In May of 2007, Russell wandered into a pet store in California, never dreaming his life would forever change that day. Content with his brood of cats, he’d never owned a dog before and wasn’t even in the market for one. But then, he happened across a strange little white creature with a big, dark circle around his right eye, yelping and whaling pitifully in his cage. Russell felt compelled to hold him but, the staff warned him the doughy puppy rarely relaxed and was filled with anxiety. However, the moment the tiny blob climbed into Russell’s arms, he instantly snuggled in and fell asleep. The bond was immediate and undeniable and Russell gave the pup his middle name, Hazen, and took him home to begin their life together. I would not meet them for 6 long years later but, things have a way of working out just as they should.

Within the first few months of bringing Hazen home, Russell realized that this special little man was born deaf due to his all-white ears. But Hazen never knew or cared that he couldn’t hear and compensated for it easily by developing other keen senses. He could tell if someone opened a door just by sensing changes in pressure or light and shadow. Hazen also became accustomed to sign-language and visual cues and always kept his watchful gaze leveled on his humans to see what might happen next. He would patiently follow Russell from room to room, never more than a step behind since he never wanted to be left alone.

Hazen’s early years in California were spent going on long walks, people watching, soaking up the sun, visiting dog parks and running on off-leash beaches. Hazen also got Russell through some very tough times during their years stuck in Los Angeles by his steady, gentle presence and reminder to enjoy life and nap often. By late 2012, Russell knew they needed a change so he bought an RV for them to move into and sifted through several job offers before settling on a company in Houston. In January of 2013, Hazen officially became a Texas dog and their next big chapter began.

It wasn’t until April of 2013 that Hazen and I first laid eyes on each other but, I knew from the day I met him that he was something special. In the past, I’d only ever owned larger, ‘low maintenance’ dogs who stayed on the floor and interacted with you a couple hours a day. But the very first moment I sat down next to Hazen, he climbed into my lap and fell instantly asleep. I had never held a dog in my lap before, let alone one that looked like a white baby deer with legs for days who contorted himself into adorable sleeping positions. I was a total goner.

Hazen apparently fell in love with me just as hard because he would stand outside the bathroom door whining every time I dare to take a moment for myself and would bypass every plush chair and blanket in favor of my arms. We became inseparable and Russell often joked he was relegated to the position of 3rd wheel in my romance with Hazen.

Over the next couple years, Russell and I had a very rocky, long road with more than our fair share of detours and hardships. More times than not, Hazen was the one that held us together and reminded us that family is something you choose and love is a commitment. No matter how bad things got, I knew I wanted Hazen in my life and that he needed me just as much as I needed him. Hazen’s bond with each of us was strong enough to keep us together until we were on solid enough ground to stand with each other.

We spent 3 years in Houston building and strengthening our little trio. During that time, Hazen even began his own company, Handmade Hazen, to bring the joy of his snuggly Dog Pockets to Iggies all over the country. In early 2016, we decided it was time venture out of Texas so, we moved into the RV full-time and hit the road. Road life came with a whole new set of uphill challenges but, Hazen embraced it with his signature sleepy grace and faith that things would always work out as long as he was with us. Over the next 5 years, Hazen accompanied us all over the USA and never failed to enjoy each new place in our ever-changing adventures.

From the Northwest forests to the deserts of Moab and the rocky New England coast, Hazen saw and did it all. He left his mark on 44 states and several Canadian provinces: he rode the Black Ball Ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, toured the Hershey Chocolate Factory in Pennsylvania, saw the Dolly Parton lumberjack show in Tennessee and frequented The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. Somewhere along the way, he earned the nickname White Bear.

It could have been because he was the least bear-like creature that ever existed, or because his constant quest for warmth led him to burrow into a myriad of blanket caves and hibernate away his most recent meal. (Warm, clean laundry piles were his conquests of choice!) Or it could have been because he was attacked by much larger dogs on 3 separate occasions and miraculously survived. (Oh the perils of being mistaken for a rabbit!) Either way, the moniker stuck.

In early 2017, when Hazen was 10 years old, he adopted a new little rescue brother named Otis. The first couple months were quite the Odd Couple comedy as Hazen taught Otis the pecking order and constantly questioned whether he’d made the right decision bringing a raging ball of energy into his perfectly cozy life. But when Otis began to settle in, the two formed a deep bond. Otis became Hazen’s hearing ear dog and would alert him instantly if there was anything worth waking up for. They spent countless days exploring the world together and collapsing into a tangle of limbs every night. The pair turned heads wherever they went and converted every human they met into Iggy-fanatics.

In 2018, Hazen and Otis attempted an ambitious loop of the entire US and, in their one and only visit to Wisconsin, they survived a shocking car accident completely unscathed – forever convincing us they were really made up of rubber and elastic instead of fur and bones.

2019 and 2020 passed in a perfect blur and finally, in October of 2020, Hazen upgraded to a life of luxury when we purchased the RV of our dreams complete with every creature comfort. Nestled in his heated blanket next to the warm fireplace, he was in microwave heaven every day! Just 10 days after moving into the new home, his final life-long dream came true when his parents got engaged. The family he had painstakingly created over 7 years was finally complete.

