Started a week and a half after losing Hank, on the afternoon of my first Sunday with Tate (Sunday, 9/18/16), and completed today (Wednesday, 10/18/16) –
While singing one of the hymns at church today about God’s mighty power, I became overwhelmed by the realization of what restoration He’d brought me over the course of just one week.
Just one week prior – Sunday, September 18th – had been my first day home alone; Jordan was at the firehouse and Hank was gone. I woke up alone. Still dead in my sadness. My grief. And on that Sunday I cried and cried as I sat alone in the pew, praying and begging God to HELP! in the midst of my broken singing.
This Sunday – September 25th – tears streamed for different reasons. I realized He truly had answered my prayers. He had heard my cry for help, had seen my tears, and had understood my broken heart.
A week ago today, last Sunday night, I couldn’t sleep. Without Hank, I heard all the noises of our home that I had never known existed. I cried, and I cried. Uncontrollably. I missed Hank. I felt scared without him. I felt lonely without him. I felt empty without him. And all the while… I had such horrible images of his last moments with his paws in my hands stuck in my head. Earlier that same Sunday I had blown up the print of his nose for the bottom of our stairs, and started making coasters with the copies I made of his paw prints. I framed pictures, I took note of memories – and all of that helped, it did – but at night, at night the image kept finding me. And the guilt too… the guilt of how much better he showed me his love, than I had shown him mine.
That night while at the firehouse, my selfless husband took the time needed to calm his wife. Over the phone, he was able to talk me down… and eventually to sleep, but not before mentioning the idea that maybe bringing another pup home would truly help me heal.
Earlier in the weekend he had been searching online for suggestions on ways to grieve the loss of a pet – and how to also recover – when he came upon the following words from www.petlosshelp.org:
The motivation and timing to invite another animal into your life is very personal. There is no right or wrong way to consider this. Some people need the spirit of animal around them and feel a reduced quality of life without their presence. The capacity to love and deeply appreciate the profound contributions of sentient beings does not end with their death. It can leave an aching void in an empty heart that nothing else will satisfy.
It is not disloyal to the life of your departed pet to give shelter to another of his brethren, but a way to further honor his place and that of all animal in our lives. Nothing and no other creature will ever replace the experience of your beloved friend. But the heart does not permanently contract with loss. Thankfully, there is no end to the capacity of the human heart which expands again with the glory of renewal.
Some people, feeling the agony of loss, think they could never go through this again and vow to never adopt another animal. But once discovered and celebrated in the soul, the capacity and need to love an animal does not disappear. There is always the future chance that some other sentient being will move you to offer a home. Decide to not decide during this difficult time when perspective is clouded by grief. When the time is right, the eyes of some sweet and knowing creature may capture you again.
We began to search every online rescue site possible. We determined that we weren’t going to choose “just any dog” but would rather only bring one home when AND if we – the BOTH of us – felt that it was truly meant to be. Neither of us could handle completely black labs or shepherds, especially if they had the same white spotting as Hank – as for some reason, they led us to remembering Hank in a painful way. We DID want a dog that had attributes similar to Hank’s – just… not too similar. And we wanted a pup that we knew with confidence had great potential to be the kind of dog Hank was – a GREAT dog. We wanted to honor Hank – not continually mourn him.
As we scrolled and scrolled for hours and days, only one pup’s name began to pop into regular conversation – The name that belonged to this guy:
His smile in this picture, ALONG with his description: “a social, attention grabbing love bug who enjoys a high energy style of play with other dogs… is also very smart, enjoys learning, and will respond well to training… He actually taught himself to open the latch on the gate… Along with his full of energy personality, Tate will take time to snuggle up on your lap and loves a chest rub… will be an awesome guard dog that will protect his owner and surroundings” placed a tug on our hearts, and also made us laugh aloud on – what came to be – regular occasions over the course of the next couple of days. Jordan even began to bring up Tate’s name and potential future stories related to his online description as a way to make me laugh in between tears over Hank.
As mentioned in previous posts, on my blog, and other outlets, I had begun searching online for further encouragement every morning and every evening… from people who could truly understand – and on one of the mornings after finding Tate online (the Saturday before my first Sunday home alone, to be exact), I came across this poem:
It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them, and every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough all the components of my heart will be [that of] a dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are.
The following Monday, Jordan emailed Tate’s foster mom and I followed up by beginning to fill out the application for us to meet Tate. Within 24 hours, we received a phone call explaining that both Hank’s veterinarian and my post about his passing led her to wanting us to meet Tate as soon as possible. We set a meeting for the following Wednesday, and the prayers began. Prayers for CLARITY. For courage to walk away if the timing was wrong and we were selfishly just trying to mend our own wounds, and unexplainable knowledge if it was *truly* The Right Thing.
Throughout this mess of a time, my dad sent me words of such encouragement, truth, and wisdom. Words that I want to include here for the purpose of (1) not losing them and (2) the opportunity for them to encourage another. So here they are, all out of order… yet, still encouraging all-the-same –
“No matter what dog you get, he will NOT replace Henry [he always called Hank that ;-)]. Duke [his first dog] didn’t replace Bart [his family’s dog]; Jake [my family’s first dog] didn’t replace Duke; Buddy [my family’s current dog] didn’t replace Jake. They are each different (but Henry was really special), but God gave dogs some special thing – they each come in and want to love their humans. You will continue to hurt and miss Henry for months — that guy was different — BUT whatever dog or pup you get will be special, will love you, will protect you, will become a part of you, and will bring that ‘God thing’ that God puts in dogs. Praying that whatever dog you meet will be the answer – won’t be Henry, but he will bring God’s love, devotion, loyalty, and protection.”
