Our beloved Cocker Spaniel, Hank, died at 15.5+ years of age on June 1st. Nancy and I knew how fortunate we were to have him with us every day of his life. As he got older, we knew every day was a bonus day.
We want you to know about him and his magnificence:
• Hank wasn’t a dog—he was our puppy son. We built our life around him not because we had to, but because we wanted to. He needed us; we needed him.
• Hank had many nicknames, the most common of which are Hanker, Hanker Dude, Mr. Hank, and Zen Man.
• Hank was a quiet, gentle being. His sister, Gracie, a Bichon Frise, who I wrote about when she passed, was a bit more of alpha—a bit more assertive and protective of us than Hank. Hank earned the nickname “Zen Man” for his quiet demeanor. After Gracie died, whenever Hank would encounter another dog he would simply wag his tail and prepare for engagement.
• He snuggled with us every night since 2005 when Hank and Gracie finally wormed their way into our bed. It was easy for him as he had the middle of our king-sized bed while I prayed not to fall off the bed nearly every night given the very few inches of space he allocated to me.
• Hank loved people and dogs. Hank was the “mayor” of our community, greeting everyone he could. He always seemed a bit disappointed when he encountered no people or dogs on his walk. When someone wouldn’t acknowledge him when they saw him that, too, seemed to disappoint him a bit.
• Hank taught children how to be around dogs. He would stand quietly as we taught children how to approach a dog they are not familiar with and how to pet a dog. This was particularly important for children whose parents had come from India or Asia and lacked experience with dogs. The kids loved Hank, their rock star. The kids would flock to Hank just like paparazzi to a movie star. Unlike most movie stars, the adulation didn’t negatively impact Hank’s ego.
• Hank’s hobby was watching Nancy cook. He always hoped to score food which he did. He wasn’t a picky eater. He loved sliced apples. And, puppy treats. If Hank had a nickname for me, it was probably “The Treat Guy.”
• We have always been blessed with great veterinary care. When we got Hank to the vet to be euthanized, his puppy chiropractor, Dr. Deb Sell, (who Hank loved because she made him feel good), was in the office. She turned this somber occasion into a party for Hank. She gave him a number of treats and suggested that we feed him soft, canned dog food to distract him from the process and activity. Dr. Lim of Kirkwood Animal Hospital liberated Hank from his tired body in an amazingly smooth and compassionate process. The experience could not have been better for Hank. We are so grateful for the ease and grace that Hank was able to experience in his final minutes.
Our home is as empty as our hearts at the moment without Hank. We’ll get through this. Our puppies are our kids. They teach us about unconditional love, open our hearts and bring us tremendous joy.
Dave’s mentor, Alan Weiss, wrote in his book Thrive that he thought perhaps God made one mistake in that dogs have a relatively short life compared to ours. He’s right.
We miss Hank. God, you have your puppy back. Thank you for your gift to us. We entrust him in your care until we can be reunited. We have nothing but gratitude for Hank.
Nancy and Dave Gardner
Originally published June 3, 2015