I’ve been hesitating whether or not to add a post here about the passing of sweet little Hardy, the last of the Yorkshire Terrier residents of my home here in Winter Haven.
My experience with writing posts and Facebook notes about losing family members lately – including the little furry ones – has definitely been a positive and cathartic one, but also tends to rekindle those feelings of loss each time I re-read them. However, remembering the people and creatures who gave this place life by setting that experience in writing has proven to be personally satisfying for me and pays proper homage to them in the best way I can; Hardy deserves that as well.
I like to think that Hardy was always destined to enjoy life at the Lizard Lounge. Out of the blue around Thanksgiving in 2004 the woman who groomed Rosie called indicating that another customer of hers had found a Yorkie in her yard with no identification. When I saw him he was pitifully thin and his fur was long and matted like dreadlocks; it broke my heart to think of what he must have gone through to get to that point. She wasn’t able to keep him so, of course, he was immediately welcomed as one of my own.
It didn’t take long for him to become a fully functioning part of the family. Although I think Rosie had probably been looking forward to the day when she would be an only child, she accepted him as well; soon she had him marching to the beat of her quirky little regiment just like the rest of us.
Hardy wasn’t as complicated an animal as Rosie was; he was always happy to go with the flow and just be where people or other animals were. He was chubby and funny and dedicated and always smiled at the staff at the veterinary practice where he went to get an allergy shot every month. (At least as near as a dog can smile, I guess; that’s what the women behind the counter called it and they loved to see him.) He was a great snuggler and bed buddy, and always slept with the tip of his tongue sticking out.
After some changes to the household situation here at the Lizard Lounge last fall, however (including the death of Rosie, his daytime companion), Hardy ended up spending a great portion of the day here alone. Maybe he didn’t mind; I definitely loved and cared for him and he always gave me a hero’s welcome each evening when I would finally get home. But I also knew he loved being with people and would probably thrive with more companionship and stimulation than I was able to give him.
Last December, the perfect opportunity presented itself for a new home for Hardy, one with young children and an owner who had several days off in a row to be home with him. I continued to get reports that the children loved him (of course) and he loved riding around in the car with his new owner (an avid dog lover herself who was also crazy about him), so I know the decision to give him up was the right one.
Sadly, his new family contacted me recently with the news that he died fairly suddenly, as near as the vet could tell, from pancreatitis. (Hardy had a few health issues in the past, so it wasn’t a total shock to get that news.)
Even though Hardy’s new home wasn’t a temporary situation and there was no plan for him to return, I still cared about him and loved him and could easily check on him. So it just kind of felt like he was away at boarding school with other kids to play with and cars to ride around in. Now that he’s gone, though, I can’t seem to rid myself of this disquieting feeling that I’m just a little more alone than I was before and that the Lizard Lounge feels a little emptier, even though he’s been gone for four months.
I’m comforted by the fact that he was as loved in his new home as he had been in mine, and that his death was as hard on his new family as it was on me. The thing that I think gnaws at me the most, though, is that his being gone represents so much more than just the death of a pet.
Hardy was the last surviving member of my little family here at the Lizard Lounge (some of the details of which I’ve chosen not to recount here on this blog), and the significance of that is definitely not lost on me. Some people collect new “family members” easily and readily welcome them into their life; it’s much more difficult for me. Although I’ve been blessed over the past few years with deep and satisfying relationships, including the love and companionship of some sweet animals, watching several key ones dissolve around me lately has made me more pensive about life. So I guess this post is as much about losing my “family” as it about losing Hardy. He just represents the finality of that loss.
I suppose I could look at the positive side of true bachelorhood. I can stop on the way home from work for dinner and can finally go to church choir practice without worrying that I’m leaving him home alone for yet another couple of hours. I don’t have to set timers for all the lights in the house so he won’t be home in the dark until I get there. I also don’t have to mop up paw prints from my hardwood floors every couple of days or crawl around gathering up bits of mulch that rode in from the outside in his fur, leaving a trail from the door to the treat jar.
On the other hand, I spent a lot less money eating out when he was here and learned to make my own joyful noise as he and I ran, laughing (me) and barking (him), through the house. I’ve come to the realization that I don’t like coming home to a dark house and am gradually hauling the timers back out one-by-one, and that mopping and sweeping are actually pretty good exercise.
I’ve also discovered that I would give anything to hear the clicking of his toenails again as he runs through the house, or laugh while fending off his insistent licks when he finally gets me face-to-face in the floor when I do pushups. Even such a seemingly insignificant contribution as that by a little dog would be a welcome reminder that a loving, vibrant family once lived here. So, while having all this extra room in the house is kind of satisfying, all the extra room in my heart and life right now isn’t.
I miss him for reasons I’m just beginning to understand. Goodbye, little Hardy Boy.