So I am not sure why these two topics are coming together but they are.
Back on February 4 I traveled to Florida on a cheapo flight to visit a good friend who has lived in the Sunshine State for a number of years. My wife and I were scheduled for a late afternoon flight to Miami.
Unfortunately, on the same day we had decided it was time to put down Hespe, a border collie/huskie mix who at 18, had seen her better days. The weather had been, well, everyone knows the kind of winter we had experienced. And Hespe was struggling mightily, especially trying to navigate the ice and snow that made going to the bathroom for her a huge effort.
I felt bad for her and as much as I had put off what I knew needed to be done, I realized that it was time – especially with traveling and leaving the family behind to deal with Hespe, going out and horrendous weather.
So I made arrangements with Dr. Callow, our local vet, to take of things. Dr. Callow is what I call “old school.” She is a vet who reminds me of someone who maybe had farming in her family history. She is terrific with animals and knows how to handle just about any situation.
Call me weird, but meanwhile I also put a call into my ice hockey ref pal Doug Moister, who is also a minister. At the rink he is affectionately referred to as “Reverend Doug.” If you saw Doug you would be surprised that is a minister and/or an ice hockey referee. He is a big, burly guy with a generous beard. But underneath all of that is a great human being with a keen understanding of people and of course, religion. Amazing how he works all that into being an ice hockey official but that’s another story.
In any event, the weirdness I refer to is the call I made to Rev. Doug asking him to give Hespe a final blessing. Hespe came to us a long time ago from the SPCA in Perkiomenville. She was originally known as Anatasia but my son decided to change her name – and naturally her new name came from the name of a hockey equipment company. Odd, I know.
When we first meet Hespe she was a total maniac. She came down the SPCA hallway running all over the place as hyper as hyper could be. But she also was a beautiful dog and was friendly to us so home she went.
Over the years she had her moments like the time I put her in our bathroom to stay for a few hours while we were out. When we came home she had with her paws tore up the bathroom vinyl tile as well as part of the door molding.
Once while being walked by my wife (who was never a huge Hespe fan) a retractable leash ended up wrapped around my wife’s finger when Hespe thought she would take off after another dog. Some hand surgery and therapy later, their relationship was strained at best.
But through all of Hespe’s trials and tribulations, we still loved her, warts and all. She would do weird stuff like rub her head and nose along the cushions of the couch. And she was smart enough to know how to open doors to various rooms.
So as she seriously declined, it was painful to see such a ball of energy and weirdness descend into a canine senior citizen barely able to walk without issues and in fact, a couple weeks before her passing, she basically stopped barking – an attribute we loathed at times having to yell at her, “Hespe, stop the barking!”
On the fateful day – March 4 – I met Rev. Doug in the parking lot of a local gas station with Hespe in the passenger seat. I got out of the car with tears streaming down my cheeks. Doug knew just what to say and as I watched right next to him, he gave Hespe a blessing she deserved.
When we finished, I shook his hand and we headed to the vet’s office. However, we were way early for our scheduled appointment so I took her to the local park for a final walk or two. I got Hespe out of the car and we walked and walked. To my amazement she seemed to be feeling good and to my absolute amazement, belted out a hearty bark when she saw another dog across the way.
But in the end, her fate was to be that day and we finally ended up with Dr. Callow. I left Hespe after a loving farewell and headed home. A week or so ago we picked up her ashes that were inside a small, redwood box. Her name was engraved on a brass plate on top of the box and now she resides in our family room.
Hespe’s roommate Bella, a castaway from the Chester County SPCA was now the lone ranger in the house. It’s funny to watch Bella and she now sleeps on the rug Hespe used to call home.
So the other part of this story?
Well, earlier this month I ended up in Paoli Hospital with an unexpected surgery. I was there for six days and even now am still recovering. I suppose I know how Hespe felt getting older. After my surgery even just walking around was a chore and going up and down steps was really brutal.
Look, we all get older and sooner or later we’re all gonna go. There was a card that came with Hespe’s ashes. It talked about how our loving pets go to a special place where they are all healthy and happy and where they wait until we join them in a loving embrace, tails wagging.
Although I am in no rush for that at this moment, I get it. We are all mortal and I suppose if I have a life as rich as Hespe’s it will all be good. I hope she is happy and healthy barking the day away. And we will meet again.