I can still see his ten, maybe eleven-pound frame moving across the cement under the dim lights. Determination one of his virtues even then when we met that night. A barn his home, this first-born of his family. His father a very large figure, intently watchful of the people his children would meet. His mother daintier in her smaller frame. Yet, she too keeping an eye on each of her children moving out of her range.
His father originally from Germany; a bloodline of royalty. We opted not to change this little one’s name. We didn’t always call him Lord Von Barren, nor Gray. We abbreviated his full name of Lord Von Barren Hans of Gray to simply be Hans or sometimes Hansey. Occasionally he was “Bubba” and in his later years we might whisper “hey, ole boy” affectionately.
Grey, white, brown spots, and patches of missing fur, too. His mother’s fight with a critter while she was pregnant passed ring worm on to her brood. On his one beautiful brown ear was a streak of fur colored in gray and white. That made this little fella our priceless find. He was of little value, at least accordingly to the “elite”. His cost for us to take home was near one fourth of others who have “pedigree”. Our German Shorthair was “not worth anything” for that ear adorned with a gray and white streak.
Yes, our dear Hans so “worth less”, he never went through the puppy teething. Translation, no shoes nor furniture met with his chewing. The only time he ever had anything of ours that he shouldn’t “have”, was a glove he took to his bed to hold on to because he was mad. Hans went near everywhere that we would go. In this particular instance, he had stayed home. The glove not shredded, nor sign of any teeth marks leaving their permanent engraving. He merely wanted us to know that he didn’t go with us was disappointing.
And then there is the game of throw and retrieve. Tennis balls, especially, were Hansey’s favorite thing. His love for tennis balls so great, they would also get to take a drink. If he was thirsty, the tennis ball went into his water bowl during his thirst quench to ensure the ball’s safe keep.
It was with this love of a tennis ball that one could see the flaws that traditional pedigree judges have. We would tell Hans stay as we tossed a tennis ball into the woods out of sight from where he sat. We would then let a minute or two or more pass. Patiently Hans would sit staring in the direction the ball was tossed. We would then communicate okay, now go get your ball. Though we didn’t keep tally, I’m confident the score was zero to nine-hundred-ninety-nine thousand times. Zero representing the number of times that ball was not found. No matter the time, the distance, or the range out of sight, our “worth less” boy always returned the ball safe and sound.
I still share the story Hans of how you knew what my heart needed you to do. You curled up next to me when you knew my heart had just broken in two. Normally our now eighty pound “baby” had only one requirement when it was bed time. He had to sleep between his human dad and I. Oh, how we would try to get him to change his mind periodically. Eighty pounds “bulldozing” with his nose can be a powerful thing. Yet, on the night I received the call that my Grandpa had taken his last breath, Hans made his one and only exception to sleep on my side of the bed. Acting as my pillow and my tear catcher through the entire night, Hans kept reassuring me it would all be alright.
A reader of our hearts, equally his unconditional love in return. He kept his promise he gave me for how long he would stay on Earth. After a scare that a lump on his neck would mean he would not earn the name “ole boy” in later years, once again he cuddled next to me catching my tears. While we awaited a call from the veterinarian to hear the words “benign”, Hansey and I talked about his immense value by our sides.
Who else would eagerly burrow into the sleeping bag so excited for slumber party nights? And what about how many painter turtles we would count as we went for a canoe ride? I know you can’t stay with us physically until we have also grown old. But, please Hansey, be at least fifteen before you decide it is time to go. I anticipate Hans knew before that vet call that he could honor what my heart pleaded to be. Physically by our side several more years, Hansey left just a few months shy of fifteen.
Our four-legged child in fur, our companion, the one to first make us a family. Happy twenty-fourth birthday, our dear Hansey. So many feathered souls graced by your regal point while in a field, on the lake, and the yard too. Our gentle giant, a love of kiddy swimming pools you also knew. A friend to cats, a mentor for our baby duck named Pip Squeak That little mallard would follow you around the yard as if you were momma in the lead. A chipmunk squeak would raise both beautiful ears instantly. Your eighty-pound stature also never too heavy for lap sitting.
Your brown ear with that beautiful white and grey streak was our gold mine. Thank you for the gift of you in our lives. We the receivers of your total heart unconditionally – you dear Hans, so very – very, immensely -loved and worthy.