My best friend needed to leave me six weeks ago today. It was both a moment ago and an eternity gone by since we said our final “I’ll be seeing you”, “I’ll never forget you”, and, of course, “I love you, Henry” over and over and over again. He responded by looking deep down into my soul with his gorgeous brown eyes, just as he had always done.

The only thing deeper than my grief for having had to say good-bye is my profound gratitude for having had just shy of 13 years to be his best friend. I was so lucky to have him.

To say he was my best friend is truly not enough. He was my rock and my routine. He was my shadow, my hiking and dinner companion, and my confidant – always being totally non-judgmental of my faults. He kept me on my ball throwing toes and made me laugh numerous times each day. He loved to ride in the car, but equally loved to come home. He let me bawl into his fur when I needed to and would get up to wag his tail and “dance” when the really good songs came on the speaker.

He loved the good times when the kids were here – sometimes around the campfire until the early hours of the morning. He made up his own rules for bocce ball, which they played by reluctantly while still laughing the whole time. He would chase the frisbee thrown in the water until exhaustion or our insistence that he come to lay down and rest. He helped cook and bake in the kitchen taking up residence right smack dab in the middle of it all. He could hike further and faster than all of us in his prime, but knew when to stop to sit down at “the gratitude bench” on Monarch Trail in Newport Park.

Henry loved being outside, and the only thing better than being on the porch waiting for me, was me joining him to work in the garden. Chores were never chores – they were quality time spent with Henry. For some reason, he chose to “support” me when I worked out in the basement by languishing on the couch and watching. Guess who hasn’t worked out in the basement once in the past six weeks……

I miss him every day. I still step over his water dish walking into the pantry, although I have put it away. I still sleep on “my” side of the bed. I still have the feeling that”I have to get home” even though I really don’t. I still see him out of the corner of my eye, still check for him on the porch, and still feel his presence deeply. There are some days that I realize that I haven’t thought about him for little while, and I don’t know whether to feel good about it or sad. It is a bittersweet feeling

Crosswinds feels empty without him while also holding his memories. To be honest, I don’t know what I would do without my home being here to offer her solace and friendship. She has also lost one of my “non-negotiables” of a happy home – a furry friend. She wears the scars of Henry’s toenails, the dark spot by the door where he would wait to be let out, and an amazing amount of his dog hair – even six weeks later. Every project in this home was done by me, but drawn out by a shaggy golden head on my lap or laying at the bottom of a ladder.

To say we did it all together is not doing our time justice. There were times when the snow was 3 feet deep, or the power went out, or the sump pump broke and the basement flooded. There were times when the kids left after Christmas and I felt so sad seeing them leave, or they got jobs far away and I knew I had become an empty nester. There was Covid. These were all tearful times made easier by his solid, old soul presence. His friendship could pull me through everything and anything.

Now, the memories of his companionship have to be my rock. He is everywhere that I am here at Crosswinds. Even as I type I expect his big nose to nudge me, and I am so very, very grateful for our time together.

To have had a friend of his integrity, authenticity, and caliber has been one of the greatest gifts of my life. We all know when we ask a dog to be a part of our lives – to be our best friend – that we are setting ourselves up for a future heartbreak. I would take that chance a million times over for the privilege of having Henry as mine.