We drove Hannah home for the first time on November 10, 2012. We drove her home for the final time on December 29, 2021. In between, we got nine years of memories, milestones, and love.
When we first met Hannah, she was probably around six years old, we really don’t know. She was a puppy mill breeding dog and was wary of everything. Other people, especially men. Doors. Even toys and treats, which she barely even understood.
She picked up toys pretty quickly though. And she adored squeaky toys. Especially the soft ones that she could both squeeze tightly and also use as a pillow. Her favorite was Lamb-y. You could squeak a toy and she would come flying at you. She liked to have you throw her toys so that she could run and bring them back to you. And, of course, tug. Hannah never gave up on tug. It doesn’t matter how few teeth she had, she always held on. Had to be really sly and somehow sneak the toy out while she was adjusting her grip.
One year, for what we decided was her birthday, we gave her a new toy: a squeaky lion (that I always thought resembled a hippo). That one, for whatever reason, she just hated touching. On weekends, to give her a challenge, we would put her kibble in a kong, and put that kong in side one of her toys and stuff it with our toys - so that she would have to pull out all of this stuff in order to eat. She got so good at that – just ripping toys out left and right and leaving them strewn across the living room carpet. But she always left that hippo in there. Never touched it. Just ate around it.
Hannah almost never barked. Truly almost never. I think if we tried hard enough, we could probably enumerate every single one of her life. The first bark of hers we remember was when we went to our first Westie picnic. She was so excited when we got there that she barked at the door to be let out immediately! We were both so surprised. The last time she barked, I don’t even remember if it was this year or last, but I was working and she was trying to get my attention. I guess she was annoyed that I wasn’t giving her enough, and she barked at me. I was so startled I almost fell out of my chair, but funnily enough even she was so startled at having produced that sound that she fell backwards and almost got dangled up in my cables!
That’s not to say she would never whine though. Or make this weird gurgling grumbling sound when she wanted something. To ensure that we knew that she wanted something.
I remember when we took Hannah to the beach for the first time in her life, and let her go off leash. She ran like she never ran before – sprinted several loops around us, bolted in one direction for a while and then came back. She’d never been able to run like that before, and the sheer joy in her face is hard to forget.
We convinced her to go in the water on occasion. She wasn’t really built for swimming. Not enough leg, too much body and head. But she’d come out to us if we were in the water. She liked being close to us. The last time we went to the beach, in Delaware in April, she wasn’t so much up to running. But we had a nice walk up and down anyway.
I remember when we took Hannah to our cousin’s and she rolled around in the grass for the first time. She would do this often, when she would find a spot she would particularly like – just get on her back and rub against it as much as possible. Inevitably this frolicking would lead to her gathering an assortment of flora in her face.
Hannah was a very agile dog when she wanted to be, and a great jumper. She loved jumping up onto our couch and even onto its arm or its back – this gave her a great vantage point into everything that was going on, while still being far away from anybody bugging her. She also used to love sitting on one of the higher stairs – she could be there for hours, just watching us.
As she got older, her agility decreased. At one point, she slipped down the stairs and took a hard tumble. And then it happened again, and we started making sure that we’d be a few steps ahead of her to catch her if she fell. But then she was too nervous to really walk down the stairs anymore, we just had to carry her down instead. No more stair observatory.
But she still had the couch. Every now and then she wouldn’t take a big enough jump and would bounce off the front of the couch. This was adorable, she reacted to it as if she hit some magical invisible barrier and was very confused. And sometimes pretend like she wasn’t trying to get on the couch anyway. But then she’d just walk back up and jump onto it. Over time, those misses became more common – from rare and weird to uncommon to unsurprising to typical. Even the makes were close, usually leading to her having to scrabble up the side a little bit.
At some point this year, she successfully jumped onto the couch for her last time. I don’t really know when – why would you remark on a milestone that was once so ordinary? But even though she couldn’t make it by herself anymore, she still wanted to be on the couch. She would just walk up to it and look at it until one of us noticed and would lift her onto it. Was she looking at it as a villain? As an insurmountable obstacle? Or as a cry for help? We’ll never know.
