February 26, 2006

I had just moved back to Chicago from Minneapolis. We found a great apartment up in St. Bens. It was perfect. I decided we should get a dog to ...well, you know, protect our stuff. The neighbors across the street had just gotten robbed. A dog would make us safer.

Nicole and I drove down to the Chicago pound to pick out out new dog. We didn't know what kind of dog we were looking for. We were just there to "see what they have". I think every Chicagoian who had adopted a dog from the pound originally just went down there to "see what they have".

In every cage there were eyes begging you to get them out. Me. Out. Now. Me. Me. I didn't know what I exactly was looking for but I had a weird feeling that I had to be there on that day. At the back of the room, in a corner cage, stood a skinny black shepard mix with the biggest ears I'd ever seen on a dog. His eyes had a different look from the others. He was smart. He was strong. He had a sense of humor. How can you tell from one look? I have no idea but in my heart I knew. He was the reason I had to be there that day.

He was a goofball. He wanted to have fun and I knew it. I kneeled down to pet him through the cage. Nicole looked at him and was skeptical. "Are you sure? He looks like trouble." she said. I looked up at Nicole and said "Isn't that what you mom said about me?". She smiled and said "Ha, lets get him then".

We did.

We took him to the apartment and he ran through the door to check out his new home. He was excited. He was happy. "Well, what do we call him". I thought about it for a few minutes. I wanted a name that would fit his personality. I looked down at him and thought he reminded me of my friend in Minneapolis who was a dj, Henry Mhoon. I said "Hey Henry" and his big ears shot up as he turned to look at me. Henry it was.

Henry loved the apartment. The first night he ran around like a kid in a candy store checking out every nook and cranny of his new home. We had just bought this "I Dream of Jeannie" looking couch from an antique store. It was red and yellow with a crazy arabesque look to it. Nicole loved it. So did Henry. He plopped down on the couch and made himself at home. Nicole looked at me and said "Get him off the couch". I convinced Henry it was in his best interest to find a new favorite place. He didn't look too happy about it and reluctantly moved. That night, Nicole and I went out to grab a couple of beers at a local tavern. When we came back to the apartment, there was Henry standing on the couch with a big piece of foam in his mouth. He had dug a hole right in the middle of the couch. It was ruined. He looked at us with a big smile like he was trying to say "Isn't this great!". Nicole freaked out. She wanted to send him back. I knew what happened to dogs that got sent back to the pound. I looked at Henry and I swear he winked at me. I told Nicole I'd take a couple of weeks and train him.

I trained him. I was mean to him. I yelled. I punished. I was everything I swore I would never be in life but it worked. Slowly he learned. Over time, he became one of those amazingly trained dogs that you could walk without a leash. Henry knew hand signals. He listened.He learned anything you taught him. He went to bars with me and sat at my feet to me without letting any distraction get to him.

Through the late ninties, I was lost. I drank. I really drank. No matter how lost I was, Henry was there to show me love. He was just happy to see me. He didn't care what I did. He just wanted me to be there with him.

Those were hard times. Sometimes I just wanted to jump off a bridge but I always thought "Who will take care of Henry?". He kept me alive. He made me laugh when I thought I didn't remember how. He watched over me and he knew where I was at all times even if I didn't.

Yea, I love that dog.

Henry is sick. The cancer has spread. I'm seeing another doctor on monday morning. It's been a really hard week. I'm in an emotional blender.

People will say "It's only a dog, get over it". To those people I send a hearty "Fuck you". The amount of love this simple animal has given me is tenfold what I get from some humans. If you've never owned a dog like Henry, I can't explain it to you. For those of you who do, we smile with the same inner knowledge of which I speak. There is love in the world. This is one place you can find it.

No matter what happens with Henry, I've been blessed to have him as a pet, friend and family member. I wish everyone could experience a dog like Henry.

If you're not doing anything today, you may want to stop by your local pound.
Just to see what they have.

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