A Celebration of Hennessy
Please note this is about the loss of a beloved pet and may make you sad.
I had to say goodbye to my best buddy last month. He has been my constant companion for eleven years. For a big dog that is a long time. I was expecting to have to let him go around 9 years old so every day for the two years has been a wonderful gift. It did not make losing him any easier. I miss him every day. He was part of the rhythm of my life and now there are holes all over my life that used to be filled by him. He was such a lovely soul. He loved everyone, leaning against them and pressing his head into them to show his love. He was so gentle for a big dog and always confused that he didn’t fit in places he thought he ought to. I will hold him in my heart forever. I wanted to share some of him with you. Things I learned from my dog.
Things I learned from my dog…
If you don’t like it, don’t eat it.
Hennessy was famous for being able to eat anything. That 13×9 pan of triple chocolate Ghirardelli brownies disappeared in a moment and never caused any trouble gastrictly or otherwise. An entire roast chicken carcass went the same way and no problem at all. Our purebred dogs could not tolerate even a chocolate chip so we decided that Hennessy, a mutt, had “Mutt Gut”. Mutt Gut is the ability to eat anything and he definitely did, however, Hennessy never ate anything he didn’t like.
Looking back at my childhood I was forced to eat a lot of things I didn’t like because they were “good for me” as if they were the only source of whatever it was that was “good for me”. Amusingly I was accused of being a picky eater by my parents for not liking the food my mum cooked. I am not. In fact, the picky eaters were my parents who refused asparagus, zucchini, yams, sweet potatoes, artichokes, and the list goes on. What I don’t enjoy is overcooked wedges of cabbage, overcooked swede, green beans cooked extra long for my protection. You get the picture.
With our pets refusing to eat what they don’t like; we find ways to get them “what’s good for them” in forms of food they like to eat. I realized that I should be doing it that way for me too. We should not be eating things we don’t like just because they are “good for us” Those “good for us” aspects of veg we don’t like are available in another veg one of which will be yummy. For instance, cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable full of things that are “good for us” but IMO boiled cabbage, even with large quantities of butter, is gross but raw grated cabbage with a little dressing is brilliant. I chose this example because it is the same raw material just prepared differently. I continue to look for delicious ways to get what is “good for me” from foods I enjoy eating because you have to try new things too Thank you Hennessy!
Go outside in all weather
A dog’s limbic system is upregulated by sniffing. They experience pleasure. It makes them happy. Hennessy was a big boy, over 100 lbs and while he was no sprinter, he could walk all day. We walked a lot. Living on a mountain means that we had miles of trails to explore, and we did. There was nothing so uplifting and de-stressing as getting out into the forest every day. We went in all kinds of weather. If I was properly dressed with appropriate footwear (pull on cleats in winter and sometimes snowshoes) we were fine. Hennessy preferred no coat but looked very smart when he deigned to wear it. I don’t walk as much now without my big friend, but I still hit the trails nearly every day no matter what the weather is doing.
Nap when you need one
Hennessy was ¼ Rhodesian Ridgeback and ¼ Akita (the other half was Bernese Mountain dog and Rottweiler which accounted for the big love bug that he was). Both these breeds are hunters. Rhodesian Ridgebacks help hunt lions and Akitas are used to hunt bears in Japan. Hennessy was hypervigilant and I assume those genetics were why. He was always aware of what was happening outside. He would go from window to window constantly. He didn’t bark a lot, but he always let me know when there were cars and people going by. He was never truly settled when he was awake. Yes, I was saved from many thousands of mail carriers, strange people walking by, the neighbors, and the rare floating plastic bag which was clearly out to get us. When he needed a nap, he totally switched off. The batteries were empty so sleep and recharge.
I have some chronic pain issues and often sleep poorly. I used to believe I shouldn’t nap because it would make my nighttime sleep even worse. I have learned that is not always the case. If the batteries are empty a twenty- or forty-minute nap can be incredibly refreshing and drives back some pain and makes me much more productive for the remainder of the day. Hennessy had it right!
Love unreservedly and don’t be shy about asking for affection. Give affection without limit.
There is the idea that strong, confident, people don’t need reassurance and affection. There were few creatures stronger or more self-confident than Hennessy. He was so self-confident that he was unafraid to demand lots of affection… from everyone. As far as he was concerned people were there to pet him (and give him treats). He gave affection unreservedly in return. With the pandemic, our physical displays of affection have developed a hesitancy so I have begun paying attention to what my heart is saying and sharing that with the person who inspires that feeling…like Hennessy. The result has been beautiful.
Feel free to change the energy of an interaction
When Hennessy and I would go on our walk we would encounter other dogs. Most of the time everyone got along and the games were terrific. Every now and then one dog would be a bit anti-social. Hennessy had a lovely way of seeming to say “Dude! So uncool!” while he stepped away then he would take a step closer as if he was saying “Let’s start again. Hi! My name is Hennessy” And nearly all the time the tension in the other dog would evaporate. Instead of giving like for like he seemed to deflect the negative and open the situation to the positive. A very good lesson for us all.
Live in the “now” and find joy in it.
You would think this would be easy to articulate as, after all, the only time we really have is the now that we exist in at every moment. I have trouble living in the now. I am not a worrier but I am a planner and organizer. I am always thinking ahead, ready for whatever happens next. Watching Hennessy, and working hard to manage his pain so that he was happy, I learned that “now” is the only time that really matters. Hennessy did not worry about what happened next. He sniffed what made him happy. He played with his friends, and they were lovely, adjusting their game so he was involved as his ability to run became limited, because it made him happy. I saw how I cheated myself of enjoying my now by always having to get on to the “next thing” I began actively pushing aside thoughts of what I had to do next and focusing on, at first Hennessy’s now and eventually my own. It is a wonderful lesson in just being.
I am sadder than I have been for a long time at the loss of my companion and friend. The depth of that grief is a reflection of all the wonderful times we shared. I loved him every day as much as I could and am grateful I was able to be open enough to see what he had to teach me.
Thank you for letting me share what I learned from my dog. Hugs to you all.
Another post featuring my big guy 10 Months with a new knee