The day we met, it wasn’t planned. I wish I had written the date down, but I didn’t!
If I am being totally transparent; I really didn’t want you in the beginning. You didn’t seem to mind, you just kept crawling in my lap, forcing yourself on me, although you easily equaled my weight and then some. Jersey felt the same way, she growled at you, bit your ears, and you actually carried her around hanging from your floppy ears. Jersey, sure put you in your place, she was the head of the house and you were an intruder! Again, you didn’t seem to mind she would growl, snarl, and snap at you……..to which you would respond by tucking your tail and somehow managing to get your 100 lb body under my coffee table! Jersey and I were measuring you up, I wasn’t sure we should take on such a huge pet in our new home, and she darn sure wasn’t sure if she was willing to share us with you. Amazingly, Scotty (not a pet guy by the way) was smitten with you, and for once he was asking for you to stay. It seems someone left you to wander the world all alone, you were thin and you seemed to hide a wealth of wisdom in those chocolate brown eyes but you still had so much faith in humanity that it was contagious.
Not five minutes after Jersey viciously attacked you (your 100+ lbs) with all of her 18 lbs, you would crawl under the table, silently dart your eyes and wag your tail with great enthusiasm to see if you two could be friends yet, if she snarled at you, then you would resume your place under the table waiting to simply be accepted. Did I mention you barely fit under the table? To get under my coffee table you would literally have to crawl under it, and it would still lift from the floor! That is what I love about you, Hank. You NEVER asked for anything. You came to us, anticipating rejection, and resigning yourself to live a life of isolation. You, were sneaky that way, squirming your way into my heart without me ever realizing it, and even my tough as nails Jersey, found herself unable to resist your charm. Not once did you ask, “Can this be my home?” You would lay in the floor, not asking for anything. Jerseys bowl was heaped full of delicious kibbles, the best money could buy and though your thin frame told me you hadn’t eaten in quite some time, not once did you ever offer to eat her food… you are a gentleman that way! As much as your belly rumbled for food, your soul sought a place to just rest, you hungered that more than any food that money could buy. You wanted love, not necessarily to get love but to give it!
It took less than one night and you were engraved in my soul. Jersey took a little more convincing, when you found your way into my bed and on top of her, me and half of Scotty, she was less than impressed to put it mildly……but in the end you won her heart too, and she was head over heels for you! I am not sure what interaction occurred between you two but I woke up to one morning the both of you curled up together…ON TOP of me nonetheless but sleeping happily in one another’s company! Over time, you proved yourself, you outdid yourself, you made me question myself but never one time did you ask me for a single thing.
I would come outside and you would be laying on the porch the rain pouring down on you because you would not dare scratch on the door to be let in. I have watched you allow the ice to cover you before I even realized you were outside…..as time went on you preferred the outdoors. We left the garage open for you with a heat lamp, so you could get in against the weather. You were the casa nova, the Hugh Hefner of Twin Hill Road…….you loved a good scrap with a male dog, although you were never vicious. You liked the ladies, that is for sure…by the time we realized that you weren’t fixed you probably fathered several pups, I know of at least one litter. Just when I thought you were entirely too old to father pups you still had game and to that effect a beautiful bunch of pups were born. Out of that litter came two little pieces of you, and I fell in love with them too! I am an advocate for not over populating animals, but I guarantee any pups you fathered grew to be wonderful family members.
You came to me, filthy and battered, I have no idea of the life you led before us but you never one time asked for me to give you a bath or water. You were just content to love us…I would laugh at your silly antics as you stole toys from neighbor’s yards because you were such a kid at heart, and I would return them while you guiltly followed behind me begging forgiveness before you even had a clue what you had done wrong. Before I knew it, I was scratching your head, feeding you t-bones, and you were just a part of our tiny family!
I asked so much from you! I would walk outside and bury my head in your fur, when life got hard or as I prayed out for God to give me children of my own……….you never minded you would just lick my tears and burrowed your face deeper into my neck. As time passed you protected me, you guarded me, but you loved every one. Every one in the neighborhood loved you, and you would greet every one the same.You knew when Nanny pulled in the driveway and she always had something good for you in the car, she always had you a treat…I would watch you get excited, and would witness your puppyhood once more as she pulled in. You would stand by her door patiently awaiting whatever she had inside for you! I will always remember you chasing our car down the road, trying to keep up with us while you galloped in the grass along side us……..my first sign was that you haven’t done that in over a year……prepare yourself, I said, but there is no way to prepare for such a thing. Our neighbor next door with dementia was frail…I was terrified that your big frame would accidentally knock her down, but you would gently nudge her and when she stroked your fur, and if you didn’t visit she asked for you; a woman who didn’t remember her family, yet she remembered you……..that is when I knew a dog’s purpose.
