Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Day We Said Goodbye - Remembering the Heart of a Dog

It was 4 years ago today when, on a day gray, dark, and pouring rain, my son and I knelt beside one of the best friends we will ever have, our big Great Dane named Henley. We were waiting for the veterinarian to come into the room with the Xrays that would confirm what we really already knew. Cancer was working hard to bring our big boy down. It wasn't the first time we had been in that room.

A few months earlier, Henley had fallen desperately ill with an infection. We stood in that same room as one of the vets told us that there probably wasn't anything to do except either to wait for him to die, or to put him down. We brought him home, carrying all 155 pounds out of that office on a quilt. Thanks to the skilled help of another vet who was a friend, and all our our complete dedication to his care, we pulled him through, only to find ourselves 6 months later being told the same thing as before.

Due to the chance that the leg bone, riddled with cancer, might snap and plunge Henley into instant and torturing pain, this time we gave away a few days or months of chances to love and be loved, and held him close as he fell to sleep and then away from us forever. I hope he knew how much he was loved, and that what we did was the hardest thing we have ever done.

There are still times when I come through the door and think about his greetings. 155 pounds of complete and utter joy mixed with love as he pranced and wiggled his big form, all the while making that "woo woo woo" love growl that we all loved to hear. Still times I see that big collar of his and wish he was in it. Our Airedales are awesome and we love them fiercely. But I have to confess that there's nothing like a Dane.

From the first moment Bunny and I saw that face, already impossibly big for a dog his age, we were smitten. He was our dog and we were his. The years that followed saw us share lots of adventures and a few hardships - but every time I came through the door, I knew that greeting was coming. We took him with us on trips to Dallas, to Savannah, and many times to Macon. It was always funny to see the looks from people in small towns along the way when out of the back of our Kia Sportage came "the horse." One time in Colquitt a family made a complete circle of the Hardees just so their kids could see Henley again. What I'd give to see him again.

That's the only flaw in Great Danes, really. They are subject to the same mortality as we are, even more so as their lives average 7-10 years. We had 7, and they were the best.

So thank you God, for such an amazing gift. I'll continue praying that out of your mercy, you'll see fit to let us see him again, and experience the joy of that reunion.

“You think those dogs will not be in heaven! I tell you they will be there long before any of us.” 
― Robert Louis Stevenson

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