Hank's happy ever after
How a soul cast away as nothing became everything to one family
All dogs are terrific, a dog lover will tell you. All dogs are brilliant. All dogs are wonderful. All dogs are super special.
Sometimes, though, a human develops a relationship with a dog that transcends all understanding. That’s how Gary and Abigail Smith feel about Hank, who came into their lives in May of 2020.
“We just cannot believe someone wanted to have Hank euthanized.” Abigail remarked incredulously. At only three years old, Hank had seen a lifetime worth of neglect and abuse. The humans in his life cast him away to be euthanized because they said he was beyond redemption. Thankfully, his path crossed that of a human with some good sense and he ended up at Canine Castaways Rescue instead. Over the next seven months he was given a safe place to recover and heal, and to learn that not all humans make bad decisions where dogs are concerned.
“He’s the gentlest, sweetest, most intuitive dog we have ever met.” Abigail expanded. “Once he moved in with us and was given the chance to be his real self, Hank just started to shine. He’s crazy about us, and so happy to be a part of Ellie’s world.” She says, referring to the elderly boxer and fellow CCR alumni they had adopted a few months prior to Hank.
From the first moment he met Gary, Hank completely trusted him, an obvious sign this relationship was written in the stars. After a couple of home visits and a weekend sleepover, Gary knew this wasn’t just another boxer with a charming face. He made a deep and instant connection with Hank and recognized the magic in the bond that was forming between them. “He’s just something special.” Gary said. Although it wasn’t as instantaneous as it was with Gary, it didn’t take long for Hank to warm up to Abigail as well. Within just a couple of days, he declared them to be his humans and announced that he would keep them for his happy ever after.
Interestingly, he has a distinctively different relationship with each of his humans. With Gary, he’s all rough and tumble like a little boy would be with his Daddy. He greets Daddy after work with extreme butt wiggles and body bends that are so intense, he’s practically nose-to-tail with excitement! They play hide and seek around tree trunks and go for fast walks in the park accentuated by the occasional squirrel chase. They run like crazy with sticks in the yard and smash into furniture during stuffed animal battles in the house. They toss tennis balls and wrestle over who gets to kiss Mommy first. The quiet and calm house becomes Crazy Town when Daddy walks through the door after work.
With Mommy, though, Hank’s tender side comes out. He interrupts her work routine often during the day to lay his head in her lap for scratches and snuggles. “Well, I do have a deadline of sorts,” Abigail says of her writing career. “Fortunately for Hank, the people who hold me to those writing deadlines are understanding and flexible. They might sign my paycheck, but they know that Hank’s the real CEO around here.” He sleeps at night with his head on her tummy, shifting and repositioning however he needs to in order to keep that connection. He can tell when she’s having a bad day physically, and goes out of his way to comfort her, even though his idea of comfort is to heave and heft his eighty-five pounds into her lap! This can be more of a squishing than a comforting, since she’s small of stature, but she says she will take all the love he wants to dish out and let the chiropractor sort out her crushed spleen and smooshed spine. He licks the tears from her face when she cries at sad movies and presses his forehead to hers when he’s thinking deep thoughts. Like she said, he’s an incredibly intuitive fellow.
As precious as it is to see how bonded he’s become with his humans, possibly the most beautiful side of Hank comes out in his nurturing of Ellie. Unfortunately, Ellie has been diagnosed with severe anxiety and dementia. When Hank came into the family, Gary and Abigail watched in amazement as she began to overcome some aspects of her everyday fears and struggles. She became bolder, braver, and without a doubt significantly happier with Hank around. “She won’t ever be all the way better, but Hank was the missing piece of the puzzle we needed to help Ellie come out of this as much as possible. He’s brought about better results for her than even her doggie Prozac!” Abigail says. He even stays up with Abigail when Ellie’s panic attacks last all night, just being a strong presence around for Ellie and Abigail both to lean on. He patiently submits to her never ending need to bathe him, and always lets her snuggle up to him when she is feeling blue.
When Hank isn’t snuggled up next to Ellie or investigating what the cats are up to, his favorite pastime is fighting rubbery things, specifically the tire swing in the backyard. He also loves to chase squirrels across his two acre back yard, although he always misses out on catching them by just a teeny, tiny bit. When Hank is really worked up about something he walks with a very distinctive stride, Gary reports, which he has dubbed the “Trot Trot”. Hank unleashes his Trot Trot when he’s excited, which is just about any time Daddy’s around. A favorite nightly routine has been Hank’s “review” of the items in his toy box, which is a drawn out process of him taking each toy out for a brief chew and slobber test run before leaving it laying around the house somewhere so his humans can pick it up later.
“It just makes me so happy to know that he understands that he has a toy box that we filled just for him. I want him to know that he has things to play with that we picked out just to make him happy. I want him to know that this is his home for as long as he lives, and he can relax and be comfortable and happy in the safe place we have created for him.” Gary says
Some of Hank’s funnier moments are whenever Daddy and Mommy show affection for one another. If Hank sees them hugging, or exchanging a kiss, or even just holding hands, he gets this goofy grin on his face and bounces up to them to insert himself into the loving. He will cover their faces with slobbery, gooey kisses of his own, tail wagging and eyes glowing! There are bedtime kisses, when the whole family settles down in bed for the night, and Hank thinks it’s time for a ten minute “let me just kiss your face” session. There are “Daddy’s trying to kiss Mommy hello after work kisses” when Hank practically knocks them both to the ground in his effort to join in the kissing. There are “Oh, I see you are holding hands while watching TV. Let me kiss you for that!” kisses that are, well, exactly what they sound like.
When asked about their experiences with adopting, Gary and Abigail have a simple response. “We have really only adopted those who have been labeled unadoptable, whether it’s been because they are too old, too sick, or too aggressive. We learned early on that a lot of love and some solid training can change the predicted outcome of a dog in the shelter or rescue world who has been stuck with a label. No dog is born bad. No dog is bad. Human behavior is the only bad component of a dog’s life.”
Hank had been labeled as an aggressive dog and accused of biting a human by his former owners. This is oftentimes a death sentence when a dog is surrendered to a shelter, as was the case with Hank. When asked if Hank might be a risky investment, the Smith’s response was immediate and confident. “Hank’s clearly been in situations where humans abused him and his trust. He developed behaviors conducive to an abusive life because he was forced into that. We aren’t abusing him. He has a peaceful, happy, love-filled life to wake up to each and every morning. We view him as a valuable member of the family, and a joy to have as a friend. We love Hank for who Hank is, and we think he understands that. We think all he needed was a chance to just be himself. The only risk around here is that he might knock us down while he’s kissing us.”