Puppies during Pandemic

You all remember Hank? Hank the Tank, the yellow lab puppy. A little backstory and then I’ll give you the update and skinny on how much Hank loves the pandemic.

Hank is a now 16 month old yellow Labrador Retriever. We hadn’t planned on getting a dog, in 2019 we lost our black lab, Ebony at 14 years old. She adopted her as a 6 month old puppy and we were heartbroken when we lost her. Our dog Chief, a yellow lab mix (we’re pretty sure husky was in that mix as he was an excellent singer…if you have huskies, you know what I mean), was 10 years old. We had not even planned on getting another dog or a puppy, but then some friends from my hometown in Illinois got a puppy from another high school pal of ours….. Tugged on my heartstrings, but no, we didn’t need one. It was spring time, we always go on spring break, we travel in the summer…. nope, not gonna get one. A few weeks later she still had one puppy left, Mark caved, he brought it up, I contacted her, she still had him and so off to Illinois we went to pick him up.

We forgot how much WORK a puppy is, it’s like having a newborn baby. Up nights, midnight feedings, crying, piddle spots all over. But we embraced it and he actually was a very good puppy. He was house trained within 2 weeks. We realized that if we let him sleep on the bed, he wouldn’t cry all night long (THAT has come back to bite us), and he was such a good companion for our older dog, Chief.

At 3 months old we noticed a spot on his gums, we thought it was just irritated gums from baby teeth, in fact at first, so did the vet. But after a second look and then a biopsy, he was diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma…… cancer. Absolutely unheard of in a 3 month old dog. The lab at Michigan State University where it was being tested called my vet to double check that they birth date was correct, they had never seen anything like it at that age. We had two option: take him to the specialist in Grand Rapids (Blue Pearl Veterinary Medicine ) or put him down. WELL you KNOW what we chose…. My husband, for all his military stature, for all of his high standards and expectations, has a heart the size of Texas! If this dog were to have a fighting chance at life, he came to the right household. When I wail and lament about our dogs over the years and the surgeries and costs of those surgeries, Mark always says “That’s why God gave them to us, he knew we’d do whatever it took to save them”.

So at 3 months old, Hank had a surgery where the front part of his bottom jaw was removed, they bring the skin up and luckily with him, he has those big lab flappy top lip jowls and you can’t even tell until he opens his mouth. He came through the surgery with flying colors, and has healed beautifully. He is a picture of health, and the only time you can see any difference in his actions is when he eats, we put water in his dry food so that he can lap it up as he doesn’t have bottom teeth in the front, so picking up anything small is a challenge for him. The other thing you notice is when he brings you a ball, or tries to drop anything, he has to thrust it out with his tongue.

When he was 11 months old, we lost our old reliable, lovable dog Chief. He had a liver disease diagnosed and treated at 3 years old, so after that he had 8 good years with us. A little arthritis his last few years, but other than that, he was in great health and lived a great life. But our poor pup, in the first year of his life he moved to a new state, had a new family, had major life altering surgery and lost his best friend.

Hank is a little spoiled, who doesn’t need spoiling after that first year? He still sleeps on the bed with us, he is now 95.3 pounds, weighed at the vets yesterday as he had to go get his shots. And I must brag a bit, because his training and discipline was delayed due to the surgery, as a 8/9 month old, 80 pound pup, he failed puppy obedience school. Mark actually dropped out after 4 session, he couldn’t take it any more. So when the vet called me out in my car yesterday (social distancing) to complement Hank’s behavior, discipline and training, I was an absolutely proud mama! We did have to buy a king size bed this year….. I joke that none of our kids have ever slept in our bed, none of the other dogs did, not even the cat… but Hank is right up there between us, loving every moment of his life.

So back to why puppies/dogs love pandemics? Because we are under a stay-at-home orders and both Mark and my schools are closed, we are home all day, every day working from home. For a dog who is more tactile than any animal I have ever owned, this is heaven. he gets to touch one of his humans 24 hours a day, every day, all night long. This puppy LOVES the pandemic.

So that bears the question, now that we are home until August probably (school online for the rest of the year), do we get him a companion? Do we invest in a new dog. We have the time, we have the room and Hank needs a friend other than one of us. Time will tell, we’re praying on this one!

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