Hershal came to live with us when I was a sophomore in college. He was a rollie pollie little brown fuzzy furball. I remember sitting down with the whole litter of lab puppies and he came right on over to chew my shoelace. Isn’t that usually how it is? We don’t pick them….they pick us. I knew we had to have this dog and I had talked to my mom about bringing him home to keep my dad company. He had recently retired and we felt that he needed a companion while he was home alone for long days while my mom was at work and I was away at school.
When my mom found out how much he would be, she immediately changed her mind and told me that we would not be getting a dog. I cried. I broke down and had a serious cry, because way back then I was just as sure as I am now that this little brown puppy dog was a member of my family.
Obviously we got the dog.
I didn’t name him because I wanted my dad to have the opportunity. My parents were out of town when I brought him home, so for the whole first weekend I just called him “baby dog”. He got into everything. On Sunday morning when my dad walked in he was surprised by the total cuteness overload and said, ” Huh! Hershal!!” And so, that is how Hershal got his name. He will always be my “baby dog”.
Right now I feel so sad. I’m not even sure that I can come up with all of the wonderful memories I have of Hershal. I do know that he was the most kind and gentle of any dog I have ever met.
My mom would joke that if a bad guy ever broke into our house, Hershal would just wag his tail and lick the robber to death.
He would always find a place to sit….directly on your feet. If he couldn’t sit on your feet, he would lay down smack dab in the middle of your direct path. It was all about being close to us. He wanted to be where we were and it would upset him if he had some of his people in one room and some of his people in another room.
When I introduced him to Lexi (my tiny dog), he loved her immediately. They made the best team. My family will save hundreds of dollars on bread in the next year. Hershal and Lexi were expert level bread stealers. Hershal was, of course, the muscle and size behind all of their criminal activity.
When I introduced him to Violet (my tiny baby), he loved her immediately too. She was instantly on his list of people to always be really really close to. Like, as close as possible. Now she is three….and that doesn’t exactly mesh well. What’s important is that I know that he was coming from a place of love and protection.
I’ll always remember that one of the first things Violet learned how to say…..I mean…yell….was “Hershal!!!!! OUTBACK!!!!!!!!!”. Every time she saw him she would tell him to go outback. If he was outside, he would listen. If he was inside, he would look confused.
Hershal saw me through some of the most sad times and some of the happiest times of my whole life. His toothy grin and tail wagging were a constant.
When my sister stole my identity….he was there.
When we lost Chris…he was there
When I graduated from college…he was there
When I started summer camp…he was there
When I got my big girl job…he was there
When Lexi picked me….he was there
When I got married….he was there
When I became a momma….he was there
When my life fell apart….he was there
When I built a better life….he was there
I know that I’ll miss him so much because he was a member of our family. I’ll also miss him so much because when life is such a roller coaster ride, we sometimes find the most comfort in what always stays constant. Dogs are “man’s best friend” for a reason. No matter what, he was always there, always wanting to show us love, always so happy to be a part of our family. He simply wanted to love us, and he did. During sad and trying times, our puppy was just as happy and loving as he was during the times of joy. That is something very powerful.
Violet fell asleep on the way home. Tomorrow I will have to tell her that Hershal isn’t here any more. This is one of those things about parenthood that nobody prepares you for. I have absolutely no idea what to say, or how to deal with what she might say . I’m sure I’ll figure it out….but it doesn’t make it any less sad, or scary for either of us.
To my Hershal: You were always “only just little”. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being the best companion to my Daddy that ever existed. You filled his days with smiles and discovery. You provided many stories both true and fiction. You will always be our Doggy Boy and we love you forever.