Harley adopted the Szabo family.


The big Rottweiler puppy originally belonged to another family living off of Mojave Street, but five years ago, he started to run away from home, and kept ending up at the Szabo residence.


"We corralled him and put him in the yard" while they sought to reunite the dog with his owner, John Szabo recalled. "A couple weeks later, he came back. He was a master of the escape. He knew how to lift latches. He understood the mechanical concept."


Again the Szabos returned the dog to his original owner, who seemed somewhat indifferent to the runaway Rott.


"Third time, my wife opened the garage door and he was sitting in the driveway. They didn't come back to get him that time."


Harley became the constant companion of Szabo, who works from home on his Web site, Depot41.com, about World War II era Kingman Army Air Field in Arizona.


"He was such a nice dog," Szabo said.


Shortly after Thanksgiving 2008, the Szabos noticed Harley was limping around. A veterinarian soon diagnosed two masses in his left shoulder: fast-moving bone cancer.


"'You may have two to three months,'" Szabo recalled the doctor saying. "Well, he was a little long on that."


Szabo was crushed by the death sentence for his beloved dog.


"I was moping around the house. I couldn't just watch the dog die."


He and his wife have rescued lots of pets who have gotten lost or been abandoned near their home, finding homes for them themselves or taking them to the Hesperia Animal Shelter.


"I figured the pound needs something. We trap [strays] and bring them over there."


So he bought carpet and plywood and set about making "Harley's Hammocks," cat furniture that blends a scratching post with perches for the cats, including a hammock for cats to rest in. Each were tested by one of the Szabos' four cats, whom Harley had discovered as newborn kittens in the family's trash can a few months before.


Szabo asked that the shelter give the hammocks away to those who adopted a cat in December.


"Everything went," he said. "In fact, I owe them a couple more, as time allows. They take a little bit of time to make."


In December, Harley's pain was too much for medication to keep in check. The Szabos hugged their dog and took him back to the veterinarian to be put down.


"It kept me busy," building Harley's Hammocks, Szabo said, glancing at a picture of his dog, taken a few weeks before the animal's death. "It really did. But I just printed that picture this morning and I can't look at it. He was such a good dog."


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.