Even though she couldn’t jump onto the couch anymore, she would still find a way to jump. When it was dinner or breakfast time, she would always sprint towards her food – to the kitchen, to the dining room, to the living room. Wherever it was we were preparing it. And when that route took her onto a carpet, she wouldn’t just run onto the carpet – she would hurl herself in the air with a tremendous leap. I wish we had thought to capture a video.
As she got older, she couldn’t quite walk as long as she used to. We decided to get her a backpack to carry her in when she got tired. That way, she’d still get to see everything on the walk. The backpack was a huge hit – we had lots of people stopping to comment on it.
Covid was good for Hannah - it meant we could spend more time with her over the last two years than we otherwise would have. We got into a nice and regular schedule. She would wake up in the morning, get out of her bed in our bedroom and mozy on over to her bed in Tina’s office for her morning nap. Rough life, I know. She’d end up spending the day with one of us in our respective offices. Just to be close. Sometimes to be very, very close.
In the afternoons, the three of us would always go on a walk together – unless the weather was especially bad. It was a nice break in the day for us to be together. Walks were sometimes a challenge. Hannah wanted to walk where she wanted to walk. Maybe that was through a puddle that was easily avoidable, or into the only muddy area for miles, but that’s where she wanted to go so good luck changing her mind. She never liked walking around our home either, for whatever reason. But on weekends we’d drive over to the park and go on a long walk there. She loved the park. So much to sniff.
During our time at home, Hannah learned some new and important skills. She learned that being in the kitchen when Tina was cooking (or, more importantly, when I was clumsily cutting vegetables) was a really good opportunity for some extra food. She also discovered that the door to our bathroom has a hinge that was a little off, so it wouldn’t quite close. She could usually just push it open. When one of us was in the shower, she would regularly just make her way into the room to just lie on the carpet to be close by. Although sometimes, she didn’t actually want to come in, she just wanted to open the door. That door was staying open!
Those door opening skills didn’t quite transfer to other problems though. We would occasionally want to keep her in certain areas of the house, and to do so we would build up insurmountable barriers of… empty shoe boxes. She could’ve jumped over them, knocked them over, or simply walked through them. But she respected the barriers. Just whined at them until we gave in.
Tina also kept a garden on our roof in the warmer months. A bunch of herbs, peppers, and tomatoes. Hannah really liked tomatoes. Had to watch her pretty closely so she wouldn’t just snatch them off the plants! Although I may have let her get away with one or another. I mean, just look at her face. How can you say no to that face?
We also went on some road trips - to South Carolina and Delaware for work, to Missouri for fun - and during a drive through the Great Smoky Mountains, Hannah for the first time stuck her whole head out the window while we were driving. She always loved being in a car. It gave her a great opportunity to look out the windows and observe. But this was her first time getting that full rush of wind in her face, turning into a small white fur missile.
Hannah was a great snuggler. We spent so much time together on couches, on lounge chairs, in the car. This past Thanksgiving, we stayed at an AirBnB that had a beanbag chair. The perfect snuggling accessory. Occasionally you had to get up while she was on top of you, and she would just look at you with a stare of deepest betrayal. How could you?
One milestone we do remember is her last meal. On Sunday morning, she ate fine. But by Sunday evening she only picked at her food. On Monday, she would barely be coaxed to eat a little yogurt and blueberries. On Tuesday, nothing. Not even peanut butter or cheese. Our little dog’s kidney problems got insurmountable and she could no longer function. I took the last picture of her we’ll ever take on Sunday evening, of her looking up at me from her favorite spot on the couch, while I was sitting next to her reading.
She took her last breath, wrapped in the towel we took her home in nine years ago, at around 4:30pm on December 29th. Hannah’s last few days were not great. I’m not sure she even recognized us in the end.
I hope we did right by her. She was the best dog we could have asked her. She gave us so much.