Monday, October 12, 2009

All They Know How To Do Is Love

For the first time in 20 years, there's no dog in our house. It's incredibly empty. Our first "inside" dog was Adam's "Daisy". She was a miniature schnauzer with more personality than any dog I've ever known. When we moved down here, Daisy stayed with Adam. Sean's "Ellie" had followed Daisy, another mini schnauzer who was the sweetest dog ever. Chloe, our first Dane,moved down here with us. In fact the first night in our house, while Bunny and Sean slept in the Holiday Inn Express, Chloe, Ellie and I slept on the floor upstairs together. Chloe died tragically at 4. For a little while it was just Ellie, but then Henley came into our life.

When Sean first saw him, he said "It's a miniature Dane." And Henley was for a short period of time, but he kept growing. And growing. And growing. We learned to love the big guy for his own eccentric and wonderful ways. For example, he hated the rumble of the bombs falling out on the range. He would search the house to find Bunny, his protector. He didn't like flying things either - same result.

And every day, every time we left the house and returned, he'd greet us at the door with that goofy look on his face and sometimes a "woo woo woo." The last year we wound up gone a lot for two night stays in Macon. Sean said Henley just mourned the whole time we were gone. So we tried not to be gone, and we bought a vehicle we could take him with us. He went with us to Savannah last year, to Macon several times, and even to Dallas several years ago. The looks on the faces of people when the 42" tall 155lb Great Dane came out of the vehicle were priceless.

Life with a Dane requires adjustments. Nothing is safe on the counter. Once Sean left a Subway sandwich on the counter and left the room. When he returned, he faced a very happy Dane and an empty counter. Cooking was sometimes difficult because if Henley smelled something he liked, like bacon, he'd hover waiting for a handout. He loved hot dogs, cheese, and peanut butter. But he wasn't picky.

Early on, Henley and I walked every morning around the bayous of Valparaiso. When we moved to our present house, we walked for a while but it wasn't the same. Still, anytime I got his leash and "Gentle Leader" out and he saw it, he was ready to go. But this house has a fenced back yard that he loved to patrol. He'd chase squirrels up trees, or just stand and admire his kingdom. He'd sometimes stand on our deck and watch the neighbors downhill. They'd call out to him and enjoyed hearing him "boof!"

At the other house we had a bed just for Henley, but on Sunday afternoons after church we would retreat upstairs for an afternoon nap on the big bed. I have to say that Henley could out sleep me, and that's saying something. When we moved here, we decided to get Henley to sleep on the floor, and he did, mostly beside me. But when we were gone, he'd sleep with Sean ON the bed. Sean's bed isn't that big, but he didn't fuss. It was hard to stay mad at Henley.

He wasn't perfect. He'd get the "zoomies" every now and then and go flying around the room. An animal that size can make a lot happen in a hurry and we'd frantically try to calm him down. The "tail of terror" could cause things to break or be whacked off the coffee table.

But he loved. Oh how he loved. You'd head to the back of the house and in a minute Henley would come and lay down where he could see you. He could not stand to be separated from his people. Every return was a family reunion. Our house can be frantically busy at times. I can get called in the middle of the night and find myself trying to help people through a nightmare. We can have multiple needs from different people. And our family has gone through a lot during Henley's lifetime. Through it all, one thing was constant - Henley's love. That big black body lying next to you on the couch would take away all the stress.

And now he's gone, a victim of bone cancer that had aggressively replaced healthy bone with brittle, and had probably metastasized to his lungs. Still, though it probably hurt terribly, he got up every time and met us, just as he always had. We'd leave the room rather than look at him struggle. But his heart won out, always. When he was so sick this spring, he almost died. He was running a high fever and not getting better at the vet. But when I went back to the kennel, he gave me a "woo woo" and a plaintive bark that said "I want to go home." So for days we hand fed him, almost carried him outside. I slept on the floor next to him and he licked the infection. When our friend Ellen Fannon, a vet herself was talking with the vet at the animal hospital she told him "no, you don't understand - these people will do whatever it takes. They LOVE him."

It was in the same spirit that I decided to release him from the pain. It's achingly sad here now. We've both cried so much we're sick. We cried while buying groceries, cried in the car. It hurts so much. There are times I forget and look for him. Bunny started to move some food back off the counter today and realized she didn't have to anymore. The postman came and went without a single "boof!" I guess I need to tell the UPS guy that he doesn't need to keep leaving dog biscuits in his futile attempt to win Henley over.

Missing my friend.


  1. I have no idea what to say - but I couldn't not say something (hope that makes sense). I'm so sorry.

  2. sandy8:55 PM

    Bunny, David and Sean, I know it doesn't help to say "I know how you feel". I was there, almost 3 years ago when my husband found our Daisy, dead, outside, she was 2. We cried for 3 days, like you, making ourselves sick. I think God needed an angel and he knew where there was one-daisy. Same with Henley, he needed him and he's probably romping with Daisy. I think about her everyday. I get tears in my eyes when I think about how unfair it was for her not to be able to live a long life, but God needed her more. About 6 weeks after
    she died, our son talked us into getting another lab. Let me tell you, he's been a lifesaver. Never will replace Daisy, but it helps to have him. A house is not a home without a dog. I do know how you feel.