Canto CCCLVII: The Nearness of Hook

Or: Forever Grump

Hook and Mami, one last time outside…

Gentle cabrones:

Time to do the chunk. The leader of the pack. Corncob toofies.

When you lose someone close to you, you try to etch every memory you had of them in your mind and heart so you don’t forget them ever.

Metalhead. Bah-humbug sweater. Hipster hoodie.

We lost Hook last Saturday, our chunky grump of a Chihuahua. He was 14. His body finally failed him, after a lifetime of being against him.

We are heartbroken.

Hook the Look. Give them a Hook. Get Hook.

As I wrote in Canto CXXV, we adopted Hook and Cosmo four years ago from Frosted Faces, an amazing nonprofit based in Ramona, California that rescues senior dogs. Everything I wrote about Hook back then remained throughout his life, except more so.

Savage Hook Pup. Badonkadonk. OC Fair Mouth.

As I wrote in Canto CXXV, we adopted a pobre pup. He was found wandering the streets of Inland Empire covered in fleas and ticks, missing patches of hair, skinny, all with a club foot. Whatever life he had before he was rescued was not a good one – but he had survived. The vets estimated he was 10 years old.

KCRW chingona Evan Kleiman was the one who spotted him on the website of Frosted Faces, after Delilah had spotted Cosmo. My wife will always hold it over me that I didn’t want Hook immediately, because he was immediately grouchy to Cosmo and we were supposed to get a friend for Cosmo. But I made up for it, I really do think so.

We are heartbroken.

We made fresh food for the both of them, and Hook became healthy. His coat became shiny, he chunked up so much that we had to put him on a low-fat diet, and he got a personality. He insisted on sleeping between us but would growl and bark in the middle of the night if either of us moved an inch. He loved to roam around our house, even as his eyesight failed him, and he eventually became completely blind and he got arthritis in his hips, which made it hard to stand straight.

He and Cosmo would always follow me, always want to be on me or near me. He wanted to be on me at all times to the point that he became an ergonomic wrist rest any time I had to type. Sometimes, when he demanded attention, Hook would do a cute bark ala a baby hawk, but he was always a grouch.

Cosmo loved Hook, but Hook tolerated Cosmo at best, and would get angry when Cosmo would try to steal his food. They were old guys out of a Lemmon and Matthau routine, they were.

Forever grump.

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Hook was healthy for a couple of years, but started to slowly decline. He used to be able to walk a full length of a block alongside Cosmo and I — slow, but sure. That slowed down to a couple of feet, to really just get out of the baby bjorn I carried him in to go to the bathroom.

A year ago, the doctor said Hook had an inoperable tumor near his pancreas, but he was such a tough guy that we expected him to live for many years.

Puppy paw. A-sho-sho-sho. Pup-pup-pu-uuuup.

About a month and a half ago, I woke up to our normal morning routine. 5:30 in the morning, Cosmo barking to go for a walk. I picked up Hook and he did his customary stretch – we called it G-force because he would stretch his head and spine to almost a 45-degree angle. But this time, Hook fainted in my arms.

We immediately booked a visit with the Frosted Faces vet, who found nothing wrong with him, and was amazed that he had lived so long with his big tumor. A couple of pills to take home, but nothing else serious.

His levels were fine a month ago, when Cosmo had to be rushed to the emergency room with a bad bout of pancreatitis (he’s always been the more sensitive guy). Cosmo was able to pull through, and we brought him back home. When Hook realized in our front yard where the two of them reunited that Cosmo had returned, he started growling and barking. He really thought Cosmo was finally gone forever, and was NOT happy.

Forever grump.

Two weeks ago, Cosmo had a flareup. I went to the vet for an urgent check up, and took him again two days later. That time, I also took Hook. He was no longer eating as much food, and tears were streaming down his face all the time because of all the pressure on his eyes from his cataracts. He was going to the bathroom at home, and had been waking up in the night for weeks.

Cosmo was improving, but the vet had concern on his face about Hook. He now had a heart murmur, and his kidneys were failing him along with his legs. He also had two compressed spinal disks.

That was a Thursday. We would go home with some medication, but if he didn’t improve, it would be time to start thinking about the Great Dog Park in the Sky. I figured Hook could live a couple more weeks.

A day later, I told my honey we needed to put him down on Saturday.

We could’ve extended Hook’s life for a few more weeks, but we didn’t want him to suffer anymore. He was not going to improve, and it wasn’t about what we wanted. It was about Hook.

The last 24 hours of his life were as good as they could be. He ate a lot of turkey deli slices for dinner and slept peacefully. In the morning, I took Hook and Cosmo on their Bro Stroll® then took my honey to her store, and we put on the radio. The very first song to play was “Here’s Where the Story Ends” by the Sundays, which my honey had done an Instagram story about when we took Hook on a road trip to Napa at the beginning of May. In that video, he was full of peace.

