Thursday, December 6, 2012

Goodbye Hannah

Our kids had a fabulous team of teachers in the third grade at Highland Park Elementary. Those teachers could do anything! Except for one really hard thing. The teacher who read aloud to them did such a great job. Until she came to the part in the story where she needed the other teacher to read for a while. The part where the dog died.

A great story is one that helps us wrestle with the hard questions in life. Like how to go on when we are covered in grief. Like how to come to terms with the loneliness we feel when lose a friend or family member. And because dogs are such perfect examples of a loving friend and family member, many of the really great stories we read as youngsters deal with the death of a dog. Like, Where the Red Fern Grows, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Old Yeller.

It was about the same time our son was in third grade that it seemed like one hard thing after another was happening in the lives of my circle of friends. We even made a dark humor joke about it. We would tell of the struggle, and then someone would say,  "And then the dog died."

There are people who own dogs. I've owned a few. Dogs who came and went without a lot of impact. But then, there are dogs who own people. And I've been owned by a few. The first time I ever saw my dad cry was when we had to put down our beloved Spotty when I was a kid. Spotty owned our whole family. Smart, funny, loving...a lot like the Boxer girl, Lucy, who owns Bob and I now.

 My sister in law and her husband were owned by a beautiful, funny, smart Golden Retriever named Montana's Hannah Banana who died yesterday. Some people can't understand how the death of a dog can be so tough. It's only a pet, they say. But if they say that, they have not experienced that little piece of heaven on earth that is the unconditional love of a dog. It isn't just the smiley faced dog grins, the efforts to respond to us and please us. It is the also the way dogs make us better people. We have a deep desire to care for a dog who loves us, to make their lives good, too. Hannah had a wonderful life. Her people did a really good job of appreciating the gift they were given in a dog who loved them. They will miss her so much. Because they lost a friend and a family member. Goodbye, Hannah. Good dog.


  1. This is lovely, Judy, and all so true. I'm sorry for you and your family over Hannah's passing. Reading your post brings up my sadness over the loss of one of this world's greatest dogs. Buddy often came into the home salon where I got my haircut. A mixed breed, Buddy was a huge guy with a heart as golden as his color and huge as his frame, corny as the words may sound. His eyes haven't looked right for about a year. His big body wasn't doing real well. The last time I saw him he only came by me for a quick sniff and walked off, intent on finding a spot to lay those weary bones down. But I called him back, asked for a kiss. Immediately, Buddy came back, slurped my face, and gave me a minute for a little more coddling before plopping down to rest. Silently, I told him some things about the hereafter. The following week, I had an uncomfortable feeling about him, but I was out of town for a couple of weeks and couldn't arrange to see him. When I returned and went in for a haircut, Buddy was gone. It seems like it should be strange to grieve for a dog I saw a few times a year for seven years. Your blogpost helped draw out my feelings as I recognize a self-limiting 'should' was shutting them away. Buddy owned me too, in a distant way.

  2. Thanks, Mary. Here's to Buddy and Hannah!

  3. . . . and then there is Fred. Fred was a wonderful dog (charPei- the kind without too many wrinkles) but he got this cancer that was inoperable in his belly. It was sad but I was determined to give Fred one wonderful special meal before taking him to the vet to go to doggy heaven. I went to the local bbq and got a special order of bbq tips/ end cuts. Went to serve it to Fred but he could not eat it. I could not give Fred the extra special meal I had intended. I ended up giving him a warm sensitive big hug and just said buddy I love you. I'm sorry you've got this cancer in your belly. I was very sad. Fred, I think, actually understood I was trying to do something extraordinary special for him. He smiled all the way going into the last door at the vetenarians. God Bless you Fred. Dad