Saying Goodbye to Hannah

This is the post I wrote the day I put my dog, Hannah, down.

Today has been an interesting day so far and it's only Noon.

I'm supposed to be writing a sermon on Forgiveness is Freedom from Bitterness but all I can think about is my dog Hannah. Hannah is about 13 1/2 years old, she is a mix of Blue Healer and Australian Shepherd and she is a beautiful dog. Today we learned that it is time to let Hannah go. Hannah is suffering, she's tired and she's been a great dog. I will miss her, I already miss her, but she is not the same dog that I met 12 or so years ago in Greenville, SC.

She has a pretty great story that I would like to share with you. It might only be for my own grief process but I hope that you enjoy it.

My Nana was watching the noon newscast in one day about 12 years ago when the Humane Society segment came on. On that segment was a 1 year old Australian Shepherd mix named Hannah, that was just as cute as she could be. What you need to know about my Nana, she did not get around very well and she lived in a second floor one bedroom apartment and had just said goodbye to her beloved Cocker Spaniel, Cookie.

She immediately called the station and said, "I want that dog!" The next day she went to the Humane Society and picked up Hannah, an energetic, loving, young, herder of a dog that loved to run and herd cars for the most part. Needless to say, my Nana was in over her head with Hannah. Hannah need a place to run, some one to take her on long walks and at the very least a yard to play in. Shortly after getting Hannah, my Nana called my dad and asked for help. So naturally we said yes, what's one more dog...right? We already had an ornery old Cocker Spaniel, Murphy and a fat cat, Spud.

We drove to Greenville and picked up Hannah. This is when Hannah and I had our first adventure together. We said our goodbyes to my Nana and put Hannah in the car and drove across to my other Grandmother's house, where we had been staying, to get our stuff. We kept Hannah in the car, without a leash on (this will be a key point in a moment) and started loading the car. I opened the back door and...flash...Hannah was out of the car! She didn't go far so I tried to grab her by the collar but I missed and the adventure was on.

I first tried to play coy with her and walk calmly to her, thinking "if I stay calm she won't run away". This was a false assumption! Without going into all the details let just say I ran around the woods and neighborhoods near my Grandmother's house for several miles and at least an hour.

Finally, Hannah got tired or bored or thirsty and she laid down and let me get her. Back in the car, with the leash this time, she went and we headed for home.

This was not the last time that I was seen chasing this dog around the neighborhood or stopping her from herding cars (a practice that calmed down with age).

Skip ahead a few years and I had taken a job on a 500 acre camp and conference center in the hills of West Virginia called Bluestone. The director already had three dogs and knowing that a) Hannah got along with other dogs; b) she needed more exercise than she was getting; and c) I needed someone to talk to in my cabin in the woods my parents decided to let me take her with me.

She was like a duck to water. She not only showed the two male dogs who's boss she also loved to run and play and get in streams, run through the woods, chase deer and other wildlife, but every night she would come to my porch and sleep in the cabin with me, every morning ready for the days adventures. She helped me mow grass, herding the tractor, she kept me company while I split logs, she was always around when I needed her to be. It seemed like we were both living the dream.

One day after chasing the director with the other three dogs down to the lake she came back with a limp. The vet reported a torn ACL. I didn't even know dogs had ACLs. The quote was "She probably zigged when she should have zagged." She needed rest, so back to my parent's house she went to rest and recuperate.

I went to seminary and she stayed with my parents. Then in 2007, Hannah, my mom and I got in my truck and moved me to Oregon. Once we got here it was amazing. I had a running and hiking partner and a companion to sit with me while I looked for a job. I remember my sister saying as we left, "You'd better take care of her!"

