Before I start this blog post, I feel compelled to warn you that this post is not for you. It’s for me. It’s for Hank. My hope is that it will help me heal the rest of the way. I’m going to talk about losing my dog. I will tell the story and I’ll do some processing. So for my fellow dog people, you might want to get some tissues, or maybe you don’t want to read this as you’re sitting waiting for a meeting to start. For you non dog people, you’ll probably be fine. 😉
Let’s Back Up
Earlier this year I had to say goodbye to my little buddy, my Hank. Although the days have gotten easier with him not around snoring, wiggling, begging and chasing his tire, I still miss him dearly. Hank had burrowed into my heart and he was much more than just a pet to me. He was my little buddy, my companion, my yoga partner, my selfie accomplice, my garbage disposal, my shadow. When he entered my life, I wasn’t sure I’d even like him. By the end, I couldn’t imagine living a day with out that wrinkly baby to come home to. Anyone who knows me knows how hard I loved that boy — a quick glance at his Instagram page (follow him!), yes HIS, will prove it.
Hank was diagnosed with lymphoma in late February 2016. Our vet was shocked because apparently this kind of cancer is not common in dogs his age. He was 2 1/2 years old at the time, and still my little baby! Although, there was nothing little about him; at his biggest he was a stocky 70 lb english bulldog. Low to the ground, but quick when he wanted to be. He was invincible! How could this be true?!
That day I received the news, I sobbed at my desk. I went home and held my buddy and wailed. My mom sat on the phone with me and cried too. I said, “Why did I even get this dog?! This is the worst!” She acknowledged feeling that way every time she had to say goodbye to her furry friends. While I held Hank and cried, he kept licking my face and tears. I chose to hear that as him saying “Don’t cry momma, I’m not gone yet!”
My beautiful boy brought our little family so much joy. He was such a clown and so full of life, even down to his last few days in this world. Whether he was outside playing on his tire, watching for his dad to come home from work, bugging his kitty brother Diesel, or snoring in his bed, he filled our home with life. We never expected to lose him so young. He was supposed to be here as we attempted to be parents to human babies. To babysit them and herd them around the house. That was all part of my dream.
Seth and I had decide how we would handle the rest of the time we had left with Hank. We had no idea how long he’d stay with us, but we ended up being blessed with 3 great months. And he was himself almost the whole time with just a few exceptions. On those days that he didn’t feel great, he let me know. Like a kid who just wants to be held by his mom, he’d climb up into my lap (no he didn’t fit) and just lay there while I’d pet his velvety, wrinkly head.
Our last weekend together was spent outside in the sun, just like Hank preferred. We did yard work and refinished some furniture. Hank watched and played on his tire. We laughed and played along with him. It was a great 3 day weekend with him and I’ll never forget how happy he was being out there with us, his humans.
The next couple of days, he seemed more tired than usual and he definitely was getting skinnier. I chalked it up to a full weekend. But on June 2, something was different. When we woke up him that morning, it was clear he couldn’t see. I worried all day and even came home at lunch to be with him. Seth and I knew it was time. We took him in and had to make the most painful and hard decision ever I’ve ever made in my life.
So we said goodbye so our little buddy wouldn’t have to suffer. He wouldn’t have to spend whatever time he had left in darkness. His last memories would be of running and playing in his yard, not scared and unsure of his surroundings. I know it would have been selfish to try to prolong his life, but saying goodbye then just didn’t seem fair.
All the Feels
Of all of the things I’ve felt in my life, this one was possibly the most challenging thus far. I was angry with God for taking my baby. Angry that the rest of the world just kept going on like it was any other day. My gut ached to think about going into my house and have him not be there. Putting my feelings into words was impossible. I didn’t want to be alone, but I hated people. I couldn’t stand being in my house, but I had no where else to go.
Honestly, I haven’t lost many close people in my life, so grief is not something I have much experience with. But I felt so ashamed that I was struggling this much over a dog. Thankfully so many friends reassured me that it’s not silly, that dogs are like family. Although I’m sure some thought my reaction was foolish, those people kept their mouths shut and people loved on me during this hard time.
The one thing I’ve found to be helpful the few times I’ve struggled saying goodbye is writing a letter… so that’s what I’m going to do.
It’s been 6 months since we said goodbye and life has continued. Our home is much quieter. I still have the occasional day when I come home, expecting to see you in the curtain at the front door with your brother, patiently waiting for me. There really is nothing quite like the excitement you showed when I’d come home at the end of a long day. Although, you usually showed that more to dad. Your little dance was my favorite. You were so excited you couldn’t even sit still. You always knew how to make me laugh.
I miss your snorts and your warbles - (video here) . Your dad and I still make the warbling sound in remembrance of you. You did it to get your way, which you usually did, and it annoyed the crap out of me. But now that your gone, I’d give anything to hear it one more time. I replay videos on days I’m especially missing you. Thank you for letting me take so many. I knew you were getting sick of them, you always let me know that with your annoyed look.
I miss wiping your muddy feet and legs and belly because you just had to play in the mud. And how you always had to try to bite me THE WHOLE TIME I wiped your feet. Like you knew it had to be done, but couldn‘t just go along with it like a laid back pup. No, you had to put up a little fight, always.
Even eating a banana isn’t the same without you… What do I do with the ends?! You always used to sit so patiently waiting for them. And zucchini… and carrots… and cucumbers. What wouldn’t you eat? Cooking just really isn’t the same without you underfoot, drooling and smacking your lips. Never thought I’d miss it.
I like to remember back to when you were a baby. Do you remember when you were Diesel’s size? And he’d swat you right in the nose. And you’d keep coming after him! Then, when you both were all tuckered out, you’d curl up by each other on my lap and rest. You really loved that cat and even learned a few things from him. My favorite is the back arching stretch you always did. Like a huge 70 lb kitty! You know what? I’m pretty sure Diesel misses you too. I think he likes not being smothered all the time, but you know what Hank, he sat by the back door for WEEKS after you were gone. Just like he used to. I knew he always loved you…
And Hank, I’m sorry I wasn’t always the best mom. I know I lost my temper with you, but you never got mad at me. You always showed me how much you loved me. And I’m so grateful you did, because eventually I learned to be a little more patient. I wish I would have spent more time with you, especially this year. I know you loved to sleep, but I would have taken a few more nights cuddled on the floor next to you.
The week after you were gone, there was a cardinal hanging around our house. Since it was nice, the front door was open a lot and Diesel would sit and watch that cardinal. He talked to him and the cardinal would chirp back. I remember thinking it was so adorable… until another week later. I read an article about cardinals and loved ones. You came back to see your brother didn’t you? You were here letting us know you were around and that you loved us…. Thank you for doing that buddy.
Your grandma gave me a book to read after you were gone. A couple of weeks later, I sat out in your yard while I read it. I cried and remembered you. I yelled at God for taking you. And then I thanked Him for bringing you to me, even if it was for such a short time. I know there was a reason He brought you to us, and you did such a good job that He needed you back.
Hanky, you will always be my baby. My little buddy. Thank you for all that you taught me while I got to be your momma. Thank you for teaching dad and me how be parents to you. Even though you won’t get to be here while our family grows, please know that you will never be forgotten. And each bulldog who lives in this home will only be here because of you. Not to replace you, only to continue to bring us joy like you did.
I love you my good boy. Goodbye sweet baby.
Love, your mom