I don’t have any idea how to write this post, and yet I know that for my own sense of closure, I need to. On Thursday, we lost our beloved Huey dog.
We learned that he had cancer about six months ago, so while his death is not a total surprise, somehow it still is. How can you ever be ready to say goodbye to someone you love this much?
There is so much I want to write and say, and yet every time I think about it, I know there is no way I could ever capture life with Huey in a silly blog post. I’ve spent hours and hours finding every picture I can of him (and wow, there are a lot!) and the only thing that brings me any comfort at all is looking at his face, and remembering his smell while I still can.
And while I know that words are pretty pointless right now, I think it might make me feel better if I take the time to tell you guys all about the joy that was our sweet Huey.
It began 12.5 years ago. Casey was 23 and had just gotten married (not to me). He drove way out into the country to find a puppy out on a farm, and he knew he wanted Huey as soon as he saw him. Something about those giant crazy eyes just looked right through him.
A year later, Casey was divorced and his world had fallen apart. It was literally just him and Huey. He has told me many times that he never would have survived those hard times without Huey curled up beside him.
Another year later, Casey and I met and the rest was history. We became a part of each other’s daily life pretty quickly, and so my love affair with Huey began.
In March of 2005 – about five months later – Casey decided to get another dog. I was just a new girlfriend at the time, and little did I know I’d be helping choose the other love of my life. Along came Indy.
Our dogs were best buds from the beginning. They were completely wild and crazy, and they went for a million walks and played fetch all day long, and we just adored them. We moved in together not long after that, and so we were a family of four. It’s impossible to talk about Huey without talking about Indy, because for so long they were such a team.
We got up early to walk them in the dark before work, and we took them on all sorts of adventures. And after a few years of living in Cincinnati together, we headed out on our biggest adventure yet. I loaded up the dogs into the back of my Honda, and we all drove to North Carolina together.
The dogs loved Charlotte. Casey and I were both super busy with work and school, but we were in and out of the house all the time. We took advantage of the wonderful weather in Charlotte, and walked them for hours each day. Our backyard was a huge wooded area that they loved, with endless sticks and room to run.
In Charlotte they both also got super sick – they found some turtle friends to play with who had salmonella, and both dogs almost died. I remember spending a very scary night at the emergency vet, not sure if either of them would come home. Thankfully they did, and eventually they were back to their usual wild selves.
Charlotte days also brought our first trip to the beach. I will never forget showing the dogs the ocean for the first time. Indy was cautious, but Huey couldn’t get enough. He loved leaping the waves and trying to eat the surf, and we had to keep him on his leash for fear that he’d try to swim out to sea. It was magical.
A year later, we loaded up the cars again and headed north to Alexandria, Virginia – the next place we would call home.
I will never forget the very first walk we took them on there. I was so excited about our new neighborhood, and getting to show them the waterfront and all the beautiful sights in DC.
We lived in a tiny row house with only a patio for a yard, but Casey and I worked from home, so we were together pretty much all the time.
The dogs got lots and lots of walks, and I think they loved walking along the waterfront almost as much as I did.
We did a lot of runs together down the Mt. Vernon trail. Huey truly could have run forever – he was a wonder dog. It was hard for me to run with him because I wasn’t fast enough!
While we were in Virginia, I found out I was pregnant with Cullen, and we knew life would change for all of us pretty soon.
Little did we know about the other big change coming, but a few months later we were packing up again. Casey drove the dogs all the way across the country – from Virginia to Washington, and they had many hotel room adventures along the way.
I flew to Seattle and can remember it all feeling so real when I opened the front door and saw Casey and the dogs ready to head into their new home. It didn’t matter where we lived – when we were together, we were home.
The dogs and I adjusted to life at home in the big city, while Casey headed back to an office job for the first time in years. We trekked up the giant hills in Fremont, all the while my belly grew bigger and bigger. They watched with nervous anticipation as we set up the nursery and got ready for baby.
We explored our new city. We hiked, we walked, we found a great doggie daycare. We adjusted to life on the West Coast.
And in October of 2011, their baby brother came home. They were both terrified. Huey hated the sound of Cullen’s high-pitched cry, and he’d jump and run away any time he made a noise. He was very cautious, and required a lot of extra snuggles and love.
Indy quickly figured out that being near the baby meant getting lots of attention. Huey took a lot longer, as he was always very skittish and quirky.
