This is a personal post. So if you have the patience to put up with it, I appreciate it.
If not, we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.
Three years ago today, our dog Hank died.
Those of you who have pets know how much it hurts when we lose one.
Those of you who don’t probably think the rest of us are crazy. But to each his own.
The circumstances surrounding Hank’s death were extremely tragic, and it still hurts to think about them, so I won’t go into great detail.
However, I will tell you this: the saga started on April 17, 2008, while I was out of town on a business trip (I’d headed to New York just that morning).
That evening, while about to start dinner with friends, I saw several missed calls from my husband, and a phone message saying I needed to call him “NOW.”
My husband never, never leaves me messages like that, so I started freaking out.
As soon as I got him on the phone, he told me Hank was in a bad way, and had taken him first to our vet, and then to the emergency vet in a neighboring town (since our vet doesn’t keep critically ill or injured pets overnight).
The whirlwind begins
Gone were my plans for work; I could think of nothing but getting home, and will always bless my friends who, seeing the utter state of panic I was in, started making phone calls to various airlines to see if there was a flight that would get me back to DC quickly… while also calling Amtrak and getting me into a cab to Penn Station.
It turned out that Amtrak was the best way for me to get back, so I managed to get a seat on the next Acela Express, and got home around midnight. It was the longest train ride I’ve ever taken.
My husband was exhausted, naturally. But that was nothing compared to what we’d go through the next couple of days.
Around 5 a.m. the next day (April 18), we got a call from the emergency vet, saying that Hank wasn’t doing too well, and did they have permission to start him on XYZ treatment.
Yes, of course, we said, and in fact, my husband had told them the previous night to do whatever they felt necessary regardless of the cost (the cost was why they called).
As soon as it was light, I started emailing and calling various colleagues with expertise and connections in the animal welfare world, to see what advice they could give me.
Our pet sitter was called into action to check on the other two dogs during the day, because we had no idea what we’d be doing, or if/when we’d be home.
Back to the emergency vet””because they don’t stay open during the day””to get Hank, who was still alive at this point, and take him back to our regular vet.
I’m no animal expert, but the one thing I could tell was this back and forth would kill Hank, if nothing else did.
So on the advice of a good veterinarian friend, we asked our regular vet for a referral to the nearest VCA animal hospital, which she gladly gave.
(The weird thing was that, I’d asked about specialty animal hospitals (which I was previously unaware of) while at the emergency vet, and the woman at the front desk mentioned VCA while also saying, “It’ll cost you $1,000 just to walk in the door.”
I remember thinking how odd it was that she would say that, when it was clear that we were desperate to find the best possible care for Hank.)
Off we went to VCA, my husband driving, me sitting in the back seat holding on to Hank and telling him to stay with us. It was one of the longest drives of my life.
When we got to VCA and I went to check Hank in, it was like something out of “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Talk about a sense of urgency.
They whisked Hank in as quickly as possible, and then we spent a few hours there while they assessed him, and started treating him.
Also thanks to my vet friend””who’d spent some time working at VCA a while back””we were given “special” visiting privileges, for which I will always be grateful. We were told we could come and go as we pleased; we didn’t have to abide by normal visiting hours.
And we were able to go in and see Hank for a bit as well.
After spending most of the day and, I think, part of the evening there, we went home. I’d call VCA every couple of hours if I didn’t hear from them and, God bless them, they didn’t mind at all.
And it was with a slightly lighter heart that we managed to doze off, because the last thing we heard from the vet on Hank’s case was that he was doing much better, and while she stressed that there was no guarantee, she sounded hopeful for the first time.
We actually managed to get some sleep.
And then, around 3 a.m. the next day, the phone call came.
Hank’s heart had stopped. They tried to defibrillate him, but it didn’t work.
When they were sure there was no hope, they asked our permission to take him off life support.
Hank was gone.
We headed back to VCA, and I will never forget the surreal quiet of that early morning.
Try as I might to keep calm, I started wailing when I saw Hank; wails I didn’t know I could produce.
My husband, who had always been Hank’s special person (and the feeling was mutual), comforted both of us.
We left VCA with a paw print of Hank, instructions on the cremation process, and came home.
My poor husband dropped into the sleep that comes with grief and exhaustion, but I couldn’t go to sleep.
So I did the only thing that made sense at the time.
I got online and emailed everyone who’d been in touch the last few days to tell them the end of the story, and to thank them for their help and consideration.
