Henry’s death is hitting me hard.
We’ve lost dogs before, and I grieved for them every time, but this one is a deeper hurt that any of the others. The ones we lost before Henry had been barely born, or they were old and had long and happy lives behind them. Even Sam, my Golden Retriever who died accidentally back in 2002, was nine years old and had lived almost a full life. Henry hadn’t even come into his own as an adult dog yet—he was barely three, and still infused with the vigor and hotheadedness of youth.
I can’t really pinpoint what hurts the most about his untimely death. It’s the sum of all the contributing factors, I suppose. Part of it is the speed of his decline. There was no time for me to even prepare for the possibility that he might not come back.
Part of it is the bond I had with him. He was truly my dog, and I was his favorite human, and he loved me deeply. Sitting in this chair, I won’t ever see him rounding the kitchen corner again and then just taking a quick sprint and an effortless leap into my lap (whether I was working or not), for the customary expression of love where he tried to merge his face with mine and nip at my nose.
Part of it is the way in which we went. I was there at the end, but I will always hate the fact that he got to spend the last two days of his short life in a place he didn’t like, with people he didn’t love. I should have been with him then.
Part of it is the knowledge of all the time that was taken from him. After having suffered through this winter with the rest of us, he won’t get to experience spring again, won’t get to lie on the warm patio stones with the other dogs and joyfully bark at passing bicyclists and joggers. We won’t get to walk out in the autumn air again, just him in his chest harness and me holding the leash and letting him map the world with his nose.
The house is much too quiet now. All the activity that used to annoy me a little when I was trying to work—the scurrying, the probing of cabinet doors for an unlatched one, the patrolling of the kitchen for dropped food—all of it has ceased. The three remaining dogs are snuggled up in front of the pellet stove and quietly napping. Little Ygraine keeps looking for her playmate and protector on occasion, and it breaks my heart all over again because we got her as a companion for him, and he’s gone, and she will be all alone when the two old dogs are gone too.
I have a deadline, so I have to go back to work and write, and maybe it will take my mind off thinking about my little buddy, who will never sit on my lap and look out of the window for squirrels again. But I go back to work with a broken heart. It will come back together in time, as it usually does, but a piece of it will be gone for good, and it will have the shape of a stout, happy, smart, and loving black-and-red dachshund.