I wrote this after I lost my Dane mix, Hank, and Abner joined the pack.
I’ve had a few folks comment that they thought it was too soon after Hank’s transition for me to get a new pup. Thinking, perhaps, that I was not honoring the loss of that wonderful life. I thought I’d try to explain how that is certainly not the case.
In my entire life, my family only ever owned one ‘purebred’ dog. Prissy was a toy Pom that my brother had gifted to my mother. She was lovely and lived a long, sassy life. Every other dog was a stray or a rescue.
In exchange for safety, sanctuary and love, these dogs were my education, my adventure and my dear friends. Not a day goes by that I don’t send up a thank you to the folks that made it possible for these animals to grace my life. It touches me to my core each time a student or friend tells me how wonderful my dogs are. They are an awesome pack with limitless potential for love and affection. They are the best part of my life.
Hank was light years past ‘special.’ He had issues and I have the scars and ER bills to prove it (Hank, the early days!) More than one friend advised me to euthanize. But, we hung in, Hank and I. I loved him and he needed love. Once it clicked with him, love took over. He loved massage class, he loved meeting people (kids especially) on walks and he loved the puppies that I brought home. Every dog that joined us in the past 14 years has cuddled with Hank or laid on Hank. He loved the babies and became Uncle Hank to every dog that came into the pack. He taught and gave them the love and security that saved his life. He never hurt another dog. You see, it was people that had caused his suffering. I tried to bury that suffering under as much good as I could find. Massage, Reiki, patience and love. I learned it from him and for him and he gave it back in spades.
That is Hank’s legacy. Love, security, patience. And always especially for the babies he so loved. Little Abner just joined us on Friday of last week. He is the only dog in the house that wasn’t welcomed by Hank. But then I remembered: He is being welcomed by Hank because each dog here has felt Hank’s love and guidance, his sanctuary and security. There hasn’t been a single growl or snap directed at Abner. It’s almost too easy. They are paying it forward. There is so much love here for Abner from each dog that felt that loving welcome when they joined Hank’s pack.
Abner is not a replacement for Hank. His welcome into the household does not diminish my grief. That’s a seperate pocket. Little Abner’s homecoming honors the life of that gentle giant that became a one man welcoming committee for misfit dogs, eager students, enthralled children and dear friends. Hank left me a better person.
There will always be love and sanctuary and room for one more in need here. If I ever slip up on that, I may just spend my next life being chased by a peeved giant of a dog who taught me better.