A dog named Harry

There are some infamous phone calls you never want to receive. Like the one from the principal of your kid’s school, announcing all manner of bad behavior. Like the one from your doctor’s office to say don’t bother looking for a letter in the mail to say everything is fine after a test/scan/biopsy, because it’s not fine. Like the one from your best friend at bedtime on a Thursday night saying your dog, who he’s watching, seems to be dying on the living room rug.

Of those three infamous phone calls, the first example is the only one I’ve not received. On April 26, 2010, I got the call from the doctor’s office saying we need to see you ASAP because the breast biopsy results don’t look so good. And tonight, I got the call from Ed to say that Harry, sweet-crazy-loyal-kookoo-devoted-amped up Harry, was dying. 

Ed was kind enough to let Harry stay at his house for a week while our little piggie convalesced after being spayed. The old boy had been slowing down of late, for sure, but I certainly didn’t think he was that close to death, and by the time he made it apparent, both of my kids were in bed sleeping and Trevor is out of the country, so rushing over to Ed’s to be by Harry’s side as he breathed his last breath wasn’t an option.

I’m going to try really hard to not feel guilty about that.

And I’m going to try really hard to not feel eternally indebted to Ed for comforting sweet, old Harry in his last few minutes of life while giving me the play-by-play on the phone.

Harry was a sweetie. Crazy, but sweet. I wrote about his habit of snatching food here and about the trials & tribulations of his nervous stomach here. I’m sure that many thoughts and memories of Harry will come as the shock and sadness become fully realized in my brain. I’ll be calling upon the gods of parental wisdom as I break the news to my kids, who haven’t seen their big dog in a week and who likely hadn’t noticed how much he was slowing down, how rapidly he was aging. 

Leave it to crazy old Harry to die in a manner that is both the least troublesome to me yet the most complicated: at someone else’s house, out of my sight so the visuals don’t becoming permanent, searing bad memories; yet at a time of night that leaves me utterly clueless as to what to do.

I was already mentally rearranging my day tomorrow, so that I could go pick him up after getting the kids off to school and take him to the vet. Since his back legs went out just before he died, I assumed I’d have to carry him — all 60 pounds of him — into the vet so that he could be put down. Been there, done that, and while it’s certainly not pleasant, I personally feel a responsibility to my animals to be there, in the room and stroking their soft fur, as the vet administers first the sedative that calms them then the lethal dose that stops their old, sweet, full heart. Not saying that’s the right thing for everyone who finds themselves in that situation, but that it’s right for me.

I fully expected that that’s what I’d be doing tomorrow — standing next to Harry, who joined our family shortly after the crushing loss of my first and best dog Maddy, as our longtime vet reassured me that it was time and that putting him down was the right thing to do, before the suffering became too great and the indignities of a proud alpha dog became apparent to the rest of the pack. I expected to hold his white-with-age face in my hands and look into his brown eyes, speaking softly to reassure him that he’s ok, that he’s a good boy, that he’s loved. 

Instead, I will try not to wonder if he would have lived a little longer had he been at home, in his own environment. I will try not to regret that he spent the last few days of his life in his home-away-from-home instead of in his real home, surrounded by the two little kids who love him with all their hearts. I will try to figure out how to act normal for those two little kids in the morning, knowing that as soon as I see them off to school I will have to start thinking about what to tell them when they get home. I will try to reassure myself that it’s cruel and disruptive to tell them their dog died then send them off to school, that waiting until they’re home and at the start of a weekend is best.

And I will remember the day we picked him out at the Houston Humane Society.

Because of our love of the Harry the Dirty Dog series of books, Macy — age 4 — wanted a dog named Harry. How delighted we were to find a dog named Harry who greeted us with a wagging tail, a sweet face, and eyes that seemed to ask if we wanted to play.

Goodbye, Harry boy. You’re ok. You’re a good boy. You are loved.

21 Comments on “A dog named Harry”

  1. Renn says:

    Pink, this is so sad, I’m sitting here crying. I’m so sorry. I hope you get some sleep tonight and the wisdom fairy visits you with the perfect explanation for your children in the morning.

    What a beautiful dog.

    One thing you can count on in this life: It’s complicated.

