2016-03-17 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

“Henry” has come a long way from his old Kentucky home. (That’s if he ever had a home.) On Christmas Eve night 2014, Henry, a handsome Redbone Coonhound, was hit by a car in front of a firehouse in a small Kentucky town. A fireman or someone else there must have seen or heard the accident. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing about Henry, and you wouldn’t be reading his success story.

Animal control picked up Henry, who was under a year old at the time, and took him to the veterinary hospital. He became a Daviess County Shelter stray. When he was discharged several days later, his badly mangled rear leg was in a cast up to his hip. X-rays also showed he had a buckshot embedded in that leg. (Draw your own conclusions about whether Henry was lost or dumped.) Henry needed the leg amputated; but since the emaciated hound had kennel cough, he would have to be stronger before he could withstand surgery.

“Henry” the 3-legged Redbone Coonhound and his Mom Caryn visit a nursing home. “Henry” the 3-legged Redbone Coonhound and his Mom Caryn visit a nursing home. On Jan. 2, 2015 upon hospital discharge, Henry went directly to his foster mom Suzanne Hardison in Owensboro. Even though Coonhounds are plentiful in Kentucky and often abandoned in rural areas throughout the US when they are not adept at hunters, Suzanne said, “This was the first Coonhound I ever met. Henry was a little timid at first, yet he was such a love with a forgiving spirit despite all he went through.”

Henry cuddled with Suzanne’s dogs and curiously nuzzled her cats. His surgery was postponed once because he was still too weak. When his leg was amputated, he recovered like a trouper. Suzanne put small rugs and yoga mats on her hardwood floors so he wouldn’t slip. She owns a Chihuahua named “Cleo” saved from a hoarding situation. “Cleo” would curl up on top of Henry when he slept in his crate. Suzanne said, “It was so hard to let Henry go. I adopted another Coonhound after he left because Henry was so special.”

Henry came to Last Hope in Wantagh on a rescue transport in late February 2015. He was adjusted from the moment he arrived. He had soft eyes and dog dimples. He didn’t seem bothered by his disability. Small dogs compensate well with a missing leg but it is usually harder for tall, leggy breeds. Soon Henry met the next angel in his life – Caryn Barry, his adoptive mom.

Henry was an excellent fit with Caryn’s two children. Her son Logan has worked Henry up to running with him a mile a day. Caryn began bringing Henry to the grooming shop each day while she worked. He became a three-legged greeter but refused to lie down and relax so now Caryn brings him twice a week. When he had trouble negotiating the slippery tile floor, she contacted his foster mom Suzanne who explained she found rubber nonstick boots and a harness with a handle when she took Henry to an adoption event at a Kentucky Pet Smart. Now Henry gets to the grooming shop and waits for Caryn to put on his purple booties before venturing through the door.

Caryn hoped to get Henry certified as a therapy dog so he could visit wounded veterans. He started obedience. An unexpected illness and death in her family forced Caryn to stop his classes. Meanwhile, my 94-year-old dad is at East Neck Nursing Home in W. Babylon. There are several amputee residents and more in rehab because patients enter rehab to become accustomed to the new dialysis unit. We made arrangements for Henry to go to the nursing home. After two East Neck visits Henry has endeared himself to residents and staff members. When residents follow him down the hall in their wheelchairs, we tease these fans and call them “Henry groupies.”

We didn’t know what to expect upon Henry’s first visit because many experiences would be new to him. He entered the vestibule dressed in his purple boots and harness, and then froze because the ceiling radiator was so loud. Once inside, he began to shine. Henry talks. It’s a form of happy hound humming, not baying or barking. He does this at home too, as if he’s trying to speak to Caryn. When I heard his mumbling over the phone, Caryn said, “Henry is telling me there are pork chops on the stove…as if I didn’t know.” He announces his presence and greets the residents with his dimples and silly voice. He’s very social and goes up to each person for pets and praise.

It’s amazing how therapy dogs can cheer seniors. Dogs evoke buried memories of their beloved pets from long ago. Certain residents who are barely verbal become animated when recounting stories of their own dogs. We learned one man bred St. Bernards, a lady bred Cocker Spaniels, while another woman used to rescue Cockers. Some folks are so happy to see Henry, they don’t notice he is missing a leg until he walks away. Others have no interest in dogs, and that’s fine too.

The elevator remains the most worrisome spot to Henry because he doesn’t understand why the floor is moving under his three feet. Caryn uses the handle on top of his ESA (emotional support animal) harness to lift him gently into the elevator.

Henry made a very special friend. She’s 107 years old and is missing a leg just like him. There was an instantaneous connection as soon as they met. She beamed and called to him while stroking his head. We all started to tear up. The next week he gently woke his 107-year-old friend at her bedside like Prince Charming touching Sleeping Beauty. She was thrilled to see him again. Henry’s charms won over a new friend in the process. One nurse’s aide has been afraid of dogs her whole life. When she learned about Henry’s bond with her special patient, she stroked Henry and said, “Take good care of this beautiful dog.”

For Adoption at Babylon Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: “Marshmallow” 16-106 is a five-year-old Maltese surrendered because the owner doesn’t have time for him (quite evident if you saw his mats and fleas). “Iron” 6-8 is a handsome solid gray cat in the lobby.

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