Henry “Henny Penny” came into our lives a little less than ten years ago, several days after our son Jeff’s wedding to Allison in Davidson, NC. Unknown to Jim and before the wedding, Sue had been actively checking the Internet for English Spring Spaniel breeders. We had not had a dog for several years after the death of our 2nd Springer Samantha. Both Samantha and our 1st Springer Daisy lived over 15 years. In a matter of days we “married” off one son and gained another from a breeder in western South Carolina. Instead of driving directly back to Indiana, we detoured back to Richmond, VA so our daughter Karen could see the new addition. We can still picture the looks of amazement on Henry’s face when he first viewed himself in the floor length mirror of the hotel.
We’re not sure when we started calling Henry the Velcro dog. It may have originated during the family vacation on OBX when Sue had to hold his leash with both hands restraining him for chasing Jim into the surf. Eventually he got into the surf and enjoyed the swimming. Over the years the description Velcro dog was well served. He would position himself at Sue’s feet next to the bathroom commode. Or follow Jim to the man-caves in Carmel & Bluffton homes. If we were both home he would position himself in proximity to both of us if possible. If you moved to a different room he would follow and lay down.
Henry had this way of walking that brought frequent comments. Our son Jeff used to talk about Henry' s “junk in the trunk”. Neighbors and strangers alike used to comment he “walks like a show dog”; head held high, looking side to side slowly while high stepping with his big front paws. Many of our pictures of Henry are his “neighborhood watch pose”, sitting calmly head erect looking side to side slowly. Taking him for walks could be a challenge if there were joggers or walkers behind us. He would keep rubbernecking looking behind us until we stopped, allowing him to greet them, and let them pass. When neighbors were outside in their yards, or just arriving home, he had to go greet them before going inside.
Henry had a VERY mellow and friendly disposition. Springer’s are supposed to be bird-hunting dogs. Not Henry. On our walks in the neighborhood, he would completely ignore the ducks and geese in the retention ponds. Different story if it were a rabbit. If we met neighbors and stopped to chat while walking him, he would just lay on the ground. He loved “Pup cups” at Starbucks. Whipped Cream in a small cup. We had to stop going thru the drive-thru since the whipped cream ended up all over the interior of the car. He was Jim’s regular companion when delivering Meals on Wheels. When Jim rode his mountain bike in the large field behind the house, Henry would run along side unrestrained but close buy. Henry didn’t bark too often, except when Jim caught his first tiger bass off our dock at our new home in Bluffton, SC. When Henry was falling asleep you would often hear him take a deep breath, hold it for a second or two, and then exhale. Pure contentment. All was well with Henry’s world.
All dog owners will tell you about the unconditional love and loyalty of dogs. Henry was no exception. When Sue would go back to bed with migraine headaches, it was Henry that would snuggle on the bed for hours until her headaches were gone. More helpful than any prescription drugs. Or when Jim had a layoff from the corporate world or long periods between consulting assignments, it was Henry who would keep him company and sit in the driveway as Jim enjoyed a beer or wine. When Jim was away from home on consulting assignments, it was Henry who was Sue’s best friend and companion. Henry made several road trips each to Colorado and SC from Indiana including a solo trip to CO with Jim. Top down on the convertible, head in the wind, ears flopping. He traveled well in the cars; right foot up on the armrest looking out.
Henry was not boarded often when we vacationed. But on those occasions when he was, the comments from the boarding were very telling. “Played with the older dogs”, “Henry likes people”, “chilled with the groomer most of the day”, “chilled at the front check-in”. Most recently in September it was “hanging with the puppies”. That was so Henry.
His health issues have come along quickly. While at the vet for hip dysplasia issues in early December it was discovered that he had visceral mast cell tumors in his spleen, which are very rare and have few if any successful treatment regimens. In the last 5 or 6 days he developed an additional problem with falling due to an issue in his right front leg related to neurological/spine. Quality of life became our main concern. While he was sharp and coherent, his brain wasn’t telling his foot what to do. Falling and extreme difficulty getting up and walking and not in any apparent pain, he could no longer be Velcro dog. His heart and mind were there but the body wasn’t. Our vet suggested we take him home and spoil him for a few days, which we did. Grilled chopped sirloin from the grill. And more of his special dog treats in two days than he would normally have in two weeks. Understand, Henry was a treat snob. No cheap milk-bone treats for him. And the vet tech complied too. His condition deteriorated rapidly yesterday and we realized it was time to say goodbye.
He was loving and loyal and a friend through and through and we will miss him terribly.