Not one time did you ask me for reassurance except when you needed a scratch on the ear……..but when my daughter started school, and both she and I were struggling you followed us to that bus stop every morning and trotted patiently back to the porch comforting me while I cried big tears into your neck, you would wait until my sadness subsided before making your way to the driveway to lay in the sun, then at promptly 3:10 you made your way back to the end of my driveway…NEVER once did you ask for a treat, never one time did you ask for any thing in exchange. Your gift was my girls hugging you, loving you, petting you, playing in the snow with you….how it warmed my heart.
You have been the ever present reassuring, guiding vessel in the storm of life, Oh, Hank……….you make saying goodbye so hard! But tonight, after being hungry, broken, beaten, and unloved before you joined our family, even after all these years you had never asked me for one thing…….yes, I fed you, yes, I watered you, and yes, I loved you but you didn’t ask for it, you earned it. You taught my girls the love of a first pet, the meaning of something more than themselves, and for that I owe you everything. Their love for you is essential to them knowing how to love and know the love of a dog…which makes it even more difficult knowing that I will have to tell them that you are in Heaven. I cannot imagine the looks on their faces or the feelings they will have when I tell them that their Hank is gone. I pray for comfort as their losses have been many as of late and your’s will be felt deeply by them.
Yes, I was taken unaware by you, loving you just came easy. So, you understand that saying farewell is the last thing I want to do. Your presence is a comfort and to think of the void you will leave in your wake, well, it demolishes me.
I can remember like yesterday, you playing in the snow with my girls, waiting for the bus with me every day, curling up with your head on my lap, a reassuring nudge of your nose reminding me that I wasn’t alone. You have given me so much, never asking for anything in return. So, tonight when you nudged me once more, I rubbed your head, scratched your ears, but you didn’t perk up like you usually did. You stood there just staring at me, your tired eyes, your body shaking from the exertion of just standing…..yet, you were comforting me even while you were hurting. I looked at you, and you were trying to ask me something. You would walk away, and walk back to me, you would stand restlessly as if you were searching for a place that isn’t in this world. You asked for something, for the first time in over a decade you finally asked me for something…….why, son, after all this time, the one thing you asked of me is one of the things that I don’t want to do. Your eyes softened as you looked at me, your message was clear, you are hurting, you are tired, and though I am sure the last thing you want to do is to leave us. You were asking me to help you cross over, to help you leave this world and me behind. As my final act of love, I will give you what you want, I will embark on our final destination together. I will load you up in my truck, in my arms, knowing that will be our last ride. I will watch as you limp into the vet’s office, I will cry and tell you that I will be okay (although, I know that is not true) I will say it any ways because I know that is what you need to hear. I will watch them prepare the medication that will take away your suffering…but in doing so will also take you away from me, from us, from a family that loves you beyond words. But even as they sink that needle into your fur, I will bury my face in your neck once more and tell you what a good dog you have been, and thank you for all you have given me! I will hold you as your breathing slows, and that big, beautiful heart stops beating. I will watch as you move from this earth and wake up in heaven. I will do this, because I love you not because I want to but because you would spare me any pain that you could. Now I have to do the same for you, I have to spare your misery, and though my misery will ensue, I will do this for you. I will do this because it is the only thing you have ever asked me to do…you never asked me for anything until today, and for that reason I will honor that wish.
I believe that all dogs go to heaven, and I think if there is a place for the very best dogs to go that is where you will reside. I know you will be reunited with my Jersey girl, who went there 2 years ago to prepare for your arrival. I can see you two puppies once more, no longer riddled with pain, running through the clouds, tell her that I love her. If reincarnation is possible, I would be more than happy to meet you once more, and love you for another 15 years, even if it means that after that time, you will once more ask me to make this difficult choice. I would still choose to love you again, even knowing that it would break my heart in the end. If I knew that you would ask me for just this one thing I would’ve loved you anyways. You will be missed more than you can ever know. To the dog that deserves everything, and never asked for anything, until the moment you asked for something that seemed impossible, I will grant you your wish. Farewell, my sweet boy, you will never be replaced…because you asked for just one thing!