The healing power of pets is real.
Everyone who owns a pet knows the special bond that develops between humans and their animal companions. It is really quite remarkable how humans and different species of animals have come together over centuries to form a bond that meets both human and animal needs. We provide warmth, food and shelter and they provide solid, consistent companionship. I’m not sure how it came to be that we opened up our homes to dogs and cats, but it has clearly been a mutually satisfying relationship. For so many of us, our animals become an integral part of the family.
For some of us, our pet becomes a lifeline- a source of strength and comfort in a time of uncertainty.
That is what my dog, Henry, was for me during the 4 plus years of my recovery.
Here is our story….
How I met Henry, my beloved Beagle boy
Henry came into our lives a few months after our family dog of 15 years, Lucy, had passed away. At that point, we were not interested in getting another dog. Our kids were both off in college and we were enjoying not being tied to the house and the dog walking routine.
A friend had been on vacation in rural Maryland over Christmas and while she was out walking her two dogs one evening, a filthy, starving little beagle followed her home. He was desperately in need of food and a bath. They cleaned him and fed him and inquired in town about his owner. They were told that he had been abandoned and was living on the streets and had been for the past 6 months.
They brought him home and my husband and I decided to open our home to him. We named him Henry. He was a dog with many issues, both health wise and emotionally. He became immediately attached and was extremely protective of me.
We had our work cut out for us, but he was a real love sponge!
My cancer diagnosis
About 6 weeks after we adopted Henry, I learned that I had cancer. In hindsight, I think that Henry knew it before I did. Beagles have an unbelievable sense of smell and I believe he knew that something was wrong. Henry was by my side through my surgery and treatment, which made me very sick. He never wanted to leave the house for a walk with anyone else if I was home. He considered it his job to watch over me.
It took me a while to understand this.
My father passed away while I was in treatment and my mother passed a year later. At one point, I was weary from the funeral planning for my mom and decided to take a rest on the couch. Henry did something he had never done before. He climbed up on top of me, laid his head down on my heart and stretched himself out. It was as if he was saying, “ I know your heart is sad and I will heal it for you.”
I frequently observed him doing the same type of thing with clients who had recently had treatment or surgery. He would sit on the couch next to them while we were talking and rest his head in their lap.
A job well done
I found out a few months ago that I had a hole in my heart that needed to be repaired. I had the surgery in October and had to spend one night in the hospital. My husband called me at the hospital to tell me Henry was acting a bit funny and didn’t want to eat. I came home that afternoon and he laid himself across my legs while I rested. His tummy seemed upset. It had happened before and I wasn’t particularly worried about it. I went to bed that night thinking that if he didn’t eat in the morning, I would take him to the vet. Henry woke us early in the morning with distressed labored breathing. We rushed him to the vet only to find that he had a large mass on his liver and was in heart failure. We made the difficult decision to let him go.
Henry waited for me to come home from the hospital with a repaired heart and then he knew his job was done. It was a job well done!
His presence in my life throughout my health issues was profound and deep.
The comfort of a loyal, adoring pup is incredible. I truly believe we rescued each other. He will be missed forever.