When Hook and I returned home, the song that was playing was “Roam” by the B-52s, another song we associated with Hook because it was bittersweet and soaring, just like our little gaslighter.

Oh, so many songs. Some just about Hook (“Tuff Enuff”), some about Hook and Cosmo (Oingo Bongo’s “Dead Man’s Party,” transformed into “Puppy’s Party). Others were Temptations-like duets where a song had passages about Cosmo, then Hook, such as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” My honey especially loved “The Nearness of You” by Ella and Louie. The boys have a whole Spotify playlist along with Cosmo that my honey will be sharing soon on her own newsletter.

We are heartbroken.

Friends came to our house to say goodbye to Hook, and then to the store. He was so tired that he no longer got annoyed if Cosmo was too close to him, but at Alta Baja, he all of a sudden started barking because Cosmo and his friend Stout were playing! That’s when we told Stout’s owners that one of the songs we needed to put on the playlist was Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young,” except we called it “Forever Grump.”

They loved it, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to play it.

We returned home to have a picnic in the front lawn, the way we used to when we first adopted Hook and Cosmo during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. He walked a little bit for old time’s sake, and even barked at Cosmo once more. But he was tired. My honey held Hook in the sun like the two loved to do — we called it Sunshine Boy, because that was also one of the few times Hook would ever smile.

Around 5 in the afternoon, a vet came to put him to sleep. They were from Home Pete Euthanasia of Southern California, which we had previously used to put down our sweet Marge and my parents’ Chocolate Lab, Canelo. I gave Hook water one final time, and we placed Hook on his small furry bed, where he always loved to do the Mighty Mighty Hook Swirl.

They give three shots to put a pet to sleep, but Hook was gone after the second. It was time, and we regret nothing.

We are heartbroken.

Cosmo is still recuperating from his illness and is super sad, just like us. We knew we weren’t going to have Hook for too long when we adopted him, but four years was way too short, and we could never forget him, even if we wanted to. There’s a portrait of Hook near where we put our keys at home, a keychain of me and the boys that my honey gave me for Christmas, and we still have stickers of him and Cosmo for sale with 100% of the proceeds going to Frosted Faces (we’ve raised over $1,000).

We have photos and videos of him, and there’s a huge banner of Hook and Cosmo at Frosted Faces HQ that will stay through at least the year, until it’s replaced next year with another one of Hook and Cosmo and a smaller one dedicated just to him. Because Hook is Forever Grump.





I want to thank everyone who’s ever bought a sticker, everyone who ever loved Hook, Frosted Faces for letting us adopt him. Special thanks to Joe, who printed the stickers of Hook and Cosmo, Mateo THA GOD for being such a huge Hook fan, Tío Steve for letting Hook go on his vision quest, and Steph for calling him a tóxico. If you want a dog, please consider adopting a senior one. You won’t have as long of a time as you would if you got a puppy, but they deserve all the love in the world.

We are heartbroken.


Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:


IMAGE OF THE WEEK: L.A. City Hall, early morning. I thought it was a great photo, but got barely any traction on Instagram because social media is trash.


“Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’” — Mary McCarthy, on Lillian Hellman. Oh, for the days when writers feuded…

LISTENING: Backwater Blues,” Bessie Smith. The Empress of the Blues is a favorite of mine, even if I don’t say it enough. Amazing song, but something creepy just happened — the YouTube ad that played just before this was about a vehicle submerging. FUCK THE ALGORITHMS.

READING: “Windows Onto History The Defenestrations of Prague (1419–1997)”: “Defenestration” is one of my favorite words, but I had know idea it was a point of Czech pride! A bit wonky of an article — but then again, “defenestration” is a wonky word, so there it is!

BUY MY NEW CO-BOOK! People’s Guide to Orange County tells an alternative history of OC through the scholarship and reporting of myself, Elaine Lewinnek, and Thuy Vo Dang. There’ll be signings all year — in meanwhile, buy your copy TODAY. And, yes: I’ll autograph it!

Gustavo Events

  • Wednesday, June 26, 12:30 p.m.: Join me and my “Ask a Californian” co-columnista Stacey Grenrock Woods as we do a LIVE session for “Alta Live.” The Zoom lecture is FREE, but you gotta register here.
  • July 12, 3:30 p.m.: I’ll be on a panel during the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ annual convention on book bans at the Loews Hollywood Hotel, 1755 Highland Ave., Los Angeles. Gonna cost ya, so register here.
  • July 27, 4 p.m.: I’ll be in conversation with author Alex Espinoza about his brilliant new novel, The Sons of El Rey, at Libromobile, 1180 S. Bristol St., SanTana. Lecture, FREE; books, BARATO.

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