Saturday, September 7, 2013
While it may seem strange to some, this might resemble a (long form) obituary.
Today we had to say goodbye to our beloved dog, Henry. I was 19, and a sophomore at USC when I was walking to choir rehearsal. Noticing a small dog following me (and always looking for an excuse to ditch choir) I took him in, against dorm rules of course. My roommates panicked, and early the next morning I took the small dog I somewhat randomly called "Henry" to the LA City Dog Shelter off Crenshaw.
I couldn't stop thinking about my new friend, so against my better judgment I ventured into the somewhat sketchy neighborhood to visit on multiple occasions. On my 3rd or 4th visit a very disgruntled worker mentioned they'd be putting him down in a few days if he didn't find a home. Shocked (as they don't do that in Santa Barbara where I'm from) and panicked I called my parents and explained to them how cute this little guy was. I would adopt him, take him up North, where if they didn't want him we would put him at the Santa Barbara Humane Society. My dad and I had found a dog named Emma that previous summer - so they were quite reluctant as they already had her and a wonderful dog named Maude - they didn't want to have 3 dogs. But that door had been slightly opened and I knew I could further manipulate!
After getting him fixed I drove him up one weekend and my mom's eyes adopted him from me on site. While Henry, quite mischievous (and sometimes destructive) he won over my dad in time, and he eventually looked at my dad as his master. I was more of a brother - the one who would play rough with him on weekends when I'd come up to visit.
A year later I would meet my eventual wife, Julia. A few months into our relationship we drove up to Camarillo to meet my parents for lunch. I didn't even need to ask for them to bring my boy since he would surely wreak havoc on the house if left alone too long. As we pulled up I don't even think I made formal introductions to Julia and my mom and dad before running up to Henry and suffocating him with love.
As my relationship with Julia progressed, so did my friendship with Henry. Julia, my parents and I took him on 4 occasions to a place in the Sierras called Shaver Lake, where he had the time of his life tooling around on a patio boat, chasing ducks and playing in the water (albeit seldom going in above the knees.)
In 2005 we moved into our house. The year was filled with DIY improvements and my parents were down nearly every weekend. After much begging, my parents finally let me keep Henry for a week.
Sadly, my dad would have his stroke in early 2006. We took Henry off my mom's hands as he was a lot to handle. He's been with us ever since.
In 2007 my dad would pass and I would lean on Henry immensely. Just look at Henry and feel a little bit better. Hug on him and feel better yet. But my dad's death hit Henry hard as well. He developed a "stress spot," a small bald around near his butt that would eventually fill back in. This wasn't his only health issue - he had a cancerous tumor removed off his leg that year. He also had a major escape that summer that involved jumping THROUGH the front window. (This, after jumping the backyard fence in 2006.) Thankfully our neighbor Bob took him in as we rushed home to retrieve him. We decided to seek professional attention and started to work with a behaviorist at VCA and his anxiety issues began to improve.
We would take our first solo trip with Henry that fall on a healing trip in Yosemite. After that trip's success we took Henry on an epic adventure in 2008 - circumnavigating most of the Western USA visiting National Parks along the way. He was the ultimate traveling dog. Driving up to 10 hours a day for 4 weeks he would patiently sit in the back seat in his bed next to the cooler. He would see all of the natural wonders along our side.
In 2009 I did my first triathlon - he was there to greet me at the finish line. And in 2010, he would return to his original mama at "summer camp" with now grandma Karen and grand-dad Michael (my mom's partner) while we traveled overseas.
In 2011 we embraced our ever-present inner-cheese and threw him a "Barkmitzvah" for his 13th birthday. That same year he made another epic escape, this time opening that same front window with his paw! This time, however we had it caught on camera, depicted in our Henry video!
We often referred to him as our little "Peter Pan." We took countless trips up to Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, where he would make friends with my mom and Michael's dogs. Over Thanksgiving in 2012 we would take a decent hike (4 miles) in Berkeley with family. Impressive for a 14 year old dog.
We would take him to a dog friendly lodge in Yosemite that Christmas, and throw him a 15th birthday party on February 9th. (My dad gave Henry his birthday since he didn't know the exact date.)
As if a switch was flipped, he would start to develop mild arthritis that spring. And in April, his kidney values became slightly elevated - we treated only with food. We began to get him acupuncture with the wonderful Dr. Gina for the arthritis and kidneys.
Henry's walks would become shorter and slower, but he would still often be seen running around the house and barking obsessively when we returned home after an outing. He became slightly less playful overall but still major spatts of puppydom.
In August, a routine check of his abdomen by our wonderful vet Lisa Silberstein produced evidence of a tumor near his adrenal gland - cancer. After much thought we decided invasive surgery was not an option for a dog of his age and we wouldn't want to put him through that. We decided to put him on a cancer med called Paladia and hope we'd have him at least through his sweet sixteen.
As a fairly major heatwave hit, Henry's energy level declined. Also, wondering if he was experiencing side effects from the cancer meds we took him in. The findings were unexpected - his kidneys were failing. He was kept two nights and blasted with fluids in an attempt to flush the built up toxins from his system. While the creatanine number dropped slightly his lethargy was too telling.
By the time we brought Henry home this morning it was overwhelmingly obvious that it was the old boy's time. We were able to have him do his favorite thing - drink from the fountain, we fed him a steak and we cuddled for hours in his dog beg under the redwood tree in dappled shade. Both Julia, my mom and I had a tremendously difficult time saying goodbye to our little buddy today. We've all cried gallons. A testament to how much love that guy brought out of us.
Henry Chowmix. I thank you for being you, and always bringing out the best in all of us. May you be frolicking in the heavens above with papa Eric, Maude, Emma, George, Peanut and Bella. I miss you uncontrollably and know that the grieving process will not be linear. There are too many things to mention that I'll miss about my little guy, but most of all his incredibly sweet face and unique personality.
The following is an excerpt from Henry Scott Holland's "Death is Nothing" which was read yesterday at my grandmother's service yesterday by my dad's brother.
Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged….One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!
We will miss you, my boy. See you on the other side.
P.S. Thanks again to the staff at VCA West LA and especially Dr Lisa Silberstein, Dr Gina Kwong and also Dr Chretin and Dr Yoshimoto for their support of our dear Henry.