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The Story of Hokie, the Black Lab

Updated: Jul 25, 2020

It's Black Dog Day so I thought I'd tell you about a very special black Lab by the name of Hokie.

In August of 2011, I was asked by staff of St. Francis Service Dogs in Roanoke, Virginia to take a 9-month-old black Lab "for a few days".

Hokie (named by her Bland Prison puppy raiser because he was a Virginia Tech fan) was limping badly and needed to see the vet.

I thought it might be panosteitis, which presents itself as limping which moves from leg to leg.

But the vet announced she had elbow displasia and Hokie was "career changed" by the organization.

Then came the search for her "forever" home.

After a few weeks, I was told Hokie had a home. I accompanied the career-change coordinator to the new owners' home, told them what I knew about Hokie, and said my goodbyes.

A couple of days later, the coordinator called me and said the adoption had fallen through.

Hokie didn't like their cat and she peed on the floor!

So I took Hokie back until she the time came when she had two families interested in adopting her so I took her to meet them.

One of the potential adopters was looking for a dog to run with and the vet had said because Hokie had elbow displasia, she was definitely NOT allowed to run. (Interestingly, I noticed Hokie's limp cleared up after a few days of running with my dog, Zippy, who was also career-changed from St. Francis.)

So the couple adopted another black dog that I was fostering at the time.

Then another family tried to adopt Hokie and failed.

Hokie was so focused on playing ball with the next family, that she inadvertently nipped a family member while trying to get the basketball from them.

Obviously, that was a no-go and they decided not to adopt her, so once again she came to live with me.

A couple of months went by and I started thinking about having Hokie stay with me permanently. She was already settled in and made a great playmate for Zippy.

So in March of 2012, we made it official.

I've never thought of Hokie as being a a "black dog".

It's said black dogs are harder to adopt and/or photograph because maybe they're not as "pretty" as dogs of another color.

I'll admit, sometimes it's difficult to get a good photo of Hokie, depending on where the sun is for an outside shot.

Hokie likes getting into trouble. (She ripped out most of the covering of my box spring mattress when she first came to stay with me.)

But as I've told her again and again she's cute, which is why Zippy and I keep her around!

Soon afterward, I introduced Hokie to the sport of dock diving at the Go Outside Festival in Roanoke.

She took to it, well, like a duck takes to water! She really enjoys flying through the air and getting wet.

And patience isn't one of her virtues, either.

She will bark long and loud until it's her turn to get on the dock.

In fact, a year or two later I was walking her at the festival when something happened and I dropped her leash.

She started to run and people yelled "loose dog"! But I knew exactly where she was headed.

By the time I got to the dock, Hokie was there running up the ramp where the dogs exit the water.

She has won several ribbons for dock diving.

I thought about how she would love flyball but worried about her health.

Since she has elbow displasia and the vet said she couldn't run, I avoided training her for flyball.

Even though she's ball crazy, I didn't want her to get hurt.

But Laura Green (Berg), head of the local flyball club Heads or Tails, suggested I bring Hokie to practice and said if she limps, we would stop.

Hokie is CRAZY about flyball-even moreso than dock diving!

She has dragged me down the lane to practice when we traveled to various tournments and has eaten her way through a crate a couple of times to get to the lane when I'm running Zippy.

She's a diva and if she's not starting, she barks up a storm and wiggles in my arms like a greased pig until it's her turn to run.

She helped her team win first place at a flyball tournament in Raleigh, North Carolina, last month.

Her legs are short and sometimes she has trouble going over the higher jumps and her box turn is atrocious but she's never limped because of flyball.

Hokie has even been on stage!

She played "Sandy" in Attic Productions' "Annie" in Fincastle last December.

I taught Hokie cues and movements onstage, especially when she was working with Annie.

Hokie thoroughly loved it. . .with all the attention she got from fellow actors and all the treats, what's not to love?

She even had her own "dressing room". . .a backstage bathroom.

I put a star with her name on it on the door. She had her bio in the program and her headshot on the auditorium wall and all the actors loved her.

So don't be afraid of adopting a black dog.

As I can attest, they make very special pets and I hope Hokie's story shows just how much fun they can be.

***The Well-Trained Dog & Pet Care specializes in training dogs of any color. We also provide dog walking and pet sitting services. Contact us for more information.***


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