Monday, October 17, 2016

Saying Goodbye to Haley - But I don't Like Dogs

Posted: Sunday, October 16, 2016 9:50 pm | Updated: 9:52 pm, Sun Oct 16, 2016.
I’m not a dog person. I really don’t like them much at all. Just not my thing.
Which doesn’t explain why I’m sitting here crying over one of the damn things.
My son’s dog Haley died this week. I thought I would be sad for my boy, his wife and my three grandsons who absolutely adored the 12-year old golden retriever. And I am. But it runs much deeper than that.
Turns out I really loved that dog. I’m going to miss her a lot.
I’ve always laughed and scoffed at people who refer to pets as their children and used to cringe when both my boys would tell their dogs to “go see Grandpa.” I would think to myself, “I am not that animal’s grandparent.”
But I was. And I feel the loss terribly.
Haley was a rescue dog my son Aaron and daughter-in-law MJ found in a shelter nearly a decade ago. They had her before my oldest grandson (did I mention his name is William?) was born. She was a fairly large dog, with long hair and boundless energy. When I first met her, I thought she was out of control.
She jumped on me like I was the only human being she had ever encountered. She licked me at every opportunity as though I were a giant lollipop. I made the mistake of reaching out and petting her, just trying to be nice. She sat beside me for the next hour and pushed my hand with her nose every time I stopped.
I’d like to say it was love at first sight — but it really wasn’t. It had been decades since I’d been around a dog for any length of time. My sons always held that against me and complained that I had reneged on a promise to let them have one. And they were right; I had been the obstacle they couldn’t overcome.
Then I found myself “dog-sitting” on occasion. I would plop myself on the couch and Haley would stand there and stare at me. Eventually I would turn and say “Ok, come on.” She would then scamper up beside me and put her head in my lap, and I would smile and scratch behind her ears until my hand got too tired.
We became friends. Then she became family.
Haley and I had secrets. She was only supposed to be fed twice a day when we had her. I might have exceeded that slightly. I cannot confirm or deny that she loved ham and baloney. There may or may not have been hotdogs and burgers cooked specially for her. And I have heard rumors she was particularly adept at catching French fries tossed into the air.
She also became the first dog ever to sleep in my bedroom. Haley did not like to be left alone and attempts to have her sleep by herself in other rooms were spectacularly unsuccessful.
I finally gave up the night I laid out a comfortable bed for her in the spare room, and she wound up butting her head against my bedroom door until we let her in. She then curled up at the foot of our bed and snored all night long. She never spent the night alone in another room at our house again.
I told myself I liked Haley because she was so good with my grandsons. I rationalized that because Aaron and MJ loved her so much, she must be a good dog. Because it is well established that I don’t like dogs.
But I loved Haley.
If you pushed me further, you’d discover I also love my son Nate’s dog — after all, his name is Bruschi. But geography allowed me to spend more time with Haley, and whether I wanted to admit it or not, we had a very real relationship.
When I watched my son tearfully dig a grave for her in our yard, I was overcome with emotion. But I was surprised to discover it was not primarily out of sympathy for Aaron, MJ and their boys. It was for Haley.
She now rests in a corner of our yard. But you won’t find me standing tearfully over her grave.
No sir. I don’t like dogs
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and doggie grandparent. He can be emailed at aninsidelook@aol.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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