And then I got on Facebook, and created a photo album in memory of Hank.
I was crying (again) by the time I was done, but it was the only thing I could do at the time.
You see, I was barely on Twitter.
I didn’t have this blog.
But I had started using Facebook sparingly. So that’s what I did.
Maybe you’ll think it strange that that’s what I did.
But we all deal with loss in our own ways.
Some of us clam up and don’t talk about it.
Some of us find that it helps us to express our sorrow, even through social media.
I’m very glad that I did put up that photo album of Hank, because many of our family and friends who’d known him were upset.
And many of my friends and colleagues who hadn’t were equally upset, and it was a way for them to express their support.
It’s why I’m writing about Hank today.
There are no stunning social media lessons to be learned from this post. But it is another window into my life, for those who want to peep through.
After all, what better way is there for you to get to know me, and I you?
Isn’t that the whole point of social media… the point of connection?
So if you have read all the way through to the end of this post, I thank you.
If I lost you in the first few sentences, I don’t blame you.
Hank Bartholomew Burke.
He was the ultimate traveling companion.
[…] one of our dearly-loved pets died in horrendous circumstances – while I was in NYC for said job – he picked up the pieces. And he said, […]
@barryrsilver Are you kidding? I love hearing these stories! Thanks so much for sharing, seriously. So did you get Dino before you had your son? My parents had a dog before they had me (and I’m the eldest), and your story reminded me of what they used to tell me about Rebel (he was a black lab). Apparently he would sit underneath my crib and guard me fiercely. Only my parents would be allowed in, and one of the folks who used to help around the house… no one else. He too died far too young, tragically. I was about 6 when that happened, and I remember my dad being really broken up about it.
I’m so glad you have Gracie now, and what a lovely name!
@Shonali Glad you has it in you to bring another dog home, and that you didn’t have to lose your heart twice in a short period. It’s not always easy (so I’ve been told). Dino was a cross between a cocker spaniel and a lab, looked like a mini lab. He was so sweet, I used to leave my son in the bouncy seat on the floor when I showered before work in the AM. It was before we knew Dino was sick. He would just lay next to the bouncy seat, never even a cross look at my son.
After Dino, we waited til my son had grown and we added his sister and let her grow up. My wife did some research and found a beagle breeder that brings the pups in the house once born, so the dogs grow up around people and the rhythm of a house and kids. (My kids can be tough so, much as we wanted a shelter dog we felt it was best to know the dogs lineage for a line on behavior traits) We met Gracie when she was one month and brought her home at two months. That was four years ago and not a day goes by without her making us smile.
Thanks for asking about Dino. Sorry for the long answer to a simple question.
@HowieSPM Hey, I’ll never hold it against you (or anyone) for commenting “late” – I just am grateful when people care enough to comment, no matter when it is! That is something that nittygriddyblog has been teaching me as well, she is always so gracious and generous. Thank you, Howie!
@barryrsilver Thanks so much. What kind of dog was Dino?
Yes, we did adopt another basset a few months after Hank died. That was a complete stroke of luck – I used to work for the ASPCA at the time, and everyone there knew what had happened. I was in Pittsburgh, PA, for an offsite retreat, and one of my staff who was in NYC texted me that a basset had just come into the shelter, she’d been found wandering the streets of NYC, trailing a leash. She sent a photo of this cute red and white basset, named Lola. I immediately texted back: HOLD HER FOR ME!
So they did. We had to go through the usual adoption process, of course, and particularly agonizing was the weekend we drove up to NYC (after a trip to PetSmart that put us back about $400, LOL), to get Lola. While we were filling the paperwork out, they suddenly realized that the “hold” period wasn’t over – because she did have a microchip, etc., they were able to trace the registered owner and had to wait a certain period of time before they could adopt her out. You can imagine how disappointed we were, but that was the first day we met her, and she and my husband bonded immediately. Fortunately for us, no one claimed her, so we got her a couple of weeks later. And now she is quite the princess!
Thanks Shonali… so beautiful. I have kids and no dogs, YET because we have moved way too much. However, I am all too familiar with my friends and patients who have pets and how very like children they are. I am sorry for your loss. You were a mama to Hank! Happy Mother’s Day!
PS Gini led me here to cry!
