I will never forget that night.
Now, I am keeping it in perspective and remembering that Hank was, after all, a pet. He was not my child and our sorrow could have been immeasurably greater. But we are still sad.
Looking back, I can see God's hand of providence on us that night. He was protecting our family and providing for our needs in ways I didn't realize until later.
Michael has been out of town most of this week. It is an unspoken law of the universe that terrible things happen mostly when daddies are out of town. We have a bit of a track record for bad things happening when he's traveling. Plumbing problems, stitches, behavior issues, etc.
I'd brought the girls home from the ball field that night. Reluctantly, because it was a school night, I'd allowed Olivia to stay with our neighbors during their son's baseball game. She wouldn't arrive home til 9:15pm. This meant she was not home when it happened, God's mercy in action.
As I pulled into the garage, there was Hank, jumping and barking like crazy at the gate. He was so excited to see us he could hardly contain himself. The little girls ran inside the house and I walked over to Hank. The fact that the children went inside was God's protection as well, sparing them from the scene that would soon happen. I pet him as he jumped up to greet me from inside the fence. He was the picture of pure joy at having us home again.
That was when I made the mistake I'll always regret.
I opened the gate for him.
I needed to get the mail and unload the van, so I thought I'd let him out to run around the yard and the driveway while I was out. This is something I always did. He'd run like mad all around but would stay in our cul-de-sac and always come back to where I was after a minute or two. It was evening and everyone's garage doors were closed. I didn't think anything about it.
He must've seen something across the street that night. I think some neighbors must've been outside or maybe he saw someone walking. For whatever reason, he took off in the opposite direction. I couldn't see him, but within seconds I heard the impact and got a sickening feeling in my chest. I knew.
Running out to the street that connects to our cul-de-sac, I saw a sight I will never forget. I will spare you all the horrible details, but there was our Hank, lying in the middle of the road, clearly irrevocably injured. The driver was crouched over him as was another man who'd seen the accident and stopped.
I ran to him and knelt down right there in the street, already sobbing.
It was in that moment I realized that after all the complaining and fussing I'd done for the last year and a half over this dog that I never wanted and never planned for, that I'd grown to love having him as part of the family. Seeing him like that was horrible, plain and simple.
After a moment someone suggested I get a blanket for him, so I ran back to the house and grabbed a big piece of flannel I had left over from a project. I called my parents and asked them to come stay with the girls, and that's when the little girl crying began. They knew something had happened to their dog.
Our sweet neighbors came upon the scene and I asked them to go stay with the girls til my parents could arrive. Again, in God's providence, the mom of the family was home and had not gone to Bible study she was supposed to be at that night. God put her right where she needed to be to help my girls and she was wonderful with them.
Two men gently lifted Hank onto the blanket. Blood was everywhere. The girls didn't see him, but they knew he was blanket he was being carried in and their cries were loud as they stood nearby with the neighbor.
They carried him to the van and placed him in the back. I climbed in after him and sat with him on the most awful car ride I hope to ever experience. A kind stranger who lived a couple streets down offered to drive us, for which I was grateful.
During that 20 minute ride, I just pet Hank and talked to him and tried to let him know I was there.
I listened as he struggled to breathe and choked and sputtered. I cried over him and was thankful it was dark so I couldn't see all the horrible sights.
Once at the animal hospital, the kind stranger got out and walked toward the back of the van. Before he opened the door, I stroked Hank's matted fur and told him he was a good dog. I even told him I loved him. The man opened the back hatch, lifted Hank up and carried him inside as I tearfully followed.
"What happened to this baby?" the caregiver asked as she took him in her arms and carried him behind closed doors.
That was the last time I ever saw him.
After a short moment, the vet came out and told me Hank had severe head trauma. There was nothing he could do. I told him to put Hank down and signed some forms thru blurry vision. The kind stranger just sat silently next to me.
We left without him.
During the drive home, we talked some about his dogs and how much my kids loved Hank and how he had come to join the family. We laughed some about how much of a no-no it had been for my husband to spring him on us like he had without checking with his wife first.
scenes like this one drove me CRAZY. NO DOGS IN THE BED!!!
When I got home, I tried to quickly wash the blood from my arms and legs before seeing the girls. I pulled them in my arms and gave them the sad news that Hank would not be coming home anymore. It was very difficult, but I knew it was nothing compared to the moment that was coming when I would have to tell my oldest daughter. Really, Hank had been her dog.
After about five minutes, she arrived home, happy and dirty from her time playing at the ball field.
I called her upstairs and we sat on my bed.
It was without a doubt the most heartbreaking parenting moment I have ever experienced. I tried to break the news to her as gently as I could, but she immediately started screaming, "MY DOG!! MY DOG!! MY DOG!!!" over and over as tears rolled down her cheeks. "IT'S NOT TRUE! HANK!!!"
I pulled her to me and we cried together, her still yelling and calling for her dog. The hurt was almost a physical, tangible thing that had descended on our home. It was heavy and suffocating.
After a while, my parents brought her sisters up and we all sat on my bed together. My dad prayed for us and thanked God for the time we'd had with Hank.
There wasn't a whole lot of sleep that night. All I could picture was the images and sounds of that horrible night. If only I had never opened that stupid gate.
I suppose it's true that having a pet really does change you a little bit. It kind of crept up on me when I wasn't looking, my affection for this dog. He was hyper. He was naughty. He caused me endless extra work and headache at home.
But he also snuggled. He was so affectionate he simply could not stand it unless he was physically up against me when I was in the room. If I sat down, he sat down practically on top of me. If I played the piano, he sat on my feet so I couldn't use the pedals. When I sat on the floor to homeschool, he sat so close to me I could hardly find a spot for the girls to gather around our school book. I will miss him.
I won't miss the dog hair. I won't miss the way he always stole food from the 4-yr-old in this house. I really won't miss the way he loved to shred diapers and cause general mayhem, but I will miss his presence. I will miss the way he brought such joy to my daughters and husband. I will miss his happy personality.
So I suppose during this last year and a half, God has grown me. I see now how people can love their animals. I appreciate how they work their way into your heart and become part of your life. I wouldn't say I am an animal fanatic, but I certainly have come far from where I was when that dark-haired little clumsy puppy first entered my life.
Thank you, Hank, for teaching me to love more fully. You will be missed.