They are always faithful. Our best friends. Dogs. They will love you and play with you until reaching the point of exhaustion. When it comes time to go, it breaks our hearts. Even as I sit here, it doesn’t feel real. My best buddy Henry! He went to all the effort to make sure I was always okay. He knew the right moments to come and see me. He always wanted to go on adventures. Terrified, he pushed through, always trying to stay with the pack. When they are gone, you go through all the times you could have been a better friend. You think why didn’t I spend more time? Why didn’t I feed them better? How could I ever fill the gap they left behind? The truth is you can’t, and all we can do is remember the best of them!
Home on R&R from Iraq was when I met Henry. We went to the pound on Fort Riley. There were dogs of all shapes and sizes. Designer dogs. Goofy pit bulls. Beastly rottweilers and dobermans. Of course, little tiny dogs. I walked past each kennel thinking, “They are all so cool.” How could I pick one? We had reached the end of the row, and the last gate sat the shaggiest long hair-looking sheepdog I had ever seen. He didn’t bark; he just sat there excited we were paying attention to him. I instantly knew he was the one. We brought him home. Henry took a year or so to adjust and grow out of his puppy phase. He did all the bad dog stuff you could think of. Chewed up shoes and got in the trash. He would get out of the yard and run up and down the sidewalk in front of our house, thinking it was a game. We were trying to catch him. He had no interest in going farther and the end of the street and back to the other end of the street. Once detained, he would go limp, and we would often have to drag this 60-pound limp dog all the way back to the house. Somehow he thought this was the greatest thing ever.
Fast forward 9 years or maybe 10, and I find myself in a sticky situation. I am now firmly in the Veteran category. I am an angry infantryman with questions that no one has the answers to. I am eating up every philosophy from stoicism to Hunter S. Thomson’s just another freak in the freak show mindset. I had no one to talk to. It isn’t easy, you know, to find someone to follow you down the rabbit hole of philosophical debate. I have to say! Henry, my dog, my best friend. He was always there to have those deep conversations with. I would explain to him. In a world of confusion that sometimes dogs gotta do dog stuff and, people had to do people stuff. Then he would wag his tail and look at me through the hair coving his eyes. Henry, in all these years, had become quite the guru. Maybe even being considered a philosopher himself.
Henry would follow me to the end of the earth. He very much loved adventure. He, on the other hand, was terrified of everything. Just going on a car ride caused him stress. Though when we were out. When we hit the trail, he would always be the first in line to go. He was always the last one who wanted to come home. I felt a bond with him in the fact that something always called us a little further. Somehow always wanting to keep walking. If we had set up camp, he would nudge our arms, trying to get us up and going for a walk. Henry would never go too far away from us, though. We would run up the trail just so far. Not out of sight. Then he would stop and wait for you to make eye contact. Then bound a little farther up the path. Maybe it was that henry knew the way. He had some cosmic sense of knowing the way. It is at all possible that he just wanted to go and go and go and never stop!
In the last year or so of his life. The excitement had wavered. He was getting tired. A rough and tumble life of running, swimming, climbing, and roughhousing had taken its toll. The poor dog couldn’t see or hear. I am not even sure if he knew where he was some of the time still though Henry loved us. Any moment he could be on the bed with us, or in the car or on any adventure, you just knew he wanted to be there. Fully present and loving every minute. A person takes all this for granted. You always think, ” I have all the time in the world to get around to playing with them.” Then one day, they’re gone.
On the 16th of April 2021. Henry walked out of the back gate that someone had left open, and that was it he was gone. The police officer who had collected him told us that he had been struck by a car. My heart sank. I peeked in the bag they had put him in, hoping it was the wrong dog. The officer asked me if we would like him to dispose of the poor pup. I said no, he is our dog, and we would take care of it. The next day we took him to a spot he particularly loved. We buried him under a mesquite tree. A typical place, he would dig a hole and lay on the cool dirt in the shade. We said goodbye’s and ended our memorial of Henry with a quote from Edward Abby.
If my decomposing carcass helps nourish the roots of a juniper tree or the wings of a vulture – that is immortality enough for me. And as much as anyone deserves.Edward Abby
If he could hear me, I would tell him. The house feels empty without him. The kids have no one to bark at them if they get too wild. I would let him know I will miss our conversations. Kat will miss the clicking of your nails as you tapdance around the room at 5 A.M. because you wanted out. I would ask him who will come and nudge my hand when I am feeling down or upset. Just to let me know they were there. I still feel like calling your name every time I get out of the jeep, and every time I walk by the back door, I think I see you standing there wagging your tail, waiting to be let in. Your bed is empty in the corner of the room, and Phantom, the cat, misses you. You were the only other living being he tolerated. Your pal Mic, the dog, looks for you every time he gets in or out of the car. Every time he comes to the house. I miss you, buddy! You will forever be in my thoughts!