Spirit Blog

Personal reflections on a spiritual journey...

Our Dog Henry

It was Labor Day 2007, my mother was in hospice, and my dog, Jupiter, a tiny, feisty, white Maltese was inadvertently confiscated by my father whom, after dog-sitting him for a weekend, had decided my tiny canine was his new lease on life. Despite feelings of extreme sadness over my father's new desire to keep Jupiter, I couldn't say no, given the intensity of our family circumstances as my mother lived out the final weeks of her life. 

Nick, my husband, consoled me as I got back into our car, having left Jupiter at my parent's home. He said, "Let's get another dog...Right now." It seemed ridiculous and impulsive, but we did it anyway. 

I searched online and quickly found an apricot colored, miniature poodle in need of adoption about a two hour drive away, in Pennsylvania. I made the trip there the next day. He was in an outdoor cage, down a dirt road, in the middle of the woods, at a humane society. I questioned how humane the society was given the conditions in which he was living. He was timid and shy, terrified and shaking. And very dirty. He was our Henry. 

I drove back all those miles with him in the passenger seat of my car, as he leaned as far from me as he could get, shivering with eyes wide open. Those first few days he tried to stay awake and would fall asleep sitting up because he was too afraid to relax. But in no time, he was happy and accustomed to his new life with us. And he quickly became the best dog friend a person could have...

Just a few months ago, ten years after we met him, he left us. He had become very sick right after our fourth (and final!) baby, Andrew, was born last July. We spent months going back and forth to the vet, trying various medications, injections, and tests in an attempt to cure his ailment. But nothing seemed to work and it soon became clear that he wouldn't survive. 

The last night he was with us, we gathered as a family around him and we all said aloud what we liked best about him. Afterwards, the children went to bed and I retreated downstairs, unwilling to look at Henry one last time. It was too much. But he felt differently and ran from Nick just as he was being taken out of the house. He found me. We held a long gaze. And it was as though he knew that it was our final goodbye, that he wouldn't be coming back from the vet this time. 

Nick returned home a few hours later, devastated. I hadn't anticipated the heaviness of this loss. And in the weeks that followed I kept expecting him to still be with us. When the doorbell rang, I waited for his bark. When I sat to watch tv, I missed him on my lap. And I stopped taking walks through the park. 

I've begun to think about the part he played in the decade he was with us. During those years, he sat with me as my mother died, as we struggled through two miscarriages, and three years of infertility that included four failed IVF procedures. He traveled with us. He attended every holiday. He was there to welcome each of our four babies home from the hospital. And he got to eat all the fallen table food as our babies became toddlers. Eventually, he was pulled on his leash by three of four children as we walked him around the block after school. He played fetch with them. He lay near them while they slept. And we all loved him dearly. 

We will miss him. He was an integral part of our early marriage and growing family. And I can only pray to be as blessed to ever have a dog again as good as Henry. 

The Present Tense

After dropping my son off at school this morning, I was pushing the girls in the double stroller with my dog, Henry, in tow through the park, admiring the spring blossoms but also watching my mind run wild, recollecting the events of yesterday, when I said to myself, "Oh please let me just enjoy this beautiful morning and stay here in the present moment..." 

No sooner did I wish that then a woman with a large Rottweiler pass by. Before I could even anticipate it, her very large and very strong dog lunged for my miniature poodle mix breed and it was a loud, scary few minutes. I was yelling, the woman was yelling, both of us tugging on her linked chain leash trying to get her dog off my dog, Henry barking as he flailed about under the grip of her canine's mouth.

Everyone in panic.

Three people ran to our aid. 

When her dog was removed from our immediate space, Henry, thankfully physically unharmed, was scooped up in the arms of a large man, whom I later learned is named Vince. He and his partner, Susan, comforted me (brought to tears), my daughters, and our terrified, furry family member, Henry. The third person, a female jogger, who had approached the scene, began yelling at the woman with the Rottweiler about how irresponsible it is to have an untrained dog of that size in the park. (A fact of which I clearly agree but had no intention of expressing at that juncture). They got into a huge shouting match, calling out all sorts of names and threatening each other with physical violence. The two women continued their argument later near the street after exiting the park and it was vicious. Meanwhile, Vince turned to me and said that he and Susan were, "Dog lovers and people lovers too..." They walked ahead of me all of the way out of the park, escorting us, looking back to check on our well-being every time another dog walker passed. 

The whole experience really got me thinking. 

When we are faced with imminent danger we are forced to be in the present moment. But when the danger subsides, do we stay present? How we react exemplifies our connection with the here and now, with our highest Self. One woman allowed a situation, of which she was not even part, to get her so worked up that she was seething and shouting for many, many minutes after the whole thing had ended. And I also assume her morning was then jaded in some way by that altercation. Whereas, Vince and Susan chose a compassionate route, were instead concerned about the welfare of those involved, helped calmly, and seemed to leave the park in the same pleasant mood with which they began.

When I am centered, connected with my inner-self, I am always far more equipped at being unaffected by my outer world. I am more like the Vince and Susan of this story. However, when I am stressed, and not taking time for myself, time for inner stillness, I easily revert to the behavior of the angry female jogger. My intention is to cultivate more moments of the former, kissing an overdue good-bye to the latter way of living. The only way to do that is to create more peace in my inner life so when faced with outer turmoil I can choose to react differently.

I want to be a dog lover and a people lover too...

Be present, stay in the here and now.