We all slowly adjusted to life with kids. Casey and I worked hard to get them their walks, but of course it was different. They learned to walk with a stroller, and even though we couldn’t walk them for hours each day anymore, I am still really proud of how committed we stayed to their exercise and happiness.
Two years later, baby Graham entered the mix, and the dogs seemed a lot less phased the second time around. Just a few short weeks later, after growing tension between the dogs (that had existed for years on some level), shit finally hit the fan and we had to make some major decisions. We considered rehoming Indy. We were really worried about safety with young kids in the house. After a few days of hard talks and researching options, we decided to stick it out and make it work.
I dug my heels in hard. Casey started traveling almost all the time right around then, and I committed to working with the dogs and getting them their walks and attention regardless. I had an elaborate system for dog walking that included carabineers, short leashes, one kid in an Ergo, and the other in a stroller. We were a walking circus, but we did it.
After eight years of being together all the time, we had to start keeping the dogs mostly separated. It was hard work. It was a huge daily commitment, but it was worth it. Everyone still got walks, and snuggles, and sunny spots to curl up in, but there were no safety threats – and honestly the dogs seemed more relaxed once they weren’t competing for attention anymore.
In September of 2015, I noticed a small lump on Huey’s side. I took him to the vet who confirmed our worst fear – he had cancer. We spoiled him rotten, and loved on him any chance we could.
Somehow, even knowing he was sick, I didn’t really believe he was going to die any time soon. He was slowing down, but in a typical old man type of way, and certainly did not act like a sick dog. He was just as mischievous as he ever was, and he still yanked his leash on his daily walks just like he did as a pup.
And then suddenly, he really was sick. And it was time to say goodbye. And it was absolutely positively the worst day of my entire life.
I have lost people in my life before that I’ve cared about, but never anyone in my core unit. Like MY PEOPLE. And Huey was undoubtedly one of those.
It’s so cliché, but he was truly the first baby. And while I knew he wouldn’t live forever, I think part of me might have believed that he would.
He had already lived through so much. He was Huey the destroyer. In his first year he ate a staircase of carpet that kinked around his insides and required an extensive surgery to save his life. But he made it.
In his earlier years, he ate everything toxic that a dog shouldn’t eat, including an entire tub of pure cocoa powder. And it was ugly, but he made it.
He escaped our backyard so many times, and somehow (thankfully) never got hit by a car or truly lost. We always, always found him. And when he escaped with Indy, we found them together every time. The dynamic due until the end.
If you can’t tell already, I’m having a really, really hard time with this. And while I never thought losing a beloved bet would be easy, I didn’t know it would be this crushing.
I cannot stop crying. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I don’t really want to do anything other than lay on the couch with Indy, look at Huey’s picture, hold his collar, lay on his favorite step and smell the carpet, and close my eyes and imagine I can feel his soft ears being rubbed in my hands.
I don’t really like feeling super vulnerable and personal in this space anymore, but I needed to write all of this. For a long, long time I shared so much of our lives here. The dogs were a big part of that. I know a lot of you followed Huey’s journey along with ours, and I thank you for that.
My hope is that with each passing day, this starts to feel a little better. So far, each day has felt worse. Because the rest of the world has kept going, and I’m not totally sure how to. But if I learned anything from Huey, it is to always keep going. Because lord knows, that dog never stopped.
The only light I can find from all of this is that I’ve been doing a lot of deep, personal reflection. Losing Huey feels like closing the door on a 12.5 year chapter that I wasn’t ready to finish just yet.
Death puts life into perspective very quickly, and I feel fiercely (even alarmingly) protective and connected to the people (and dogs) that I love so deeply. I don’t want to waste time or energy on silly daily stresses anymore. Life is just too short for all of that.
And so with that – I miss you Huey dog. So much. So so so very much. I never ever knew I could miss you so much. I wish just one more time you’d rip up the tissue paper in the bathroom. I wish I could find the snack cups you’d pulled out of the sink, or the crayons you had chewed up in the playroom. I wish I could feel your warm body snuggled under the covers with me just one more time.
We are planting a tree for you. We were going to plant it in the front yard, but then I panicked and realized that I didn’t want to ever have to leave you again. So we’re going to get a nice planter, and put all your favorite things inside. And wherever we go, you’ll always come with us.
Because you are our first baby – today, tomorrow, and forever.