Hobie’s story is small if you’ve never loved a dog.
His story is also a much-needed mental health break as we have returned to our post-vacation routine, bearing the stress and exhaustion of a pandemic.
Late on Christmas Eve, all Hobie had to do was go about his backyard business.
The people in his household on Swiss Avenue were immersed in the chaos, finishing letters to Santa Claus, wrapping last gifts and squeezing guests and their own dogs into the right beds.
Nobody noticed when 3 year old Hobie, who knows how to unlock the back door when Audrey and Mike Schott are not available, slipped into the enclosed garden.
Hobie’s urge had been piqued when the lame holiday celebrations across East Dallas – after searching their supply of fireworks – began with their gunfire from the moon.
It must have sounded like the end of the world to the shy, sweet-eyed Labrador-Beagle mix.
Christmas morning broke with anticipation for all the new traditions Audrey and Mike had planned for three-year-old twins Mae and Willa. The children and adults were ready; also Hannah and Shiner, the dogs of their extended family.
What about Hobie, who Audrey assumed had spent the loud night with his buddy Hannah?
In a deep memory, the bulkheads remembered the fireworks and the gunfire. Although the 50-pound hobie had never squeezed his way through the garden gate before, they knew that if he was completely scared, he probably could.
“He’s the coolest dog, but he can be so shy and scared when he’s in a new situation,” Audrey told me.
Mike and Audrey Schott with their dog Hobie and their two daughters Willa and Mae in Audrey’s arms in front of their house in East Dallas.(Rebecca Slezak / photographer)
Quick searches of the neighboring gardens yielded nothing. Scouting out the surrounding blocks by car was also not possible. “That made Mike and I a bit more hectic,” recalled Audrey.
Hobie had been through a lot in his short life. Abandoned as a little pup and rescued on a Kentucky street, he eventually joined the Schotts’ Brooklyn household and moved with them to Dallas in 2019.
Six months pregnant with the twins, Audrey had decided she had to have a dog. “You know how crazy those pregnancy hormones are,” she laughed. “Fortunately, Mike was ready to do almost anything to make things happy.”
In contrast to the overcrowded animal shelters in much of the country, there are fewer dogs available for adoption in New York. So the Schotts used the Petfinder Adoption website to track down a mutt in need of rescue.
They named him Hobie, after the trustworthy, gentle caretaker of others in Donna Tartts The Goldfinch. He was a great big brother to the twins, very protective and invaluable to a family who, Audrey laughs, can be a “hot mess express”.
Audrey and Mike grew up in Texas but left the state to pursue their careers. He works in finance; she teaches music. After the twins were born in Brooklyn, they decided to return home. The girls needed more space – and so did Hobie.
That Christmas morning, Audrey and Mike knew they couldn’t make it through the festivities while this very special family member was missing.
Hobie the puppy shortly after being adopted by Audrey and Mike Schott. Rescue workers found him abandoned on a Kentucky street when he was about 3 months old.(Family photo)
“We’re not good at hiding our feelings,” Audrey told me. “It would have been worse for the girls if I had been there, sitting and worrying and trying not to dissolve in a puddle.”
Leaving their relatives in charge of Christmas, the couple spent the day desperately looking for Hobie, wearing a green Christmas holly bow tie and a red Scottish plaid collar and pendant.
Since Hobie was microchipped through Home Again, the company spread news of his disappearance. The Schotts posted information and photos in the Nextdoor app.
Animal detective Bonnie Hale, who primarily cares for missing cats, provided invaluable advice. Audrey and Mike have printed and hung hundreds of flyers and eye-catching posters across East Dallas.
In the first days after Hobie’s disappearance, an army of animal-loving volunteers tried to help – although only a few of them knew the Schott family.
“After Hobie disappeared, it was overwhelming how many people came up to us and said, ‘I’ve seen the flyers and I’m taking care of your dog,'” said Audrey. “How many asked what they could do to help, those who looked at night, who called with tips.”
At one point, Audrey drove to McKinney’s after seeing a photo she was sure it was Hobie. She ended up with a broken toe – when a door opened to her foot – but learned nothing about her missing pet.
Other sightings were closer to home. Descriptions of a stray dog sighted in Old East Dallas, first near Planet Fitness on Columbia Avenue and then in Buckner Park, included details that apparently made Hobie unique.
But this dog moved on before Audrey and Mike could find him.
The Schotts knew that stories like Hobie’s often didn’t have a happy ending. When New Year’s Eve came it was hard to keep the momentum going. “Our hopes were disappointed,” said Audrey. “We were tired.”
They also developed cold symptoms.
In anticipation of a family carriage ride with friends – a celebration booked weeks in advance – Audrey and Mike took COVID tests; both were positive.
“Our mood was crushed,” said Audrey. “We both felt defeated in many ways.”
A few hours later, an 888 area code popped up on her phone while Audrey was bathing the twins. Audrey assumed it was spam and scrolled the call to voicemail.
It was the microchip company.
One of the Home Again volunteers who received the original message about Hobie had discovered a dog that matched his description in Everglade Park, in the Buckner Terrace neighborhood.
The park is 6 miles southeast of the Schotts house – across Interstate 30 and many busy thoroughfares off Swiss Avenue.
Mike immediately jumped into the car with some leftover ribs and Hannah, Hobie’s canine friend who belongs to Audrey’s parents. In the park, a man walking his own dog looked at Hobie’s picture and pointed to the nearby softball field.
“It’s him, it’s him,” Mike said tearfully as he called Audrey to tell him he was watching Hobie alongside another dog, a white and gray pit mix.
The animal detective had warned the couple not to call or rush to Hobie if they found him. So Mike sat quietly, still a few feet away from the dogs.
Finally Hobie moved cautiously toward Hannah – and toward the prime rib. The more they sniffed at each other, the livelier Hobie became. At some point, said Mike, Hobie seemed to recognize, “Oh, Mike is here too.”
In an instant, “out-in-the-wild Hobie” dropped his mask and “domesticated Hobie” was back.
Three-year-old Willa takes a dog treat from her father Mike Schott while mother Audrey watches as Willa’s twin sister Mae feeds Hobie on Monday.(Rebecca Slezak / photographer)
Hobie and Hannah were ready to go home, but despite Mike’s best efforts, he failed to get the third dog into his vehicle and she eventually ran away.
The whole time Audrey and the twins – who mostly thought Hobie was “on an adventure” – sat in the driveway, waiting for their dog to return.
“Hobie immediately started wagging his tail,” said Audrey, who days later was still crying in tears over her happiness. “He was so, so tired. But he was the same Hobie. “
The only injury to the dog was a slightly chewed right paw from probably getting caught in a fence. When he got home all he was missing was his festive Christmas bow tie.
That night the parents, the twins, Hobie and Hannah all slept in the same bed. Thanks to the pain medication for his injury, Hobie barely noticed the New Year’s fireworks and gunfire.
For the time being, bungee cords secure the small opening in the bulkhead’s back gate, and they have ordered a dog collar with GPS functionality.
Audrey and Mike shared the $ 2,000 reward offered between the Home Again volunteer and the handler, who pointed out Hobie’s exact whereabouts. But they believe that they owe the countless people who have mobilized a gratitude that they will never be able to repay.
“Communities can be great when they come together. People are good at heart, ”Audrey told me. “People want to help others. … There is good in the world. It sounds so simple, but it’s so important. “