Like HowieSPM I just saw your post via @ginidietrich. I am sorry for your loss but happy for you and your husband that you got to know Hank’s love. I was not a dog person before I got married, but my wife had Dino before me so Dino was part of the package. I was the lucky one. Dino was great. His time was done about 10 years ago, but I can still remember that last ride to the vet, crying my eyes out as we stayed with him for the euthanasia and the pounding headache I had when I had to return to work. In the years since we have brought a beagle into our family. She greats the kids every day when they come home and wants nothing more than to play or sit with us. The dedication of a pet is so hard to put into words, I’m glad you used pictures. Any new pets in you family?
Yep I was driving to Vermont to see the ballerina so missed this! So glad @ginidietrich posted this today. My condolences @Shonali . I know Death is part of Life. But that doesn’t make any losses easier.
I have fought against the RSS set up and I work weekends. Technically mon-tues’s are my least busy days now. But then I missed such a big blog post! Hugs!
@bdorman264 It’s incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I do think dogs are special that way, more so than many other animals.
@TheJackB Thanks so much. Dogs are indeed special people. Sometimes more special than people, no?
It’s the unconditional love they give; always living for the moment and never holding a grudge. That’s why they call them man’s best friend…………………just sayin’…………….
I am sorry for your loss. I have been there and am sometimes shocked how so many years later it sometimes feels raw to me. I blogged about it at the time and was surprised at how many people wrote me and how it did help to take some of the edge off of it.
Dogs are special people and I mean that exactly as I wrote it.
I’m so sorry to hear about Hank, and that I didn’t know about him until after you lost him. I’m one of the party that does NOT think you’re crazy. Growing up we had lots of dogs, some ran away and some died. And the most loss I felt was the one we had the shortest amount of town, the muttiest one of the lot, Lucky.
I was a teenager at the time and my parents took us to Disney World every summer. We got a call about mid-way through one year, telling us that Lucky had died. We were crushed. I remember crying and thinking it was stupid to cry over a dog. But he was one of the few souls who seemed to understood me and comforted me without fail whenever I was upset.
This doesn’t seem like a wasted social media post either. The biggest lesson I believe we have to learn from this medium is that we humans love to connect, that it’s an integral part of our humanity, that it’s futile for us to attempt to divorce all the connective parts of our lives into all these compartments.
Sometimes, sure, it’s useful to have standards on how we behave with animals vs humans, I believe that. I’m talking about the attempt to assign a different brand of love to the compassion shown to us by another soul due to the suit they show up in, or how much love we’re allowed to have for them because of that suit. Love is love. There are different types (motherly, daughterly, friend, lover) but are there different strengths? I think not.
@Shonali Thanks for sharing though……….I like Suzie Quatro too………she was one of them ‘wild’ girls…………:)
@bdorman264 “… it’s the internet; I don’t think anybody will see it………” – ha, famous last words!
That’s a neat story. Hank was already christened when he came to us, and it’s such a great name. When we got the others, we wanted really simple, “All-American” names for them too. So they became, in due course of time, Chuck and Suzy Q. Suzy also got the “Q” because I used to love Suzy Quatro when I was a kid. And now her middle name (all our dogs have middle names) is “Quinella,” because she’s such a little queen. Hank’s was, as you read, Bartholomew, and Chuck’s is Aloysius.
The basset we adopted after Hank passed was already named Lola, so we stuck with that. Her middle name is Elizabeth.
OK, TMI, I know. :p
@Shonali Nah, it’s the internet; I don’t think anybody will see it………
We had 3 dogs at one time and my kids were playing little league baseball so all the dog’s names had a baseball theme. Shortstop became ‘Shorty’. She was 10.
@TabithaEdwards Poor thing!
@bdorman264 Oh, “Shorty.” What a great name. How old was she?
And no, I won’t tell anyone that you’re just a big softie… though I think you just did!
@Lisa Gerber I feel bad I made you cry on the bus. :( How sad to hear about your loss too. When you go through something like that, everything becomes all fuzzy, doesn’t it?
When all this stuff was going on with Hank, I’d make notes as to his condition every time I talked to the vet. I still have those notes in my nightstand. Can’t bring myself to throw them out.
:) yep , he definitely is living it up !
@Shonali Unsightly, yes. It looked like her muzzle was all scrunched up. Her poor nose, ears and eyes were hot pink, and she was pulling out hair with her vigorous scratching! I’m assuming her future rabies shots will have to be followed up with Benadryl. Thankfully, we won’t have to worry about it for a few years!
