Lessons from Herman: a dog’s life
My first baby, Herman Chetry Knowles, Boston Terrier… born Feb 12, 2002 — went to heaven recently.
For those who met Herman even once… he had your heart. He was a clown. He had a joy de vivre that made him seem almost human.
Yesterday morning I took him to the vet after he was panting and seemed unable to catch his breath. Not long after, he went into cardiac arrest and the doc said he was gone. I said “I have to see him. ” I didn’t want him to go alone with no one he knew around him.
When I went into room he perked up… he made it 30 more minutes. I held him, sang to him and told him about all of the ways we loved him. At one point he actually sat up on the table and licked my face. They couldn’t believe it. But his little heart was tired and he passed on.
He was as loyal as they come. Protecting the kids. Growling if anyone got too close to Maya’s bassinet when she was a baby. When we moved to new place, he would sleep in one of the kids rooms every night.
I love you Herman. The house seems so empty without you.
So I wanted to share with all of you the valuable lessons this little soul taught me in the 11 years God gave me with him.
Don’t let low expectations define you.
Herman was the runt of the litter. He was born weighing less than 2 pounds. Some thought he wouldn’t even make it. When I took him to a vet, they told me I should take him back. That even if he did make it, he’d be a sickly dog for the rest of his life. But he had such a little spark even then.
Running after all of his bigger sisters in the litter, keeping up with them. I took him home and he fell asleep between my legs for the entire car ride back from southern New Jersey to Manhattan.
He was so little he could sleep in my husband’s shoes. So little that we would sometimes lose him amid the piles of pillows on the couch.
But we gave him dodgy vitamins and showered him with love, fed him whatever he wanted and ironically, he ended up outweighing both his parents by 10 pounds. In fact, the lady we bought him from was astounded when I sent her pictures of him six months after we adopted him.
Life will hand you many curve balls…ride the waves, don’t fight the tide.
I could fill up a whole book with the antics of Herman, but I’ll just give you a few highlights.
This is a dog who was so little at first that he was able to slide out of his collar. One day he did so and ran into the elevator without me and the doors shut. I panicked. I had not no idea which floor he was on or where he went. I truly thought I would not see him again. We have my neighbors, we have the doorman,everyone frantically running up and down the floors trying to figure out where the heck he went. I called to him over and over willing him to bark so we knew where he was.
Then doorman hits the down button, the elevator opens and he’s sitting in the exact same spot he was when the door shut in the first place. He just refused to bark, guess he thought “she’ll find me when she finds me.
That same year he experienced the Manhattan blackout. In the total blackness and August heat, I was carrying him down several flights of stairs so that he could use the bathroom. I still remember his silly Boston terrier ears casting a shadow off the walls of the stairwell making him look much more like a bat than a dog.
A year later later, on the streets of Manhattan he licked something that caused him to have an allergic reaction. In fact his face blew up so big he looked like Eddie Murphy’s character in the Nutty Professor.
When Maya was born, he decided he needed a little bit more attention. So he began scooting across the floor as if he was paralyzed in his two back legs. Terrified, my best friend and I rushed him to the emergency room only to have him bound up and start licking the faces of the technicians and doctors the second we walked in. They looked at us like we were crazy and said “he’s fine”. I guess he just wanted a little attention that day.
Once we moved to the suburbs, he lived through the 2009 nor’easter in which the seawall surrounding our home couldn’t hold back the waters of the Long Island Sound. We were evacuated on a bulldozer by the local fire department. I had baby Chris strapped to me with the Bjorn, 3 year old Maya holding my hand and Herman in his cage shaking and looking very confused but going with the flow as the firefighters carried us out of our neighborhood on the scooper of the bulldoder.
Two years later we were evacuated yet again because of Hurricane Irene. This time we got out of dodge early but we went to a friends house who had a backyard pool. Herman lost his footing as he was trying to find a place to go to the bathroom and fell into the pool. Let’s just say Boston Terriers don’t swim. After my friend plucked him out, we wrapped him up in a blanket and he was very quiet for the rest of the night. A little survivor — who met life’s challenges with little drama.
Oh the amount of quotes out there equating dogs with loyalty. We see the heartbreaking photos of canines laying next to their fallen heroes when at war. We’ve seen dogs jump in front of bullets to protect their owners. The images of Hurricane Katrina victims refusing to leave their homes because they wouldn’t leave their loyal pets alone to drown.
Herman’s loyalty was certainly a little less dramatic but no less true. He was always there for us. People worry that when babies are born, dogs will react badly. I remember us bringing home a blanket and letting Herman smell it. Well turns out that was the last thing we needed to worry about.
We had Maya swaddled on the couch, Herman gently walked over to her, layed down and put his arm around her. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in my life. And ever since, he has adored her and her little brother Chris.
But he also taught me a lot about loyalty. He was a sickly dog at first as I wrote. He also had food allergies which required us to buy special, expensive food. And to be very vigilant about what he was able to eat. There were times when we didn’t feel like walking around in the freezing cold begging him to use the restroom but we did it because he was our dog. There were times when we didn’t go away, because we couldn’t bear the thought of boarding him. And as he got older and started running away on a daily basis, some people said to me “what a pain” why don’t you give him away. It certainly wasn’t fun, but that was my dog.
We never left him for long periods of time alone in the house. We would sometimes pass up doing things because Herman needed to be cared for as well. He came with us on every vacation, quietly sitting in his cage in the back of our van. He had his own stocking right by the tree like ours at Christmas. He was included in every family Christmas card even if the picture looked horrible because we had to get a decent shot of Herman. (Well that was before Photoshop).
As he got older, he would bark every time the doorbell rang even though the first 10 years of this life he never barked! I think he wanted to protect the kids and me and let us know that he was there. That’s why last night was so hard on me. The house felt so empty. The familiar snores of Herman laying next to me on the couch were gone. A piece was missing. This morning, I opened the fridge and the first thing I saw was his half empty can of dog food. And I burst into tears again.
You know there are some people who say “this is an animal, this is a dog, this isn’t a person, why are you so upset?”
Stay far away from those people.
You will never find the unconditional love that you find in a dog.
Herman, I love you.
Have fun in Heaven.
~ Courtesy of Kiran Chetry via The Huffington Post