No dog or breed has moved my heart like the Irish Water Spaniel. I lost Tully at only 2 years old. He was my companion at home and at work. We were together 24/7 and each moment was a discovery into happiness, joy and love. He will forever remain the love of my life ( sorry hubby…it’s true).
When Colleen McDaniel, an Irish Water Spaniel savant, offered me Harry I was ecstatic at the opportunity of an IWS to love. All I had to do was go get him. And so I did! Harry had spent most of his life showing and training and living in a kennel. When I met Harry he was ready to be a house dog and just get to be “the man”. And the man he was!
Harry took on any of my needs from moment to moment as his personal mission. He never left my side. And as I was recovering from a Tully addiction, I pretty much kept him right next to me at all times. He was the man, my dog, my sidekick and I was Harry’s damsel in distress.
Harry passionately loved his toys and he loved paying catch or keep away. He strode around the room proudly with the toy of the day. He wagged his tail so hard that his whole hind end literally moved from side to side. His sheer joy at living was palpable.
But, what I soon learned was Harry’s tail had a quite a tale to tell. He, of course, couldn’t speak (dah…he’s a dog) but he figured out a way to communicate clearly. His big ole’ IWS rat tail bolstered a message loud and clear. Each day Harry’s tail spoke louder, so loud that it began to drowned my senses.
The first thing message from Harry’s tail was undeniable. Harry’s wild wagging tail from side to side was clear in it’s dispatch. The extreme wag resulted in a thundering bang when he sat down loudly demanding your attention. His tail said “hello… look at me…hello I’m Harry let’s talk or play or let’s just do something”. Ok, I hear you Harry’s tail! We played and snuggled. A lot! And then, I took the challenge to a new level. I got a frisbee. Harry ran and grabbed it out of the air like he had done it all his life. What an athlete! Yes, my admiration grew! I had always wanted a frisbee dog! A task so silly like frisbee (he had already mastered most everything else) yet fun, he took on with great gusto. His style and enthusiasm warmed my heart! And, I was looking at him so we were both happy.
The next task that Harry’s tail took on was my sorrow. As I cried and still grieved over Tully, Harry’s tail would have none of it. It said “stop crying, I am right here and I love you” He would get up next to me and until l quit crying his tail would not quit banging on the couch! He would not accept me feeling bad while he was in the house! He took as his personal mission to make me be okay. He was here and he was gonna love me until I felt better…or I could not longer stand the sound of his tail thump thump, thumping. He even licked my tears away one day. I had to laugh, hug him and feel better. His love was as stated, palpable.
Harry did have demands though. He had no patience for my phone. His tail said “why are you looking at that thing in your hand when we was could snuggle and talk or…. perhaps, maybe throw a toy?” Tail banging, he openly shared his disdain of my phone and would knock it out of my hand! Being a well trained obedience dog he would back down quickly when chastened. He did remind me though that perhaps my energy was in the wrong place? I had this gorgeous creature next to me and I was looking at some box intently …which of course could not share any love the way he could! Harry demanded I live in the present with his love at the center of my attention. Well done Harry’s tail!
We all know how IWS get a coat of weeds and outdoor goodies. Harry was always a gentleman on the grooming table. But if I pulled a burr out of his coat while he was laying next to me relaxing he didn’t much care for that! He would lay out a little growl. I knew he was saying “I don’t like that mom, it’s hurts, don’t!” I of course was never scared but knew this behavior was unacceptable. I would say sternly “HARRY!” and his tail would start pounding. His tail was saying “I’m sorry I didn’t mean anything…sorry, sorry , sorry, but could you not pull my hair? It’s hurts and we were just relaxing…” I listened. It seemed pretty reasonable to me. I wouldn’t want someone pulling my hair while I was chillin’. Tail understood. Gotcha Harry! He was a good guy but he still had opinions… fair enough.. followed by talking tail remorse…
Harry got cancer. It was sad and it was hard. We had only had two months together. My tears were now for Harry. His tail would bang if I cried and he couldn’t relax then so I tried not to cry as much as possible. Harry was in pain. I texted my IWS friend and advisor Colleen Rebello and told her that I was so confused on when to let Harry go. He would seem bad one minute and then all of a sudden he would want me to throw a toy. He was such a happy guy at moments how would I know? Colleen wisely said that she didn’t know how, but that Harry would tell me. I hoped I could hear him when that time came. I was bewildered.
Eating became less important and Harry grew weaker. He tired easily. He got wobbly. He quit our daily sojourn to the barn to feed the horses. It was a long trip down and then back up a hill. Harry just plain didn’t have the energy. About three days before we lost Harry I took him out for a potty break before going to the barn. He knew where I was going. I had gotten into my Muck boots. I was calling him to put him back inside before I took the trek down. He was staring at me and his tail started talking. It wagged and said “Hey, no Mom, this is when we feed the horses, I’m going!”. He ran past me to the barn. Tail advisement heard Mr Harry. You still have joy to share! Yay!!! I savored what was to our last trip together to feed the horses.
As so predicted Harry did tell me when he was ready to go. How could I not have figured this out? How did I not know how Harry would communicate? It was again, the tail. When Harry’s tail no longer talked it spoke loud and clear! He had no joy, his whole body felt so bad he could not longer tail talk. I knew it was time to let Harry go. The tail spoke last.
I know this is a fun but sad tail tale. Please don’t feel sad for me. Having Harry and learning to hear his tail was such a beautiful experience. Everyone that met Harry loved him. I got to share a daily love that was pure and attentive to my every need. I will forever miss Harry but I am sure he is waiting for me at the rainbow’s end. He is there with Tully playing and it is with that that I find comfort and know I am a lucky girl to have had the chance to have heard the tale of Harry’s tail.