His life’s work accomplished, he led us home to Texas one last time. We enjoyed the best holiday season of our lives, blissfully unaware of just how little time we had left. On December 26th, we found out what Hazen already knew: that no one can outrun time and old age. Our spry puppy had aged so gracefully that we were convinced he would live another 10 years. His verve for life continue to spur him forward until the very end and, in true scrappy White Bear fashion, Hazen rallied and held on for nearly another month after his grim diagnosis.

Even in those last heartbreaking weeks, knowing time was against us and our adventures were at an end, there were so many tiny miracles and moments of joy. Hazen let us know when he was at last ready to go and we held him in our arms as he said goodbye and earned his wings.

I have never known a soul so pure and sweet, so loving and true. Hazen touched and transformed our lives so thoroughly that we marvel to think who we would be if our paths had not crossed and intertwined with his. I can say for sure that the years would have been colder and quieter without his grumbles and whines and snores, my wardrobe would be free of thousands of tiny white hairs and my heart would remain unopened and careful instead of vibrant and wild.

I know there will never be a way to repay him for all he’s done, so I will honor Hazen the best way I know how: a visual retelling of his amazing life.

Normandy Farms RV Park in Massachusetts 2016
Hazen made sure he was never more than 2 feet from a pile of blankets or a Dog Pocket his entire life. Probably 65% of his life was happily spent burrowing and nesting for a warm snooze. But he would always keep a watchful eye locked on his humans…sometimes even while snoring!
Hazen spent his first 7 years with a younger brother named Mike
Whenever Dad decided to hop into the hammock for some downtime, Hazen made sure he was a part of it.
Russell had a weird thing about chewing on Hazen’s face. I just learned to embrace and photograph it.
Hazen as the entree in Philadelphia
Russell was an amazing dad to his sweet boy and Hazen always knew Russ would be there to carry him while they hiked, feed him choice bites at restaurants and find fun things they could do together.
One of my all-time favorites. This is how Hazen said “hello” and he would always be rewarded with a treat after a paw shake.
Dozing the couch in our apartment in 2015. Obviously all the pillows and blankets were for him and the humans shivered.
Shortly after moving into our 3 story townhouse in Jan 2015, I came into my closet only to discover Hazen had made his latest nest in a half unpacked box of clothes.
We were in a different city every 4th of July for the last 6 years. In fact, our first road trips together was New Orleans in July of 2014.
Sunrise boat ride on Caddo Lake in north Texas.
Russ always joked that Hazen would be friends with Jaws if he’d let him. Hazen was an ambassador to all and always had a sniff and a sigh for anyone who approached him.
Another popular saying was that Hazen would nap in a microwave if he could. Wherever he could catch some direct sun on a carpet, was his version of paradise.
Picking fabric and modeling products for Handmade Hazen
Hazen’s 12th birthday at Lazy Dog in Las Vegas
I would often find them asleep like. Hazen actually enjoyed sleeping underneath Russell as well, with only his head poking out.
I hope I never forget how it felt to hold him. How he fit so perfectly in my arms and would tuck his head under my chin or smash his face into the fold of my elbow or armpit.
Modeling and selling Dog Pockets. He was a regular attendee at the Indianapolis Iggy 500 show.
His favorite Halloween costume: his custom giraffe pajamas made by Dad
He couldn’t hear but he had amazing vision and always locked onto us. This was when he caught sight of Russell in his kayak in Washington.
Relaxing in the penthouse suite at the Westin in Dallas, TX. This boy probably spent a solid year of his life in hotels!
This little man made me the happiest mama on the planet
Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco 2017
On a road trip south of the Bay Area, we came back to the car and found that the dog treats we’d bought had been rifled through and half eaten! The obvious culprit was 1 year old Otis so we scolded him and went on our way. But, the next time we returned, rascal Hazen was wearing the treat bag around his neck like a scarlet letter!!!
First family photo session in March 2017.
Both taken Christmas morning, 5 years apart. In our townhouse in 2015 and then our new 5th wheel in 2020 – the last day we thought we had years left with him.
I came back to the old RV to find White Bear in the driver’s seat, clearly not impressed with Reno, NV and ready to hit the road again!
Russell invented a whole alter ego named King Hazen and made me laugh endlessly pretending to speak for him. This is Hazen dressed up in his Nova Scotia tartan at the TX Renn Fest.
Horseshoe Bend, Arizona on our last road trip to the Southwest as a family of 3 before Otis joined us.
These brothers snuggled and chased each other and yelled and then snuggled again. Hazen was famous for giving Otis ‘baths’ by licking his face and ears until they were ‘clean’
Another favorite photo of these two guys in Valley of Fire, Nevada
Sun + carpet = Happy Snoozy Hazen
Being pampered on their Westin bed in Dallas.
Hazen was often cold and preferred to be carried by Russell inside his jacket which led to many funny photos.
Hazen on his 10th birthday
Hazen’s 8th birthday
Experimenting at the Museum of Science and Technology in Chicago
This was the inevitable progression: he would plop down in a cozy spot, snuggle up and go to sleep and then wake up with half of his face melting before it oozed back into place.
Sniffing monsters at the Texas Renn Fest. Nothing scared this fearless boy.
Snooze well, baby Hazen, the puppy love of my life.
February 26th 2006 – January 20th 2021

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