  2. Trevor Hicks says:

    I’m reading this on the train from Utrecht to Rotterdam and all the Dutch ladies around me must be wondering why that stupid American is crying. that was a lovely tribute to the old boy. I always said I wouldn’t miss him when he was gone but maybe I will just a little.

    Thanks for being miss super-capable handle everything super momma while I’m away.

  3. Eddie says:

    Thanks a lot. I made it through last night without crying, not by much I’ll admit, but I did. Now the tears are rolling. Harry was a good dog who often seemed to be trying to avoid being a bother, as if he felt he didn’t deserve the good life you have given him. And he had the softest furry face I ever had the privilege of scratching.

  4. billgncs says:

    may his memories stay bright in your heart.

  5. Barb Fernald says:

    Aww, I’m sorry for your loss. This sounds like a tough one.

  6. David Benbow says:

    Jenna was just asking me about Harry yesterday. My heart goes out to your family. As I’ve said before, no one loves you like a dog does, and losing a beloved dog is one of the hardest things there is. Big hug.

  7. I can’t read this. To be honest, I started to, then just skimmed past trying not to really see the photos. It’s still too soon after saying goodbye to my own boy, Goliath, for me to read about your loss. Please know, my thoughts and hugs are with you during this very sad time. We sure do love our dogs, don’t we? Let’s imagine they’re running and romping together, young and healthy. xoxo

  8. Tamara Kay says:

    Oh…no. As soon as I read the title of your post, I knew. I was just thinking this morning about our own elderly-ish dog, so the thought’s never far from my mind these days, either. I am so sorry. Gosh, it’s so hard. I’m a big believer in not letting my animals without me, too. I’m also a big believer in when I need to cry, I need to cry. Again, I am so sorry. I know this is hard.

  9. Wendy Langley says:

    I am so sorry to hear about Harry. I know how it feels to be watching someone’s elderly dog when he passes as well as having to put to sleep my own elderly dog. Both are heartbreaking. So glad that he was with such a good friend. Good job, Ed.

  10. elizabeth connolly says:

    Oh Nancy , I am so sorry about Harry. I am so glad Eddie was with him if you couldn’t be . I am going to miss him when we come in a couple of weeks. No I am not a dog lover but I had a soft spot for Harry. Perhaps it was the name or the fact that he always seem to be barking and running around after some thing that no one else could sense but he knew something was there. Love

  11. Oh, Nancy, I’m so sorry to learn about Harry. I know what it is to have a beloved dog pass away. My childhood collie Skeeter did just that, and I expect that the two dogs in my household that I will never see again will have the same fate in a few years. They show such unconditional love, so much faithfulness. We can learn tons from these treasures from heaven. May he rest in peace, knowing how loved he is. XX

  12. Susan says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your beautiful dog. Hugs to your sweet kids, too. It would be nice if life didn’t have to be so hard sometimes.

  13. Jody Hicks says:

    I happened to be at the computer at the time your blog came up, so read it right away, but I was so choked up I didn’t know what to say. Still don’t, but wanted you to know that your tribute brought tears to my eyes, and am so sorry not only that Harry is gone, but that the timing was so awful, with Trevor being so far away and your inability to be with Harry in his last moments. I’ll certainly miss him next time we visit. He wasn’t Maddy, but he was close, at least every time we saw him.

  14. they are so much a part of our life…daily love, love, love…in licks and wags!

  15. […] my side for the big event. Unfortunately, the excitement was clouded by sadness from the unexpected death of our sweet dog Harry.  Because he died late Thursday night, I made the executive decision to not tell my kids until after […]

  16. Shannon says:

    Beautiful tribute to a lovely family member. I’m so sorry to read of this.

  17. […] I love Bingo for that, and also because she has the softest face, which reminded me of my sweet Harry. And because she likes to sleep all the way under the covers, which reminds me of our little […]

  18. […] Dog Ever in the History of the World. I have never blogged about Maddy. I’ve blogged about Harry and about Pedey, but not Maddy. It’s not because I don’t love her as much as I love […]

  19. This piece of writing gives clear idea in support of the new
    visitors of blogging, that truly how to do blogging.

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