29 July 2012

Henry - the Key to a New Life

Henry, eight weeks old
I loved my Henry. I only knew him for two and a half weeks, but in that short time his effect on me was beyond measure. I may have lost him, but his legacy to me I can never repay.

Those around me know my love for dogs has been there since I was a child, and has only grown with maturity. The longing to own one, look after him, train him, and develop that bond will never go away. It is part of me; it is who I am.

I’d never owned a dog until Henry because I’d always worked long hours as a lawyer and could never look after the little guy’s needs. After becoming ill I lost everything; my job; my flat; my independence. I had to stop working and had to move back home with my parents which was heartbreaking. Five and a half years on I saw an opportunity. It wouldn’t be easy with my dad’s Alzheimer’s, but I needed something for me - someone for me. So with much forethought and procrastination, Henry arrived. My mother had agreed to look after him when I was eventually able to wean myself back into work. I was responding to an alternative therapy and believed that I was at a stage in my recovery where I could look after Henry’s needs and make him happy.

Henry only howled for attention the first two mornings of his stay with us. I’m told that’s a minor miracle. I had a miracle puppy. It was almost as if Henry knew I was still struggling with hypersomnia. I felt an awakening inside my body. I had been so ill, I hadn’t been living in the real world – I had lived behind a cloud in my own bubble. Having Henry as my responsibility I felt my drive and passion returning. I was, once more, connected to the world. I found myself carrying Henry to the duck pond for socialisation (before his inoculations were complete I couldn’t allow him to walk). This may sound normal, and indeed it is normal. It’s just walking and carrying a puppy. In reality it was my second Henry miracle. Only months before that, I could barely walk or drag myself upstairs. My recovery was no longer a myth, it was real. This really was happening. I had purpose and my health was returning – I wasn’t imagining it. Inside me I could feel my stomach and heart joining up and having a party. I had a long journey ahead of me, but I knew I was going to make it.

Cracks were starting to appear. For the first time in a long time I felt real exhaustion, beyond my ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Anyone suffering from that terrible illness can tell you of the sense of elation that can bring. To get to the stage your body feels real exhaustion is exhilarating – because this is an illness which would normally stop you with debilitating symptoms before you get anywhere near there. Compared to ME symptoms "normal" exhaustion is a breeze. This however tipped me off that I wasn’t physically where I needed to be to manage a feisty little Henry. Perhaps I wasn’t quite as far along with my recovery as I had thought.

I saw other problems beginning to show themselves. My father’s Alzheimer’s was rapidly getting worse – far beyond what it had been when we had first visited Henry’s litter with all his friends and relations. The speed of dad’s decline was alarming. Henry would put his over-sized puppy paws on the sofa and I became concerned by my father’s over-reactions; I wouldn’t always be there to step in. Henry’s feisty personality was not in harmony with my father’s illness, in spite of dad showing no signs of a problem whenever he visited Henry’s litter. Then it had seemed Henry would do dad the world of good, and vice versa, but now...

Mischievous Henry, eight weeks old 
My father’s worsening Alzheimer’s was placing a huge strain on all of us. Watching someone I loved so much slipping away so quickly was unbearable, and then ther was mum's pain. The stress in the house grew palpable. I became concerned that this was channelling into Henry. I was aware that these were the most important weeks in his little life – his formative weeks. I was so concerned that I spoke to the lady who was responsible for bringing Henry into this world, and had passed him onto me. Yes indeed. This was an extremely bad atmosphere for a little Henry. He’d feel all the negative emotion around, and that could lead to irreversible behavioural issues later on. I was not willing to let this happen, or even risk it.

I had to put dad and Henry first - myself second. I loved Henry, I wanted him, but the home I could provide for him at that moment was not the right one for him. I gave him back, while he was still an incredibly well adjusted Henry. He has an amazing future ahead of him. He was re-homed pretty much immediately, and has a new home with a lady who works from home, and another Golden Retriever whom he adores. His buddy and new owner adore Henry right back. They’ve given him another name, but that’s OK.

Henry, nearly nine weeks old
I did what was right. But it was devastating to do. I cried uncontrollably, my insides collapsed upon themselves, and I was a mess. I’d lost my miracle puppy who I loved. I’d never be able to take him to the dog park or the fields and watch him run. I can still feel the hurt welded as lead onto my gut. I will always carry Henry with me, to the duck pond, and everywhere else. He’ll always be there; reminding me of the things I was able to do while looking after him; giving me motivation to do more; giving me the drive and determination to meet with life beyond illness.

Nobody can make a life-journey without drive and determination. I found mine through Henry – it was always within, but Henry was my key to accessing it. Others will find different keys to unlock theirs, but we all have it. I believe that the generic key to accessing the strength within us to move us forward is positive action. What that action is will vary for all of us, but when you find the right one, there is no looking back. You’ve unlocked your world.

I owe Henry for being my key to move forward, and build my life back from beneath the foundations. Thank you Henry, I couldn't have begun this journey without you. I’m sorry for my mistake and misjudgement – your first home should have been a forever one and I would have loved you to still be mine. My heart woke again when you fell asleep on my lap. Thank you for being you, and I wish you everything in life you could desire.

Copyright © 2012 C. S. Wimsey. 
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1 comment:

Ellephantastic said...

Beautiful and emotional post. He really was a lovely puppy and was doing so well. Had it been the right environment he would have growth be a friendly well trained dog. hugs xxx