“Don’t judge or compare this new guy — he ain’t henry. Just welcome him and love him — that’s what he’s gonna do, come in and love you… differently than Henry did, but no less, no less devoted and no less loyal – just different. It’s really frigging hard, but if you’re going to get a new dog you HAVE to ‘move on.’ Not cold – still missing, loving, and wishing for Henry – just welcoming in this new guy.”
“Ash – I’ve always thought that dogs were given to us as an example of how we are supposed to love… absolutely unconditionally. Hank was special, a superstar – but dogs are downright weird as how they love us no matter what mood we’re in, how we treat them, etc. You could NOT have outloved him – do NOT feel guilty about taking him ‘for granted.’ I think, again, that’s why God gave us dogs – they love us through our weaknesses – the way we should love those around us.”
“Won’t be the same, Sweetie. Hank was special, but so is Tate. He’s not Hank, so you’ll continue to miss that special guy. Tate will slowly fill the void and become his own ‘special self.’ But don’t feel guilty about missing Henry – a piece of both your hearts will belong to Henry forever.”
We headed on our 2-hour, after-work road trip that Wednesday with a mixture of guilt, anxiety, and hope all jumbled together and unable to differentiate. Yet on that drive, one thing that Jordan mentioned was that although he LOVED eery single thing about Hank and that he wouldn’t change a single attribute, he hoped to one day have a dog with the type of personality that just couldn’t help but lick your face… all the time.
God came through for us, as He always does. He gave us undeniable, unwavering, CLEAR AFFIRMATON… IMMEDIATELY. We got there, she brought him outside, and he raaaaaannnn STRAIGHT to us! I fell to my knees and he started licking my face ALL over. Over and over and over again. And all I could do was laugh and laugh and laugh. And when Jordan knelt down, he did the same thing to him!
We didn’t even have to ask each other IF we were taking him home – it wasn’t necessary. It was THAT prevalent.
Every thought of Hank continues to bring fresh tears. Twice even the very next day, despite my new joy. But there’s no doubt in my mind that God & Hank –
together as a team – specifically chose Tate for us. To rescue US. And to help us heal. And I truly began to feel Hank wagging his tail from above in approval – and with such happiness… for all three of us here below.
I can’t claim to know exactly why we had to lose Hank, especially so suddenly. But I do claim that through losing him, God did indeed have a purpose. Part of which, I’m certain, was to teach me. To teach me so many things that I never knew – that I never saw, understood, or grasped – until he was gone.
Let’s just say, as I promised Hank (which can be read in my previous post), I am loving Tate differently. Not more, but better. I’m giving him all the love that his big brother deserved all along. Even as I sit here and type this, I’m not on the desktop and I’m not up in my craft room – I’m on Tate’s favorite love seat with him laying right next to me… after a very, very long walk.
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Today’s Encouragement: My point in writing this post isn’t to simply show off my new puppy and bask in praise of how cute he is. My point is this: Life is hard. ((I’ve probably started so many of my “Today’s Encouragement” with that unsatisfying, blunt, and bland truth – but hey, it IS truth!)) Just remember… in the midst of your tears and the heartbreak: God DOES provide. He HAS a plan. He HAS purpose. And He ALWAYS comes through.
And by the way, you never know… Maybe it’s only through your loss and your pain, during which another’s hope can be restored.
You see, it isn’t only our hope that’s been restored. Tate’s foster mom had located him at an overcrowded shelter in Texas. He and his two sisters were on the list of over 100 puppies to be euthanized – and were likely near the top because of their condition. These are some pictures of what our Taters used to look like (and one of his sisters), due to a disease caused by malnourishment. His foster mom saved his life and nursed him back to health – but she simply doesn’t have enough room in her home to house all of the dogs she rescues. Tate needed and deserved a family. And now he has us. Along with his OWN crate that he doesn’t have to share, and even a plush king-sized bed! ( – on which he sleeps with us – and from which he sits and watches our every move when we’re getting ready every morning and evening). In addition, so many of his fur friends – whom he hasn’t even had the chance to meet yet! – has sent him his very own, brand new toys with “welcome home” – type notes of sentiment. He loves walking the neighborhood and various parks, has officially begun formal training, and has met all of Hank’s old pals. In restoring our hope, I’m pretty certain Tate’s has been restored too ;-) It was through our loss in which he found his new life.
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P.S. – Every bit of Tate’s online description rings TRUE. He has SUCH spunk and energy, SUCH personality – and HAS jumped and hit the latch to open the screen door of our back porch! The level of energy of which he prefers when playing with other dogs, isn’t quite welcomed among the many dogs who populate our neighborhood dog parties – yet, they tolerate him just the same ;-) He didn’t bark for the first couple of days… never made a peep actually! – but has since found both his bark and his growl, and is highly alert and protective. All while, indeed, being SUCH a sweet, sweet snuggle bug who loves his chest rubs… lots and lots and lots of chest rubs. He lays claim to our bed, as mentioned above, and – like Hank – prefers being right at the heel of our feet whatever move we make in and around our home. He makes us laugh on a daily basis, as well as provides us a positive outlet in which to talk about and remember Hank.
Thank you Hank, and thank you Tate… for giving us glimpses of that “God thing” that is so unique to you. Thank you for the memories and the lessons – and for all of the memories and lessons yet to come. I hope to become a better human, because of the two of you.