'It would have been a travesty to lose such a beautiful soul'

After neighborhood dog struck by car, community pitches in to help recovery

By Staci Matlock
editor@taosnews.com
Posted 11/27/19

As Greg Hopkins - chef and U.S. Army combat veteran - prepared an early Thanksgiving meal for a few dozen friends in Ranchos de Taos, Tuesday (Nov. 27), the latest addition to the family was hanging out nearby, nursing a busted pelvis, cuts, bruises and a mild concussion.

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'It would have been a travesty to lose such a beautiful soul'

After neighborhood dog struck by car, community pitches in to help recovery

Posted

As Greg Hopkins - chef and U.S. Army combat veteran - prepared an early Thanksgiving meal for a few dozen friends in Ranchos de Taos, Tuesday (Nov. 27), the latest addition to the family was hanging out nearby, nursing a busted pelvis, cuts, bruises and a mild concussion.

"This guy is one of the best creatures ever," Hopkins had said earlier, about the white, brown and black speckled dog he and his wife Jesse call Fluff. "It would have been a travesty to lose such a beautiful soul."

Fluff, who is about 18 months old, had several names around Ranchos de Taos. He had a home but he spent his days making the rounds of the neighborhood.

He would stop by to visit retired casino manager Bob Pokorney and his wife Leslie Jaffe. He would trot along the acequia or down one of the roads to visit with some kids when they were out of school. He visited several other houses in between. And he would drop by the Hopkins' house to play with his buddy Odin, the couple's black canine who is in training as Greg's service dog. "He's like the mayor of Ranchos," Greg Hopkins said of Fluff.

He's a character too. Pokorney remembered looking over his fence one day where the neighborhood kids were bouncing on a trampoline and seeing a little white flash going up and down. It was Fluff.

"Seems like he wanted to be a human being more than a dog," Pokorney said.

All dogs are special, but there is something about Fluff that is hard to pinpoint - something that makes people fall in love with him. He is self-possessed, calm and loving with almost everyone he meets.

"It is so hard to describe what is special about him," said Pokorney. "I've been a dog guy all my life but Fluff is something else. I think it is the way he interacts with humans."

"He's a person," his neighbor Hopkins said. "I can't just say he's a dog. Sometimes when he sits there and looks at you, like he really sees you."

Fluff's wandering days ended Nov. 4 when he was hit by a white sedan near the Hopkins' driveway. Jesse Hopkins and a friend heard the impact. "She said it sounded like a tire popping," Greg Hopkins said. "I'm blown away by how fast people drive down Camino de Abajo."

They found Fluff laying crumpled at the top of their driveway in a pool of blood, gathered him up and drove him to Taos Veterinary Hospital. He was stabilized but his injuries were so bad he was sent to Gruda Animal Hospital in Santa Fe.

X-rays showed the vehicle had broken Fluff's pelvis in four places. He had a minor concussion and internal bleeding. Vets patched him back together with two plates, 11 screws and 13 staples.

The Hopkins' didn't know if he would regain complete use of his legs. And they weren't sure how they would pay for the bill that was sure to run into the thousands of dollars.

For Greg Hopkins, 42, it set off a wave of feelings. He had been through his own traumas, he said. He was a U.S. Army reservist and a chef at a restaurant near the World Trade Center on 9/11 when the planes hit. He signed up full time with the Army and was sent to Afghanistan. He served for two and a half years until his team came under a rocket propelled grenade attack that left him badly injured.

Hopkins had to learn to walk again. He knows the agony Fluff is going through as he heals.

On Monday, (Nov. 26) Fluff put weight on all four legs again and took a few steps for the first time. To Hopkins, it was a major victory.

When word of Fluff's accident got out, people in the neighborhood started coming by to check on him. Hopkins set up a GoFundMe campaign to help raise money for the vet bills. Jesse is a waitress and he is a disabled vet; they aren't flush with cash.

He didn't know what to expect. After all, Fluff is a dog.

As of Thursday (Nov. 21), some 25 people had donated $2,853 to the GoFundMe: Friends of Fluff site, more than halfway to the goal. "It has been amazing, the outpouring of concern from people," Hopkins said.

It is one of many things he and his wife love about living in Ranchos - this spontaneous generosity from people he's sure aren't flush with cash either. He had been coming to Taos since he was 19, he said, and always knew it was where he wanted to end up.

If the downside of the area are people who drive too fast and sometimes drunk and run over dogs - those are problems that can be fixed. "People can choose to slow down. They can choose to be more careful," he said.

But both he and his neighbor Bob Pokorney, who was going to Tuesday's feast, said there's so much more that makes Ranchos special around its ragged edges.

For one, the eclectic people who live there - families with roots that stretch back generations, newcomers, many cultures, wealthy and not so wealthy. Some of them will be hanging with the Hopkins and Fluff on this November afternoon, sharing food, at what the couple calls Friendsgiving.

And as they gather around for a feast, they'll be showering attention too on the bunged up but still loving, four-legged mayor of Ranchos.

"We are so blessed," Hopkins said.

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