Tonight marks three years that my dog Hank died. Though it’s strange to admit, there hasn’t been one day that I don’t think of Hank. He was a dachshund, a sleek twelve pounds, full of affection and neurotically loyal. He loved nothing more than to hike with me through the woods, hound nose to the trail, chasing squirrels and chipmunks, then to collapse at home in contented exhaustion.
Hank lived sixteen years, from my late-twenties into my forties, years when I settled, fitfully, into a path of adulthood. He was a constant companion.
Tonight, as dusk fell, I visited Hank’s grave, on the hill behind my home. Now I’m sitting beside the wood stove, the glowing spot most dear to him.
There are many who cannot understand, because they have never experienced, the bond we sometimes share with an animal. For them, the sentiment is frankly pathetic. And there are others, more fortunate, who feel a catch in the throat, and recall summer days with their own dog, a salad season they wish could return.
I have tried, in the time since Hank’s death, to understand how a clever dachshund could inspire such attachment. I adopted a new dog, a fine dog, yet he remains merely a dog. I bought books on dog psychology, and read studies showing interesting similarities in canine-human neurobiology.
In the end, I don’t have a clear explanation. I can only say that sometimes — if luck attends upon the right dog and the right human — there can be a simple gladness that, within its small sphere, approaches perfection. In our broken world, tarnished everywhere with compromise, that’s a rare blessing.
Good dog, Hank! I miss you, old friend.