Those are the tough stories to share. Because of their unconditional love and living in the moment, dogs are truly mans best friend.
My favorite dog was a little maltese names Shorty; about the same time as you were dealing with this I had to take her to the vet to be put down. It was very humane but I cried like a baby.
Life is precious and going through something like that lets you know how tenuous it can be at times.
Now you get to see a little of me; just don’t tell anyone however, because I’m the strong one, right?
This story broke my heart and made me cry unabashedly on the bus. oh boy. I’m so sorry about Hank. and I wish I had known him. he was a lucky dog to have such caring parents.
We had a tragic loss a few years ago. We flew to New Orleans and got the call the next morning from our dog sitter, and had to turn around and head straight back home. I remember vaguely that we bought a few pairs of tickets because we kept finding one that would get us home sooner. and I never did anything about all the un-used tickets. It was a very dark time and I don’t even like telling the story because it makes me so sad. So I’m with you! Amazing what how we can love our babies so much!
@rachaelseda Thank you so much. I remember when my husband’s uncle passed away very suddenly a couple of years ago, his Facebook page became a memorial wall of sorts. He’s still my FB “friend”… I don’t have the heart to “remove” him. Isn’t that weird?
@hackmanj Thank you so much, Joe.
@timepass “Buffy.” Love it! I’m so glad he got to move off the balcony and in with you. He must be saying, “This is livin’, kid.” (Apparently that was one of my late father-in-law’s favorite sayings.
@TabithaEdwards Wow, an allergic reaction to a rabies shot. That itself is scary… are you going to have to give her Benadryl every time she has to get the shot (I think they’re doing ’em in 3-year batches now, right?). Lola got stung by a bee once, and she didn’t break out into hives, but she was very uncomfortable. I imagine hives are very uncomfortable for them, not to mention unsightly!
@Shanan Thanks so much, Shanan.
I know exactly how this feels and you made a great point connecting it with social media. When a dear friend of mine passed away a couple years ago I was first mad that people were already posting things on Facebook and was frivolously calling friends to tell them personally before they found out from someone’s status update. But then after a couple days reading the posts, the good memories I had forgotten and seeing pictures I didn’t know exist be posted was helpful in the healing process. It was a place we could all come together and share in a life that had touched us all. Great post!
So sad, bye Hank sorry to never have met you but a quality animal like you has left quite a legacy. This is a special post Shonali, thank you for sharing your story. Our connections with pets can be extremely important to us, nothing about your reactions surprised me.
My heart just broke 10 times over. Sending much hugs and love your way today, Shonali.
@Shonali lol well Buffy is a lab ( sort off) and his previous owners were struggling to take care of him. Spent his first 6 months just sitting on a balcony , with not much exposure to other dogs, people etc. Since Buffy moved in with us, there’s been a complete change – startin to get used to people and other dogs. Still acts like a big chicken at times but is getting there. Other than that he keeps us busy with his antics :)
@Shonali I do. And I had such a scare a couple weeks ago with the dog I have now. She got her first year rabies shot and had an allergic reaction. I was panic stricken because I didn’t know what was wrong. It’s only been a couple years since I lost my last dog when he was far too young. Thankfully, it just took a shot and some Benadryl to remedy the situation – and I now know what hives look like on a dog.
@timepass Thank you for not minding that it had almost nothing to do with SM! I’d love to know more about your “bratty mutt,” as you call him, LOL. What kind of mutt? How old? Our other 2 dogs are mutts as well; Hank came to us from my brother-in-law, who adopted him from a basset rescue in California. A few months after Hank died, we got another basset (my husband grew up with them and for him, life is not complete without a basset) from the ASPCA (I was working there at the time). Lola, our “new” basset is awesome… but there will only be one Hank.
@TabithaEdwards Thanks so much, Tabitha. I shed a few tears while writing it as well. I bet you think of your doggie who passed all the time, don’t you?
Thanks for sharing, Shonali. Your story brought tears to my eyes. It was nearly two years ago that I lost my dog, who was only two at the time. It was devastating. My time with him was cut so short. He was my first pet after losing my special childhood dog, who passed away while I was in college. Today, I have an utterly spoiled puppy, and I treasure each and every moment with her!
Touching , thank you for sharing Shonali.
Makes me wanna cherish the time I spend with my bratty mutt! Just adopted him and already he’s turned my life upside down. And Im loving it!