Earlier this year my book I Chose You came out and it’s been well-received. I love that forty-forty people shared their stories with me about their special rescue pup. Yestersay my friend shared this status on her Facebook page.As a tribute to Kareen and Hank here’s her story from the book. I Chose You, Imperfectly Perfect Rescue Dogs and Their Humans is available at Amazon.com. Thank you to Kareen for letting us to meet Hank.
“Attention Hank Lovers: It is with deep sorrow I inform you that Hank left this earthly life on the morning of Christmas Eve. Hank was the epitome of unconditional love. He was strong, resilient, a big hit with those who encountered him during our many walks, and so very loyal. He loved me like no other creature on this earth, a love I did not deserve. Jeff and I were with him till the end.”
“When the dog looks at you, the dog is not thinking what kind of a person you are. The dog is not judging you.”
— Eckhart Tolle
I am coming out of the not-a-dog-lover “closet.” Before you judge, however, stick with me. Because Hank would.
So this morning, as is typical since our move into a different home almost a year ago, Hank’s claws clicked and scratched against the floor because it’s hard for him to navigate his feet on our flooring. And since he has only three legs, the sound is both aggravated and aggravating. And he is always sitting under my feet, in my way. I get angry because I am inconvenienced by him.
But then empathy begins to creep in as I realize that he did not choose to be born into this world. My daughter, Kathryn, chose him, and we inherited him. He had no say in the decision. He had no say in our choice to move to a new city, taking him away from the constant freedom he had access to.
Hank, our three-legged cojack (half corgi, half Jack Russell terrier) can’t help how he smells—his dog breath or the stench embedded in his fur after he’s dug around in the earth. He can’t help that his instincts lead him to chase after animals; to occasionally kill innocent ones like adorable bunnies and ugly opossums; to eat disgusting things; to retrieve carcasses as trophies; to bark relentlessly when he sees a dog; to vomit and then eat it again; to mark his territory as often as he can; to constantly make annoying smacking noises with his tongue.
He can’t help that he sheds dog hair everywhere. He can’t help that he wasn’t wired to dwell in the past so he can’t remember previous moments that didn’t work out well for him or for us. He can’t remem- ber how stupid and dangerous it is to chase after cars and to antago- nize skunks. He doesn’t remember how angry I got when I tripped over him and knocked down several wall hangings and injured my knee and arm—when I felt at the moment that I wanted nothing more than for him to be gone.
He doesn’t remember that we tried unsuccessfully to rehome him with a true Hank-lover shortly after we moved here. Suffice it to say that it didn’t work out. Yep, we’re stuck with him, and he with us.
Hank just is. He never complains. He’s just present. Always pres- ent. Always eager to see me. Always following my footsteps. Back and forth and back and forth again. Always loyal. Always anticipating a chance to go out on an adventure—something that happens few and far between, anymore. But he doesn’t whine about his less than desirable plight. He accepts his circumstances. He adjusts. He waits. And he is astronomically resilient.
Miraculously, in spite of my negative feelings toward him, he loves me. His love is immense, total, and ever present. He is my teacher. And I have been his reluctant student. And in spite of how much Hank drives me crazy, once he leaves this world, I know I will shed tears, because the memories of our good times will overshadow the negatives.
And his ever-constant love will cover a multitude of my sins. Even now, as I think about Hank, who is sitting under the table as I type, the tears well up. Yes, he is both a gift and a curse. And that is what life is and who people are. This year, I am awakened to the concept of integra- tion like never before. Happiness and contentment are more accessible when I eradicate all-or-nothing thinking and embrace the co-existence of the good and the bad. And Hank.
That’s the deal.