It’s been almost four years since our beloved Harry passed away. I still can’t think of the day he left this life without tearing up. I was in tremendous pain with a ruptured disc and he was having a rough time with dementia and blindness and his own back pain. As he declined he no longer wanted to be held, but that last afternoon he laid down with me and let me hold him for more than half an hour. Later that day at the vet’s office, he lay on the quilt that I made for him, and I stroked his side as he gently left us. I couldn’t stop petting him even after he stopped breathing. We took him home and buried him in the backyard, close to the house. The Babies, our three month old Shi-Tzus, didn’t know what had happened. They only knew Harry for a short time…
Harry was Harrison Furred, a Bichon Frise who had champion show dog parents and a personality as big as life itself. He was a therapy dog, both officially, by certificate, and to our family, by experience. He was the personification, or should it be dogification, of Love. He was a beautiful dog. People stopped us all the time and told us they also had a Bichon, but theirs didn’t look as good as Harry. He was well behaved and well loved, and our three children considered him one of their brothers. We called him Dr. White. He would lay for hours at the side of any of us when we weren’t feeling well or were recovering from an injury or surgery. He was so patient with all of us. He watched as each of our children went through middle school and high school and off to college and he was present when our daughter married her husband.
The newness of the puppy we got when he was five months in age never got old. We never got tired of him. We never took him for granted. We never stopped loving him. And he did the same for us. When he was three he had to have a small tumor removed from above one of his eyes, and the vet had to shave a bit of his fur near the incision site, so he had a crooked fur-do for awhile. He dubbed him Franken-Dog for a short time after that. We also all remember the story that we all refer to as “The Squirrel Incident” when this perfect powder puff of a dog ate a squirrel during a University of Florida football game. He was pretty sick after his foray into his wild side, but after we knew he was okay, the tale made it into family lore as a funny example of his silliness. Harry was dressed up for many Halloweens, the star of numerous films by his budding movie-making brothers, and the subject of countless photographs. He was even on national television on an HBO special about therapy animals when our local Delta Society chapter won a national award and all of us got to go to Atlanta for the taping of the ceremony and received an award from Mary Tyler Moore. He was held on the lap of each of us on our birthday as we took the picture of us blowing out the candles on our birthday cakes. We have photos of him at the Thanksgiving table and in fifteen years of Christmases, and one of him in the snow when we traveled up to north Georgia one time to play in the winter precipitation that was a novelty to our Florida family. I can still see him romping about the yard and running “the Bichon raceway,” the path he ran around the staircase in our old house when he got super excited and needed to spend his pent up energy. I also remember the kisses he gave to each of our children when they needed consoling after the various hurts of childhood and adolescence.
Harry was one of a kind.
And now The Babies are four years old. Orry and Madeline, their real names, are unique dogs of their own with their own silly stories and their own individual personalities. Madeline has taken over Harry’s cubby that we had built into the back of one of our kitchen cabinets, and Orry takes up his daily post on the back of the sofa in the sun room where, just like Harry, he keeps watch over the squirrels and the cars that go through the neighborhood, and alerts us to everything happening outside our four walls that only a dog can see. Orry and Madeline only knew Harry for a short time, but he passed his wisdom onto them, and we see it everyday as they touch us with their unique perspectives and comical antics and their unbelievable capacity for unconditional love. It’s taken a long time for us to be able to say this, but we now love The Babies as much as we did Harry. And that’s not taking away from the legacy of one of the best dogs in the world, it’s a testament to Harry that he taught them well, and it’s a testament to God that He loves us so much that He created such amazing creatures for us to learn from and love.