By the time we got him he was already crate trained. As with any new dog in a new environment, it took a few weeks of retraining to prevent him from marking our whole house. He was a very attentive dog with super sensitive hearing. He could hear people walking towards the house even when they were 2 houses away. He’d perk up, sit up, then run to the door. He never barked unless necessary. He was the best house dog.
He got along with our Rottweilers outside. Aside from annoying them with his constant humping, which was the funniest thing to watch, they minded their own business. Harley was a Houdini. He managed to get through and around our gate no matter how much we tried to close up all the gaps. His body was flexible and he was a contortionist.
He escaped more than once. The first few times, we’d go crazy looking for him. We could never find him, but in a few hours, we’d find him sitting at our front door. So, he was not allowed to go out of the house unsupervised. One time he managed to break through a window and through a screen when we weren’t home. We came home and he was gone. This time, he never came home. We posted signs. We drove around. We asked our neighbors. After 2 weeks of waiting and looking, we decided to accept that he was gone. Dead? Stolen? We never knew.
November 7, 2011, five years later. I got a call from the humane society.
Ranger: Hello, I’m XXX and I have your male dog.
Me: Sigh…my Rotts got out??
Ranger: No, I am in possession of a male Lhasa Apso named “Harkey”?
Me: WHAT?!! (I almost fell out of my chair)
Ranger: Yes, is this your dog?
Me: Wait. WHAT?! HARLEY?! You have HARLEY?! WHERE?! Where did you find him?
Ranger: I picked him up in Mililani Mauka.
Me: You don’t understand. He got out of our yard 5 years ago. We thought he was dead. This is like he’s coming back from the dead. Our family accepted that he was gone. Let me just take this all in.
Ranger: Well, his collar has a different name and address. I chipped him and you are the registered owner and your information is what came up on the chip. Do you want him back? He looks like he’s been well taken care of. He looks healthy and fed. The neighbors dog was in heat and he got out of the house.
Me: YES I want him back! What does his collar say?
Ranger: I can only tell you the name. It says “LOUIE”.
Me: I WANT HIM BACK!
Romel and I went down to the Humane Society with no collar and no leash. We didn’t have any. We just wanted him back home. When they brought him out he was was scruffy and his hair was matted and dreadlocked on his undercarriage. He remembered us. As soon as I called out to him, he came to me.
When we took him home, the kids were so happy. We let him down in the house and allowed him to explore. He remembered EVERYTHING. He went straight into the kids rooms. He then walked into our bedroom and then went to the backdoor and looked out onto the patio. He ran through the house. He didn’t need to sniff every corner to get familiar. He just knew.
We then put him in the large basin in the garage and soaked him in warm soapy water with conditioner to help get the knots and dreads apart. It was no use. So, we just tried to clean him as best as we could and dry him off.
The following night we went to church. We didn’t have a crate for him yet. We normally would put him in the crate while we were out. When we got back from church, he managed to rip off every single blind from our dining area. He ripped the cords and everything. We now had a bare naked window.
We scolded him lightly. We knew he must’ve had anxiety because he we left the house. We replaced the blinds and went out to get a crate. When we took the crate home all it took was one word. “Crate” and he headed straight for the crate and layed down. We were shocked. He knew the commands.
Three days later, I took him to the Groom Room for pampering and a complete shave. I knew it would take a lot of work to get him shaved. They took about five hours. When we got him back he looked WONDERFUL! He was so happy.
When we got Harley back, I was 7 months pregnant with Emily. I researched Lhasa Apso's temperaments with young children and was afraid that he'd be mean or bite the baby. Based on my findings, Lhasa's dont like sudden movements and I read many stories of the dog biting their kids. I was worried. When we brought Emily home, I let him sleep with one of her baby blankets that had her scent on it. I introduced him to Emily slowly. He would sniff her and watch her. The interesting part of it was, he was very protective of her. He never dared try to nip, growl, or even bark at her. When she cried he would run to her. I had a very different dog compared to the ones I read online. Still, we never left them alone together. We always kept our eyes on them, just in case.
If Emily and I were on our bed and Harley was laying at our feet, no one and I mean NO ONE was allowed to even sit on the edge of the bed until I told him to get down. He didn't allow anyone near us. I was the only one he would listen to without his eyes glazing over into big black marbles. Emily and Harley grew together. They played together and kept each other company. When Emily would sleep in the playpen as a newborn, he would stand watch over her and sleep right next to the playpen. If anyone came over and picked Emily up, he would follow them throughout the house and sit at their feet as they held her.
When Emily learned to walk, he would follow her around the house. He would snatch food out of her hands if she wasn't looking and she'd cry. It was like they were siblings. Harley taught Emily how to be gentle. When she'd play outside with the Rotts, they could handle her banging on their sides or even a bump with a toy. They were 10 times heavier than she was and 20 times bigger. When she played with the Rotts it was like watching Darla (from Finding Nemo) play with a fish in a bag. She learned how to pet nicely, softly, and gently with Harley.
A few weeks ago we picked up another dog. A boston terrier named Jax. His owner was ready to give him up due to constant chewing and nipping at his daughter. When we brought Jax home, he and Harley got along well. They had a few “alpha” moments but nothing we couldn’t handle. We trained Jax to listen to basic commands and potty train him in under a week. He’s never “nipped” at us or Emily. He’s jab at us playfully cause he wants us to give him attention. But never nipped at us with intent to bite. He’s a playful breed. Whereas Harley was a very calm relaxed breed who just liked to hang out at your feet.
