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  • Writer's pictureCactusflower

Separate Lifetimes: the hidden residents of Hackberry Creek

Updated: Apr 6

The Hidden Residents of Hackberry Creek
Foxy of Hackberry Creek

On the final morning of her life, Foxy’s nose was still in fine form. Though aged, drugged, weary, and suffering from several ailments, our Foxy girl proved the adage that a dog’s sense of smell is often the last thing to go. She put her beautiful and fantastic nose to the ground and sniffed in several spots, and then sniffed the air, as if checking for signs of what might be coming.

Nothing good was coming. In fact, the only good thing to come on her final day was that I had managed to snag an in-home veterinary service, so that Foxy could spend her final hours in her own home in the place where she had spent almost all of her life. A place that she loved called Hackberry Creek.

Hackberry Creek is a world unto itself. Tucked away near Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, this residential community is an oasis of upper middle class living built around a Byron Nelson-designed golf course. The greenery of the golf course, combined with the constant construction as Dallas County expands westward, makes it a haven for wildlife of every kind.

With their habitat destroyed, coyotes, bobcats, foxes, and many other creatures have found refuge in Hackberry Creek. They have joined other more "mainstream" animals who have brought delight to Hackberry residents, many not used to living in an area abundant with squirrels, rabbits, possums, skunks, and giant turtles. Most “city dogs” also don’t have that opportunity. The dogs of Hackberry Creek do. (The cats do too, but most cats are kept inside to keep them safe from coyotes and other predators.)

There are also birds of every kind. The cardinals, gorgeous year-round, but especially resplendent in the winter. Red-breasted robins in the spring, then come the blue jays, tormenting the cats and just daring them! But there’s more. Mockingbirds, Canada geese, cranes, and red-tailed hawks. A pair of the hawks have a nest in a tall tree near Hole 3 behind our home. We keep our cats away from the hawks’ line of sight. But Foxy saw and lived with them all. There could not have been a better place for her to live.

Most homes in our community were built in the mid-1990s, so there are plenty of mature trees of every kind—many of the streets are named after trees, as is the community itself. The greenery is abundant, the terrain often rolling, the vistas appealing—and the yards small. Most homeowners walk their dogs, and both the humans and dogs are better for it.

Loving a walk, even on a chilly day in her senior years.

Foxy went for those walks or strolls twice a day most days for 12 years, and “walk” included much time with her nose to the ground, sniffing everything; shrubs, plants, trees, garbage. Sometimes it was to sniff where other dogs had been, and she would promptly leave her mark there. But sometimes it was to just smell the world, smell the earth, smell life. I knew which plants and shrubs she especially liked and would slow down when we got to them so that she could linger.

A young Foxy shows off her amazing nose.

She lived here almost every day that she was part of our family. We moved into our home in 2010, a few months after we adopted her from the Animal Defense League shelter in San Antonio. (Did I mention that she was a Valentines Day gift, this sweetheart of a dog? She was a favorite in the shelter, their "office dog," having the run of the place, as well as their go-to for television spots. All in an effort to place her in a home. Because, although she was the most beautiful dog I had ever seen, she had two strikes against her: she was not a puppy, and she had contracted--and had been treated for--heartworms.)

The sound of her leash, or even the front door opening at certain times of the day, was enough to get her up and ready to go for a fabulous walk. It was good for her and good for us. The house is so empty now without her, walks so meaningless. That’s what a dog can do to your life.

When she wasn’t walking, she was sniffing around the small yard. That’s when she encountered her first possum. It was in the evening, and I had gone in for a moment to get another glass of iced tea. The uproar that seemingly came out of nowhere sent me flying back outside, but it was occurring in a side yard, and there was no light there, so I went back in the house for a flashlight. When I turned that flashlight on, I don’t know who was more frightened---me or the possum. I had never seen one before, and they can look pretty frightening at night in a flashlight beam. I made Foxy get away, the possum escaped, and I prayed that I would never see one like that again.

Foxy was sprayed four times by skunks in Hackberry Creek, every time in October. (I often wondered if the skunks had a game they played to entice the dogs to chase them.) Once it was on my birthday, and everyone left the house, and left me and Foxy to take care of it. I was really unhappy about that. I was mad at Foxy too, like why can’t you learn? But dogs just can’t resist chasing a skunk!

On the lookout for coyotes.

And she was a valiant defender of her home and family. She never met a coyote that she had any use for. And she could detect one from far away, and with her eyes closed. Seriously. I was watching television one day with Foxy napping at my feet. Suddenly, she was up and running for the kitchen windows. I got up to see what the problem was, and there was a wily coyote trotting down the golf course from its place of hiding, not even close to our house. Yet Foxy knew it was there. She hated the coyotes and would run along the fence line wanting to get out whenever she saw one on the golf course. Her frustration would run high when she could not get out.

When we first moved to Hackberry Creek, things were not so pleasant. Within a month of moving here, I found an unsigned note taped to my door saying something like “your dog’s barking is bothering us, control it or we will turn you in” and then an anonymous letter in our mailbox saying the same thing. Since the missives were anonymous, I didn’t know who to respond to, but Foxy was inside the house a good 90 percent of the time, since my husband and I both worked.

When the Homeowners Association would not take any action (because there was no violation), the neighbor started going to the City Animal Services and file complaints about excessive barking. I would have to take off work to go there and prove that Foxy was registered with the city and had her rabies shots. This lasted for several years until the man moved. It was a very unhappy time for us, and we also considered moving. But we did not want to let someone dictate our lives. It was also an experience in what it is like to have a bad neighbor, as well as what it is like to have a good HOA.

Summer's end, forever friends. Summer 2014. Foxy and our granddaughter.

Foxy was one of hundreds of dogs—and an equal number of cats—who live and die among us every day in Hackberry Creek. They are the silent, hidden residents of Hackberry Creek. They live in the same space, breathe the same air; they bring us joy and companionship, and teach our children and grandchildren responsibility and lessons about life and death.

But their lives are so short. They are part of our world, our family, living totally separate lifetimes. We see their photos posted on Facebook or NextDoor sometimes, lost or found, or taking part in an activity. Perhaps nameless to others, they mean so much to us, and they leave a big hole in our hearts when they are gone.

All our other neighbors loved Foxy. She knew them, and she would walk over to greet them when she saw them out, tail wagging, a gentle, delicate gait. She always anticipated a kind word or a pet on the head, and she was never disappointed.

You were a good girl, Foxy. You were a very good girl.


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