For The Love Of A Senior Pit Bull Named Henry

For The Love Of A Senior Pit Bull Named Henry

I walked the aisles multiple times on that day in August 2018. I could have gone home with any of the dogs. All of them deserved a home or at least an award, simply for enduring the noise level at the kill shelter. With every treat I handed out, I added a mental medal. How scared they all were.
Yes, I could have gone home with any of them. All of them seemed like good boys and girls. Even the ones that appeared angry and unbalanced, would thrive, once outside of this hellhole, I was sure of it.
But I kept going back to the one I had seen online. The one with the amber eyes and a body that was emaciated down to the bones. The one that didn’t seem to care much about anything anymore until I approached his kennel for the first time. Henry.

I wish I had started writing about Henry earlier as so many people told me to. I wish I wouldn’t have been so busy battling my demons when it comes to putting down words on paper.
Henry deserved a voice. A platform to show off his kindness and resilience but now he is gone and no begging, pleading or bargaining with whoever or whatever runs this universe will bring him back. Trust me, I tried.
Most stories start at the beginning. This one begins at the end.

Henry died 40 days ago and I have been a complete mess ever since. I’ve lost interest in pretty much everything and I haven’t written a word until now. The irony is, writing is all I wanted to do for such a long time and I had only started to put it out in public shortly before he passed away.
After years of struggling daily, by denying myself expression, I finally allowed myself to write but unfortunately, it wasn’t about my dog.
This is me, trying again. None of these words can do him justice, I know that. Nothing ever will because I’ll never be able to include all of that he was but I have to honor Henry and at least some of our time together.
Until I’ve done so, I won’t be able to write about anything else. So here’s to my loving dog. Hopefully, the rest will follow.

The very first night Henry was with me he was clearly confused and what I didn’t know at that point yet, also in physical discomfort. All I could think of to make him feel better was to sing him a lullaby. He immediately smiled.
To him, it didn’t matter that I was off-pitch, strangled the melody, and missed words. He liked it and he showed it and I could feel Henry giving his heart to me.

Sleepin senior Pit Bull in a crate. he is smiling.
Henry’s first night. Picture by author.

Why a Pit Bull? Of all dogs, why would you choose a Pit Bull?
How many times have I heard the appall in people’s voices over the bond with my dog?
First off, technically Pit Bull is not a breed but only describes bully-type dogs but that’s for another time.
Secondly, I don’t know why. I don’t think I made a conscious choice. It’s just what I fell in love with. Maybe because they are beautiful, loyal, loving clowns and house hippos that fart and mlem a lot. Maybe because this particular dog needed help and would have been killed otherwise. Maybe because I can relate to being misunderstood.

I don’t know much about Henry’s history. The shelter said he came in as a stray. My vet said he must have had a rough life. He was a medical mystery and no one could really figure out how old he was either.
After he had his dental procedure done, I was told, the reason why his teeth were ground down, was most likely because he was held in a cage and that he started to gnaw on the steel rods, either out of boredom or to break free. Now I wanted to protect Henry even more.
I understand what it means to be unwanted. Not only by love interests and people in general but also by my own family. I’ve been bullied and exiled and I’ve been abused by people who called themselves my friends.
Henry was a sensitive soul. I think he knew we endured some of the same growing pains. Every day he showed me how grateful he was, that I was the person who would love him forever, no matter what. And the currency he paid me with will never lose value.

Loyal and gentle Pitbull looking at his owner with love
The look of love. Picture by author.

I have to remind myself of how lucky I was to have been able to bathe myself in Henry’s love. Have to remember how much I learned from him in the process of caring for him and all the gifts he’s given me.
I’ve felt useless on and off, for most of my life. I’ve felt like I take up space. Henry gave me a sense of purpose.
My life changed for the better because I walked into a kill shelter and rescued a dog that was old and sick. A dog that nobody wanted. His life mattered and he made me understand that my life matters too.
I am far from perfect. Sure, I love animals and I’m good to them and do as much as I can for the general animal welfare. I don’t eat them, I don’t wear them and I don’t use products that were tested on them.
It wasn’t until Henry came around that I realized I was more than that. I was worthy of his unconditional love and commitment. I wanted him and he wanted me, no questions asked. I was his family and he was mine.

I do have to remind myself of that and more because y’all… grief is a straight-up bitch.
You may be able to hit pause for the length of a TV show if you’re lucky a movie, but a quick flash of a certain picture that suddenly shows up on the screen or in your mind will rewind you back to what feels like the worst moment of your life.
Unfortunately, grief is a hypocrite. While it enjoys a good old-fashioned throwback there’s no fast-forward button. Nothing that can get you through a wave faster. No skipping of chapters or even paragraphs. No speeding up the pockets of agony, your heart tries to shield away from the rest of your being because it might kill you.
A dear friend of mine repeated a quote to me. If you’re going through hell, KEEP GOING.
How very true that is. The only way through it is through it.

Henry healed so much of me and I try my best to not rip open what he sowed up so neatly, with magic yarn spun from his loving spirit. He accepted me for who I am, with all my choices every single minute of the day and for four years he knew I only had his best interest in mind. So I’ll do my best to keep those shiny stitches in place and choose to believe that he also trusted that very last choice I made on his behalf.
A real love story never ends. Because love never ends. As much as it hurts, I am not shattered, as nothing that would come from Henry would intend harm or breakage.
And while it feels like someone dug up my chest and took my heart, I don’t think it’s broken, just sore. Sore from expanding because I loved, and have been loved by a dog.

pretty girl laying in bed cuddling with her senior bluenose pitbull

The rain is coming down hard today. The first time in such a way since Henry passed. He did not like the rain. He would hold his business forever in order not to have to go outside. Even when I bought him a little, yellow rain jacket, as soon as I opened the door and he realized there is water in the vicinity, he’d immediately make his way back up the stairs.
What Henry loved about the rain was hearing the drops fall on our roof and against the window panes. He’d be so quick to jump back into bed and start nesting.
Once settled down, and snuggled up under at least two or three blankets, he’d look at me, knowingly. He never had to wait for long until I followed to spoon and cuddle him. He was completely content to linger like that for hours. Henry was the happiest when in bed with me. And I was the happiest when he was happy.

So today, 40 days after Henry looked at me for the last time with those amber eyes, I watch the water pouring from the sky, and I fear, even if it rained for many more days, the heaviest and darkest of clouds could not compete with my sadness.
You’d think I hope for the rain to wash away my pain, just as it cleans and sweeps the streets Henry once walked on, yet I surrender and comply. For the love of my dog, I’d walk the walk of grief a thousand times more.

On September 29th, 2022, I sent Henry off with the same lullaby I had welcomed him with that very first night. And while he peacefully drifted away in my arms, he gifted me one last smile.

I cannot sail with you, be there to guide you
Or pilot your boat through the black of the night
But no ocean can keep you, no darkness can hide you
Away from my love and its undying light.

*Lullaby To Erle by Silje Nergaard


Originally published Nov 8th 2022 on Medium

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