclables, dropping them into the recycle bin. I would bet that people who saw Hopi do this, always remember to recycle! After the show Hopi would roll on her back and let all the children rub her belly. During her long and successful career Hopi was viewed and petted by thousands of children.
Now, although she's semi-retired, Hopi's job isn't over. She is still lively and hard at work as supervisor in the animal compound. To keep in shape she goes for a mile power walk everyday and meets and greets all the neighborhood dogs along the way. Hopi is nearing 15 years and we're all "hoping" that she lives forever.