Rehoming Hank: an open letter to his future family.

Rehoming Hank: an open letter to his future family.

A lifelong Commitment

You see the posts on Facebook. A screenshot of a craigslist ad looking for a new home for a dog due to a “New baby”, followed by a lecture about how dogs are family members, comments that echo “a dog is a lifetime commitment”. And everyone goes about their day feeling superior about how they treat their pets. Yet here I am, driving a dog, MY dog, back to his rescue of origin after 4 years. I’m not sharing this to absolve myself, but to let Hank’s future family know how much we love him and why we came to this decision.

Big black dog sitting in the back seat of a car
An eager road tripper. It felt like such a betrayal when he happily jumped into the car today.

To Hank’s New Family:

Please help him lose some of the weight he gained over the last few months. He’s been locked up too much and free feeding (another one of our dogs is dying and we need to leave food out for him all the time, so Hank packed on the pounds). He will be happier and healthier after a diet and some exercise. He loves being brushed, but only endures a bath. I think new names can be important for adopted dogs, if you decide to keep him a Hank, know that he will also respond to Hanky-Panky, Hankerton, Hank-Hank-Hank, and his full name, Hank Rutherford Hill.

A boy sitting in a pool with a big black dog
Hank is a non-swimming life guard who likes to chill in the pool to avoid the bugs and beat the heat.

He likes sitting in water, but isn’t a good swimmer. He likes a car ride or road trip. He loves a good ball and a game of fetch. He can even toss a ball back to you and play catch with a size 1 soccer ball. He’s got a tail like a baseball bat and clears coffee tables. He’s used to ‘pre-washing’ the dishes in the dishwasher so don’t be surprised if he tries to mooch out of your Kenmore. He loves ice cubes. He will assassinate stuffed toys and loves a squeaky ball. He tries to mind his manners with food on tables or counter tops, but sometimes a guy can’t resist.

Black puppy standing inside a bosch dishwasher pink tongue
We give dogs very little people food directly. Once he pulled an entire baking dish out of the dishwasher to give it some special attention.

His skin is on the sensitive side. We use ear wipes to prevent yeast infections. Keep an eye on his collar; it chafes him sometimes. Bug bites irritates him something fierce in the summer. He wants to be the top dog with other dogs. He gets pushy over getting snuggles, scratches, and rubs from people. He’s an early to bed, early to rise kinda guy and will ask to be put to bed after 9pm. He likes his kennel/den and will retreat there during thunderstorms, fireworks, or overstimulation.

If you get a chance, we’d love to hear how he is doing or see a picture. But I understand if you’d rather not.

A close up of a big black puppy dog.
It was almost 6 months before this guy ever held still. Getting a picture of him was tough.

A Puppy Prescription

One of our dogs got very depressed and was injuring himself, and ultimately our Vet suggested we get another dog. So we added a third dog to our pack: Henry Rutherford Hill, “Hank” (named for the King of the Hill character). He was 16 week old puppy who’s mom came from a high-kill shelter in Kentucky. July 5, 2014, I brought home 16 lbs of non-stop energy. Our older dog stopped chewing himself. They bonded. I fell in love.

A running big black puppy dog in a yard Hank nadoe
One Happy puppy. We called him Little Tiny Baby Hank – oh, how wrong we were.

He grew like Clifford – he quadrupled his weight in six months. My pictures from this time are mostly blurred. His distinctive parti-colored socks stayed the same length, but his legs got so long it seemed like he was outgrowing them. He grew too tall to sit upright in the extra-extra large kennel so we moved him into Harry Potter’s room: a spacious 5×8 closet under the stairs.

An unexpected twist

I became pregnant with twins. We did ALL the things people say to do when our boys were born (bringing home baby stuff, blankets, etc). When we finally brought our twins home (after 7 weeks in the nicu) Hank fell in love.

I keep dogs and children on separate planes. No dogs in the nursery. No dogs cuddling with my fragile preemies. And despite this, Hank adopted the twins as his responsibility. He literally counted them when we returned home from doctor’s visits (he was so confused when our friends’ with a son their age came to visit). He laid under their chairs. He barked if they cried and no one came soon enough.

Big black dog lying on the floor under mamaroo chairs with twins
For months and months Hank held down the floor anywhere the boys were.

An increasing problem

As my boys got older, he made a habit of positioning himself between the boys and the world. He began barking fiercely at anyone or thing that came into the yard. We made the choice to put him a bark collar (which probably exacerbated his problems) because of his distinctive hound bark, baaaa-whOOOOOOO! He started charging delivery people. We tried keeping him inside when we knew deliveries were coming. He snapped at a delivery person who arrived unexpectedly.

Hank the Big Black dog lying in front of a sofa with twin babies lying in Baby bjorn chairs with grandpa and a mandolin
This is such typical Hank. Guarding the boys during one of Papas mandolin concerts.

We found Susan Sarubin, Pawsitive Fit Puppy and Dog Training who came at the highest recommendation from our local Humane Society. She conducted a detailed assessment of Hank and his aggressive behaviors. She spent many weeks working with us in our home. We learned a lot about building a different kind of relationship with Hank. And this showed. He was more settled in the house, eager to please, and less impulsive. He walks like a dream on leash and enjoys training to no end.

He growled aggressively at a friend he knew who came up our driveway. His level of vigilance continued to increase. He became agitated when my brother-in-law played with the twins. He charged and muzzle-punched one of my nephews when he was Fortnite dancing. I began to worry that he might bite someone.

Saving Hank through Surrender

Five years ago I put down a dog who bit someone in our yard. It was awful. And I wanted desperately to protect Hank from that fate. So Hank began spending more time in the fenced portion of the yard or confined in his room when visitors were over. We stopped leaving him loose in the house in case of an unexpected visitor. All of this left Hank and us quite anxious. He was separated from the boys he loved and we constantly worried that he would get out of the house unattended.

Big black dog with pink tongue Hank
Hank grew into an extra large dog with a foot long tongue.

I spoke with our trainer and with our local Humane Society. We decided Hank needed and deserved a less stressful, less chaotic home. I contacted his rescue of origin, who accepted him as a surrender into one of their foster homes.

Hank was my dog. My guy. He snuggled me when I spent months in bed during a difficult pregnancy. I raised him from a pup. And today I drove 2 hours to a parking lot, walked him to a kennel surrounded by barking dogs, signed a paper, and walked out of his life. Tonight his absence is palpable. We’ve told our twins that he has gone to ‘work’. That’s the story I’m sticking with for them. For me, I’m going to have some days of crying. I’m hoping our old man dog hangs on another few weeks so I don’t lose two dogs in short order. But all of that is about me; ultimately, I did this because I want Hank to have a better life. Please give him one.


We share in Fort Birthday

2 Replies to “Rehoming Hank: an open letter to his future family.”

  1. Leah, I can’t imagine how hard this has all been on you. You put in so much effort and did everything right to prevent giving Hank back, but ultimately, you made the right decision. I know he’s going to find a great home. And this will make things less tense at home. Maybe not temse, but you can let your guard down a bit. This was the best for everyone. Try not to be so hard on yourself, but you’re definitely allowed some tears. Love ya. ❤️

    1. Thanks, Jamie. I really appreciate all the support. I was so worried putting this out there would brand me as a failure. I’ve been surprised and overwhelmed by the support I’ve gotten. Love you back.

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