Hank, Gidget

Dear Mark,

I wanted to thank you for writing Sprite’s story.

In 2003, my husband’s parents got divorced. It was an ugly battle, and their house was foreclosed on. Mmy husband and I were just dating at the time, he was still living at home, and out of necessity we moved in together. His dog of 13 years, Hank, also came to live with us.

As an avid dog lover, I absolutely adopted Hank as my little boy. He was a springer/aussie mix, dark brown, and was incredibly smart. He was definitely showing his age. About 6 months into us having him, he was having accidents on the floor, unable to hold it until we got home. The house we were renting had a doggie door and we taught him to use it – he picked it up in a flash.

Not long after we bought a home and again had a doggie door – Hank loved the freedom it gave him. He would sometimes just wander outside to sniff around, or wait for us to get home. He was my buddy – he got up early in the morning with me and just sat near me while I had my coffee. When my husband would tickle me, he would bark at him as f to say, ‘Hey, you leave my mom alone!’.

About a year after we moved into the new house, we noticed Hank’s back legs would give out on him and he had increased incontinence. Assuming arthritis was the culprit, we took him to the vet to get some meds. The vet had more serious news for us – Hank had neuromylepathy, a condition similar to MS in humans. His brain was no longer communicating with his back end. There is no treatment for this, no medication to make it better. Our options were to just watch him deterioriate, maybe give him a board on wheels to scoot around on, or put him to sleep.

We opted to wait and see, but Hank gave up. He stopped eating, stopped drinking. He would go outside to relieve himself only to fall down, unable to get up – in the hot Georgia summer sun. I was coming home from work every day at lunch to try and give him broth or Pedialyte, which I gave to him with a turkey baster, since he wouldn’t drink on his own. One week after our initial vet visit, we went to a child’s birthday party, knowing what was ahead of us that weekend. When we came home, Hank was outside, partially on the deck steps – he had fallen, and the temperature outside was in the 90s. We picked him up and tried to cool him down, but he finally looked at us with eyes that said, “I’m ready.” That evening, we took our sweet Hank to the vet and had him put to sleep. It was the single hardest experience of our lives.

In the days that followed, all I did was cry. My husband, having had him for 15 years, was remarkably stronger than me – he felt his time with Hank had been long and well spent, and while his pain was just as tangible as mine, he just did better than me. I cried in the mornings because of my loneliness – one day my husband found me crying in my closet as I got ready for work. When I told him how lonely it was in the mornings for me without Hank, he got up early with me every morning so I wasn’t alone. One night he tickled me and I went to yell for Hanks’ assistance, which reduced me to tears. I, too, swore it would be months before we could get another dog. I didn’t feel like I was prepared to love another dog yet. As it turns out, I was wrong.

About a month after Hank passed away, my husband and I agreed the house was too quiet. We researched both sides of Hank’s breeds and discovered it was the Springer in him that we loved the most. And so we began the adoption process with Springer Rescue of America.

After 3 weeks of applications, phone interviews, and home visits, the Springer people lead us to Gidget – a black and white, 1 year old field bred springer – with a penchant for chasing cars, birds, and squirrels. I was hesitant – she seemed really unbalanced to me. My husband had to have her immediately.

Going from a 15 year old dog to a 1 year old was quite an adjustment! I didn’t realize that we had a 15 year old dog lifestyle – we didnt walk Hank because he couldn’t handle it, so we lounged around with him. Gidget isn’t having any of that! We walk her twice a day for at least 30 minutes; she plays with a gusto that I haven’t seen in a long time; she is still very much a puppy and doesn’t understand her size. But she is sweet, loving, and cuddly and we adore her.

Recently we both started having dreams with both Hank and Gidget in them. We think it’s Hank’s way of saying that he likes her and he accepts her. He was an amazing dog, and though he was only mine for 2 1/2 years, like your Sprite he made the biggest impact on my life that he could in that short time. I miss everything about him on a daily basis, more than a year after his passing, but Gidget has certainly helped to heal those wounds.

Thank you for sharing your story – I like to think that all of our dogs are in heaven, having a great time playing together.

Jen from GA