About a month after we had moved here I was shoveling snow at Beloved's house which was a 10-acre plot surrounded on three sides by BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) just west of Redmond. Hannah was outside with me and the snow was getting pretty deep. I got a phone call and ran back inside to take it. I was literally gone for 2 minutes and when I came back Hannah was gone! I decided to use all of my suburban tracking skills and follow her tracks. I followed them down the half-mile long driveway, off into the BLM land around the house, I kept following what I thought were her tracks. I came face to face with a momma dear and her two foals. I jumped a fence then I realized that I was LOST...bad! I had ended up at Eagle Crest (a resort community outside of Redmond). Where Hannah was? I had no idea. Luckily, I had my cell phone with me and I called Beloved at work, I was pretty freaked out at this point. She came and picked me up and drove me back to her house. I then began the search again, only following known trails this time. No luck! Hannah was no where to be found, it was getting dark and the snow was coming down harder and harder. I was convinced that I had killed my dog, left her to fend for herself among God knows what in the woods outside of Redmond. Heidi came home from work and there was little hope.

About 2 hours later, there was a noise on the back porch. I looked outside but didn't see anything, I opened the back door and there sitting in the snow with a gleam in her eye and wagging her stump of a tail was Hannah, just as happy as a clam! I ran and fell into the snow and embraced her. It was great!

We had another good year together, running, hiking, hanging out and training for a half-marathon. Then in March of 2008 while in Philomath, Oregon planning for Beloved's and my wedding on a 5 mile training run we had one of the worst experiences of our lives.

We had covered about 4 miles with Hannah and we were just tired, so we decided to walk. There aren't many sidewalks around where Beloved grew up so were were walking next to a two lane road with Hannah on a short leash. We were about a mile from Beloved's parent's house when a minivan approached us and another small car came from behind us. There wasn't much of a shoulder so we got as far over as we could (we had already been passed by many cars so this was no we thought) there was a deep ditch to our right. Just as the minivan got to us...with flash Hannah dove at it's front quarter panel, mouth ready to strike. Unfortunately, the minivan, traveling at about 30-40 mph) won. Hannah yelped and was spun around in the middle of the street (all while still on her leash). The minivan stopped, I dove into the road to help her. There was blood all over the place, it was awful.

My mind was racing, would I sprint the last mile to get our car, cash, phone while Beloved stayed with Hannah on the side of the road, what were we going to do?

An angel in a gold Honda Accord pulled up next to me kneeling in the street rolled down her window and said, "Do you need a ride to the vet?" We immediately jumped in and took off.  (I always felt bad about this because the minivan that Hannah struck had stopped and I never even saw who was driving, I never had the opportunity to talk to them. I wish I had.) The woman in the Honda drove us to the nearest vet in Philomath, we walked in, I was covered in blood cradling Hannah in my arms I'm sure looking frantic. They told us that they didn't have an emergency department, that we needed to go to Corvallis (about 10 minutes away). The women in the Honda said, "Let's go!" We drove to Corvallis, the Philomath vet had called ahead. Hannah was rushed in, we waited anxiously for news...any news. I was convinced that Hannah was going to die. After the x-rays and examination it was determined that she had lost three teeth and her lower front left had been broken in two places. Surgery would be was expensive. After pray and a couple of hours of talking Beloved and I decided that we owed it to Hannah to have the surgery.

Several months and several thousand dollars later Hannah was healed. She could no longer run with us but she could hike some...a little.

Fast forward two years and Hannah was diagnosed with Anemia. A disease we treated for the better part of a year. Over the past year she has gotten increasing less active, less able to stand, less able to bark.

Which bring us today, we woke up knowing this was going to be our last weekend with her and found her unable to move even to go the the bathroom. The decision was made for us. We called the vet.

At 10:53 AM, Saturday, March 26, 2011 Beloved and I said goodbye to our amazing companion, Hannah.

She will be missed terribly. I'm going to have to get out of the habit of putting my plate on the ground for her to lick.

I would like to thank Dr. Wren, who performed the procedure today. He was as pastoral as I ever known anyone to be. He stood silently and allowed for Beloved and I to weep to say our goodbyes and to grieve the loss of our friend. He kissed Hannah's forehead and gave her the shot. It was peaceful, it was quick, it was beautiful.

Thank you Hannah for 13 years being the best dog I've ever had.