This is Henry, also known as “Exhibit D”.

Henry died this week of advanced kidney disease. He was a great companion, a dream of a dog, really. He allowed me to sleep till a civilized hour in the morning, was devoted to me without being a sycophant, and was fun almost all the time. His last few months were pretty dreary — if you think getting subcutaneous fluid twice a day is awful —, but with his robust appetite and improved energy and blood count, he was rallying. Until Tuesday, when his poor little body gave out. I want to say a few things about Henry and dogs in this week’s Five Things.

He looked like a Schnauzer when we adopted him.

He looked like a Schnauzer when we adopted him.

1) In my opinion pets allow us to be our best selves. We love them with no expectation they will give us bragging rights by going to law school or one day pay for our elder care. We love them without self-consciousness. We can sing to them, talk to them, dance with them, and photograph them to our hearts’ content. True, they have been compared to children who never grow up, but I am convinced that when an animal and a human pair up, there is a powerful (if primitive) connection between the two. Henry seemed to intuit when a member of our family needed him. He was a giver.


2) Call me crazy, but hearing Henry eat his crunchy kibble was a giant pleasure for me. It sounded almost like popcorn, when the kernels are at peak poppage. It made me happy as a mommy.


3) I remember a divorced friend with two kids who married a woman with children of her own said his blended family was mostly settling in with one another, but not exactly. Then they adopted an orphan from Eastern Europe, and felt they had not only “completed” their family, they felt the baby brought everyone together. Henry did that for this blended family as well. We all agreed that Henry was a good boy. We all recognized there was something special about him.


4) On the other hand, I am uncomfortable when people seem to prefer animals over human beings. (I know; the former seem innocent and angelic and the latter seem twisted and corrupt, but still…. people…. Can talk to you and share ideas and warm squeezes and take you to dinner when you are needy.) I also know as a formerly non-pet person, that talking about one’s animal falls somewhere on the spectrum between boring and offensive , especially to a person who doesn’t ‘get’ animals. Once my friend Christopher took me to the Westminster Dog Show, and we got to wander backstage. Some of those dog owners were crazeeeee. The way they talked and pampered their animals was like a lover or ministering to a stubborn yet vulnerable child. Logic? I don’t think so. In that universe of pedigrees, it’s like having a kid who’s training for the Olympics. If you are motivated to win, you will spend all your time and all your money to see it through.

from “Best in Show”

from “Best in Show”

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Mueller

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Mueller

5) I think the Muellers are dog people. They just have that outdoorsy- American-hiking-with-the dogs-feel.

I hope they and you have a Merry Christmas.

Until next week, enjoy yourselves and act natural,