The other night, August 3rd, Harley got out again. I didn’t know he got out. I thought he was in his crate when we left for church. When we got back, we saw that he was still not home. It had been almost 5 hours. That was unlike him. I started to worry. I posted it on facebook, instagram and on craigslist. My gut feeling wasn’t good.
We left the garage cracked open for him to return. We left the porch light and backyard light on for him. The next morning I checked the backyard and there he was. Curled up in a ball. As soon as I opened the door he got up and hobbled into the house. I knew it. I saw the black marks on his hind leg. He was hit. Romel came to the door and saw his face. He kept saying “his eye. Whats wrong with his eye?” I started screaming, “WHAT?!!!! WHAT?!!!”
Harley turned to me and I cannot get that image out of my head. I won’t go into detail of what I saw but Lhasa’s are prone to this eye issue due to their large bulging eyes.
He sat down on the floor and didn’t move. I ran into the room and shut the door and kept telling them “I CAN’T I CAN’T I CAN’T. I cannot see him like this. I can’t..What are we going to do?!!! We need to take him to the ER. But who? Where?!”
Thankfully the Waipahu Leeward Vet Clinic (Now the Waipahu Waikele Pet Hospital) offers 24 hour ER services. Thank God. We got dressed and rushed him there. I had to drive with tears in my eyes because I couldn’t bear to hold him and look at him in that condition.
After exams, blood tests, xrays and everything under the sun, we thought we could save him. He had multiple small fractures in his pelvis and his eye would need to be removed. We thought he would be ok. His organs were all intact and the adrenaline pumping through his shocked body it was allowed him to make it all the way home.
After 24 hour observation, they found that although his bladder was intact, his urethra was not. And it is something that was almost impossible to repair. Coupled with his pain and discomfort, our best choice for his sake was to put him down peacefully.
I was not ready to let him go. I left work and met Romel at home. We went down together to say our last good byes and be there for him as he went to sleep for the last time. When the brought him into the room, I couldn’t look at him. Knowing that although heavily medicated for pain, he sat in this broken state for over a day was hurting me inside. As soon as he layed down and I put my face next to his head and called his name. “my harley warley boy” he moved his body and let out the most exasperated sigh and groaning. I knew I had to let him go. He was suffering and I wanted so badly to fix him and take him home. When I heard the groaning and crying come out of him, I told Romel to call the Dr and tell her to put him down immediately. I cannot bear to continue to see him hurt anymore. I want him to rest. I pet him ever so gently. I ran my face up and down his back and kissed his head until the doctor came in. She was very empathetic and gentle. She let us know when she was ready to give him peace. It was like Harley knew. He tried to get up on the table and readjust himself into a more comfortable position.
As she pushed down on the plunger she calmly said, “Harley will just go to sleep. No pain. Very gently.” I cried as I kissed him and kept my hand on his body. I was not ready for this. Emily is losing her best friend. I’m losing my companion. And very quietly and calmly he went to sleep. I was shattered. But a part of me was relieved. To know that he is no longer suffering was the only thing that kept me from falling to pieces onto the floor.
Romel stood by me the entire time and we both put our faces near his and told him quietly, “good boy Harley. Go to sleep. Its ok…we’ll see you again. Rest now. Just rest. We’re so sorry….good night Harley boy…its ok….” I continued to let him know I was there by calling him my Harley warley boy. I wanted him to know how much he is loved and that we never wanted it to be this way.
Letting go is ever easy. It’s always painful. I’ve gone through this before and each time is never easier than the last. As loving pet owners, we made a decision to let our beloved dog go.
On our way home, I thought, why do I do this to myself. Why have pets? We have three more dogs at home that we’ll have to grieve for when we lose them. Why do we as humans put ourselves through this?
Because it’s not the destination, it’s the journey. My entire life, I’ve had a dog. I can’t imagine my life without one.
Harley was my companion when I was bedridden and pregnant with Emily. He guarded us like a rabid dog. No one was ever allowed near the bed if we were on it. He’d go into full attack mode and nothing could break his trance besides telling him to go into his crate. Emily just lost her playmate and best friend.
When we got home, Jax seemed to know something was wrong. He normally jumps around and runs back and forth. This time, he quietly followed me around the house and didn’t make a sound. The entire day he has remained solemn and mellow. No barking. No running. No jumping. No toy playing. He just sat there and watched me sob and cry.
Is that why the opportunity to take Jax came? Was he meant to be here, now? Because having him here during this extremely difficult time has helped me a lot today. Emily has asked me “Where’s Harley?” multiple times today and I just tell her that he’s sleeping. She’s too young to understand death. She tells me OK he’s sleeping and then goes straight to Jax to play. Him being here will never fill the space that Harley has left but his presence is making the grief easier to get through.
I know it’s gonna be a while before I slowly stop feeling the immense pain of losing Harley. Only those who have pets or love animals can understand the sorrow of losing one. For others, they’re just “animals” or “dogs”. I don’t expect everyone to understand.
I decided to blog about this now because writing is therapeutic for me. It helps me to get my feelings out and digest it so I can move on. My hope is that my story and our loss can help others who have just lost a pet. You are not crazy. You are not alone. Pets are family and it’s ok to cry and mourn their loss no matter what kind of animal they are.
We will miss Harley very much. And one day, we will meet again…at the Rainbow Bridge.
The Rainbow Bridge Just this side of heaven is a place called the Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to the Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together