You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.
Robert Louis Stevenson
In March 1992, some close family members in California gave my sister and brother-in-law, Christine and Dick, a miniature schnauzer puppy. Dick and Christine named him Hans, and we all fell head-over-heels in love with the cute little guy.
In January 2005, I was spending some time after the Christmas holidays with Christine and Dick at their home in Webster, New York. Hans was now aging, but still not terribly old for a miniature schnauzer.
He’d been having some minor physical problems. Or at least we thought they were minor. So Christine made an appointment with Hans’ veterinarian for minor surgery. On a cold grey January morning, she and I took him in for his appointment. He was always nervous when he knew he was going to the vet’s office. As soon as we got into the office, he made a beeline for the door. “Let me out of here!” is what I’m sure was going through his little mind.
Ever since he’d been a puppy thirteen years earlier, Hans never liked to be held. He was loving and affectionate, but was definitely not a “lap dog.” He was so scared that morning at the vet’s office, I just instinctively picked him up while Christine was filling out the paperwork. He snuggled close to me, burrowing into my heavy winter coat. In all his life, he’d never allowed me to hold him.
That was the first and last time it ever happened.
Later that day, while Christine, Dick, and I were having lunch, the phone rang. Christine answered the call, and then started sobbing. It was the vet. Dick and I knew without knowing — Hans was gone. The surgery was normally minor, but Hans’ heart stopped in the middle of it. And they could not revive him.
Later that afternoon, the three of us went to the vet’s office to pay our final respects to this beloved little creature who had become as precious to us as our children.
The staff ladies had Hans laid out on a table in one of the back rooms. He looked so peaceful and beautiful. Christine, Dick, and I said our separate goodbyes to Hans.
When my turn came, I bent over his body, laid my hand on his head, and kissed him.”Goodbye, Hans,” was all I could say. Then, tears streaming down my face, I glanced at him one last time, and walked out.
The ride home was silent. The day was cold and grey, and matched our mood.
That night at dinner, we drank a toast to our beloved Hans.
On the following October 15, Dick died. He’d been ailing for years with a lung disease,and his death was not unexpected. So I made the long sad journey back to New York from my home in Wyoming. I spent nearly three months there with Christine and the rest of our family, doing what I could to help her through her own difficult transition.