A Girl’s Best Friend

Posted: September 20, 2015 in Life
Tags: , ,

Henry is 12.

I forget that sometimes.

He came into my life the summer before my senior year, and quickly became a member of the family. Perhaps I forget how old he is because time has flown by so quickly I hardly remember how old I am now. After all, I wasn’t even old enough to vote when I got him, and now I’m pushing 30.

Perhaps the bigger reason is because much of what I love about him has remained the same. When the weather gets nice we get to go on walks. Henry tells me when its time to go, anxiously anticipating the fun time he’s going to have sniffing everything in sight. It starts with the stare down, and as soon as I say, “Let me get my shoes on,” he goes crazy, barking and rushing around with excitement. He doesn’t stop until the leash is on and we are outside. Then all bets about the pace are off, because he needs to stop and sniff EVERYTHING.

Typically I’m on a time crunch, and we go two blocks at most. To be honest, that can take a half an hour if he’s really involved in what he’s sniffing. The only good thing about his one track mind is he often ignores birds and other wildlife, so no fear of him tearing off and ripping the leash out of my hand. He used to perk up when he encountered a dog, but his sight is going and his hearing must be as well. Dogs can pass Henry by and half the time he doesn’t even care.

Sometimes I have a day with nothing planned, and then we can go on an adventure. We cross any street Henry deigns is necessary in his quest to sniff out new life and new civilizations. Today was a popular day for walks, as the summer weather has softened to the mellow warmth of fall, and we encountered people out and about. A few of them left some nuggets of wisdom with me, and it compelled me to write this.

Halfway through our walk today we met a woman with her little Shih Tzu. The cute little guy was so excited to meet Henry. Henry was more interested in the grass, but gave the dog a sniff on the nose and was done. The woman walking with her complemented Henry’s “cute little face”. As always when words of “how precious” or “how cute” are doled out upon him I reply in a way I feel captures his very nature. “He likes to think so.” (Yes, my dog is adorable and he knows it. It’s how he gets away with everything.)

The woman then said something that struck a cord. “Isn’t it amazing how they just take over your life?”

Yes. Yes it is. Henry has become so ingrained in my everyday life that I sometimes find myself altering plans to suit him. Around 10:00 at night he gives me the look telling me it’s time to go to bed, and I go. Sometimes it is simply the destination that he requires, and I can stay up late reading as he sleeps. Other times when he tells me to go to bed he means it, and will be very harsh with me until the light is off. In the morning he tells me it’s time to get up and eat.

“Can I sit in bed a little longer?”
“No,” he tells me. “I’m hungry and I need to use the facilities outside. You have to get up now.”

Sometimes his desire to sit with me plays at my heartstrings and I set aside the work I’m trying to get done in favor of spending time with him. Of course, this is often a result of his demands bordering on terrorist efforts as he will stare, bark, and whine until he gets his way. No one can get anything done under those conditions.

I feel guilty when I’m the last person home and I have to leave him. “Dad will be home in a couple hours,” I tell him. “You won’t be alone for long.” I shouldn’t feel guilty, but I do. I feel as though I’m abandoning him.

This guilt becomes more prevalent as I take up residence in another city. He’s my family’s dog. We’ve had him for 12 years. He sneaks into my bed at night and greets me when I get home. Yet the time comes when a person needs to move out, and I hate leaving him. I can see the betrayal on his face after I’ve been away for a week and come home to visit. The first week he was happy to see me. The next he feigned indifference. “Oh, it’s you. The person who leaves me when they are supposed to love me. Did you know that I went looking for you in your room last night? You weren’t there. Mom told me you weren’t, but I thought she was lying. She wasn’t. You’re going to leave me again, aren’t you…”

The sting of my betrayal mends as I stick around the house, take him for a walk, and do the things I normally did when I lived with him. But I know that this evening I have to go back to my new home town, and I will once again have to say, “goodbye”. I’ll pet his head, and tell him how much I’ll miss him. Henry will just look back at me with the same dark brown eyes he always has.

A man on our walk today said, “Is that a Westie? I once had a really good friend who was a Westie.”

“Yes,” I answered. “He is really good.”


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