My journey of losing a beloved family pet and finding a new purpose as a foster dog mom.
When I met my now-husband in 2009, I knew after our first date that he was the man I was going to be with forever. One of the things that made me *absolutely* certain, was meeting his 1-year old puppy, Salty. Over the past 10 years, the three of us shared numerous camping trips, spent days at the beach, hours tubing down the river, and did almost every other possible dog-friendly hobby you can think of. Salty was at our wedding, came with us on our honeymoon, and helped us make our first house a home. We called her our baby. Last summer she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer that eventually grew so large it took over her throat, closing off air supply. She passed away right before Valentine's Day in my husband's arms in his truck as he rushed her to the vet.
“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”
—Roger Caras, photographer and writer
Three days after her death, we were driving down to Moncks Corner to visit my brother, taking the beautiful farm-lined back roads when we came upon an emaciated stray dog eating trash on the side of the road. I pulled over and my husband got out of the car, the dog came right up to him and lay down on his back in the middle of the road begging for belly rubs. My husband picked him up and put him in the back seat where he sat calmly just sniffing the fresh country air that was streaming in from the cracked windows. We took him to the Berkeley Animal Shelter about 2 miles from my brother's house. He was heartworm positive, covered in ticks, and was about 25 lbs underweight. We could not stop thinking about this dog. Our house felt so lonely and quiet without our beloved Salty.
After days of calling and checking up on the stray, he was finally released and we immediately drove back down to pick him up. The shelter set us up with paperwork to be fosters, and gave us a bag of blankets, treats and toys for him. Since we were so close to my brother's house, we took him there with us and put him in the fenced-in backyard. While we were eating dinner, I went to check on him only to find out he had escaped. We could not figure out HOW in the world he was able to do so, as the fence is 6 feet tall. Thankfully he did not get far and was just sniffing around in the neighbor's yard. He came running back to us and we later went back inside. He escaped again, so we decided it was time to go home. My brother called him a tank as we discovered he was just pushing the bottom of the fence so hard he was able to free himself. Later, the name morphed to Hank.
“Dogs are better than human beings because they know but do not tell.”
—Emily Dickinson, poet
Fast forward to the next week, we went to my in-law's house for a few hours and when we returned home, Hank greeted us at the front door even though we had been crate training him for the past few days. Yes, he had bent the metal kennel enough to squeeze through, yet nothing in the house was damaged whatsoever. That was his last time in the kennel and he's been doing great ever since. He's the most docile, sweet and loving dog I've ever met, a 60 lb lap dog. We're working on simple commands and vocabulary and he's catching on. He will start his heartworm injections later this month, and until then, he will continue to heal the holes in our hearts. Grieving a family pet is not something to take lightly, but Hank has a way with making things a little brighter.
If you adore dogs as much as I do, check out this book list created for fellow dog lovers!
If you have any children in your life, don't miss Read to a Dog, where children can practice reading to a real life service dog who will never judge.