Many hearts are surely saddened to learn that Uncle Henry has completed his mission in this life. But he reminds me that life on earth is a trust.
Our time on earth and our energy, intelligence, opportunities, relationships and resources are all gifts from God that He has entrusted to our care and management. We are stewards of whatever God gives us.
“The world and all that is in it belong to the Lord; the earth and all who live on it are His.” Psalm 24:1
The Lord blessed me by trusting Uncle Henry with my care. Many of you may remember he came into my life with a partner. They were quite the duo Auntie Em and Uncle Henry. She was always the athletic one, he was always the cuddly one.
Uncle Henry and Auntie Em
They had nine great years together and were never apart except her last year when she went for her radiation treatments. She was such a trooper but very clearly told me when it was time for her to move on to her next life.
I wasn’t sure what to do for Uncle Henry, whether I should get him another companion or not, but God did. He had a plan for Uncle Henry and I. The week after Auntie Em passed, I was offered a new job. One that required the most courage I have ever had to summon. And so, I went to Switzerland and told Uncle Henry we would figure things out. He stayed and kept an eye on things here at home for a while. I wasn’t sure how to manage with him in Switzerland, but after a few months there, I also know I couldn’t manage without him. My life was in turmoil, so God gave me a project – international dog relocation. If you’ve never done it – Shawn and Sarah as my witness – it can be the most stressful of situations. And just when I thought we were ready, Uncle Henry tore his CCL and I elected to have his recovery here stateside. Weeks later, when once again I thought we were ready to go, our plans were foiled due to a missing microchip – I swear I don’t know to this day what he did with it.
Uncle Henry’s new front door
But finally, he made his first 5,380 mile trip and our new journey began.
Apartment life was different for both of us. The whole notion of having to take him out for walks and bathroom breaks was a scheduling adjustment. However, the Swiss are more dog friendly than people friendly I think and so, the biggest adjustment was that, wherever I went, Uncle Henry went.
He went to work with me and stayed at my desk. It was fabulous having him there. No more days where I would sit endlessly on the phone or staring at the computer. No, with Uncle Henry, we had to get up and take a walk every now and then. And when we weren’t up and about, the entire office was coming to see us. They would bring him treats, they would come by to greet him in the mornings, and some just wanted to take him for a walk. He was the most popular and well liked guy in the office. He loved it!
We went to restaurants, shops, the dry cleaners, the pharmacy – absolutely everywhere! And the Swiss love their dogs. All of the shop owners have dog treats for their four-legged visitors. Uncle Henry was in HEAVEN! He was getting treats everywhere we went. And the restaurants, well they would bring him water before they would ever even take notice that I was there. But Uncle Henry was also drawing special attention – the Swiss don’t allow dogs with cropped ears and tails as they find it inhumane. Uncle Henry was only allowed in the country because he came with me. Which means, most Swiss had never seen a Corgi before.
And his natural charm served him well. Everywhere we went, people would want to greet him and pet him and take pictures with him. I remember thinking it was like walking Brad Pitt on a leash. We couldn’t go anywhere without being stopped. I swear if I had given him my Sharpie, he’d have learned to sign his autograph.
After Uncle Henry arrived, I found my sea legs and really began to travel. At first, we went all over Switzerland, by car, by tram, by train, by cablecar, by boat. He rode them all. We would request a “Hund” ticket and away we went. He loved every second of it. When we would stay overnight, I would call ahead to make sure we had a dog friendly hotel, which wasn’t hard because, I came to find out, they all are. We would arrive in the room and they would have a dog bed, a blanket, a bowl and dog treats. There would even be maps to indicate places to take your dog for a walk. Not only did he love it, I think he thought he was the one taking me on a journey. Whereever we would walk, he was always in the lead. Seriously. And if we came across bigger dogs, he would always bark to them as if to say, “Don’t even think of messing with her.” He was my front line, my protector.
Walking the French vineyards
Most of you know that when we arrived, Uncle Henry got his own Passport!!! It enabled him to go freely between Switzerland, Italy, France, Germany and Austria…..and so… we did! We went to Christmas markets in France and Austria – after which my arms were exhausted as Uncle Henry “hoovered” the streets looking for bits and bites of the smorgasbord of dropped food. He rode in gondolas up to the top of many of the Alps and rode like a champ. He wasn’t allowed in churches but there was always someone that wanted to watch him while I spent some time giving thanks.
We toured the Swiss and French vineyards, attended festivals all over Switzerland, supported the American style football Zurich Renegades and watched the NFL playoffs at Hooters. We made it to Oktoberfest in Munich and walked the streets of Paris. We spent last Valentine’s day together in Dijon and celebrated Easter in Verona. When friends and family came to visit, Uncle Henry was always there. He made new friends faster than I could. And a few of the four-legged variety. Randy introduced us to Cowboy and they both attended all of our Aggie Musters! While I wasn’t sure about Uncle Henry and the altitude of the mighty Jungfrau, which Cowboy handled like a real Ag, Uncle Henry did come to the bar with us later where he wandered behind the bar and helped the owner serve all us rowdy Ags – good bull!
Uncle Henry bartending
His angel Ladda
But there was one friend he made, more special than the rest. She is an angel on earth and her name is Ladda. It was love at first sight between Uncle Henry and Ladda. My job kept me in London almost once a week and the Swiss dog hotels are better than most hotels I stay in, but Ladda offered to watch over Uncle Henry soon after they met and he rarely went to a dog hotel again. They became best friends and when Ladda would go on walks without him, people would stop her on the street and ask where he was. She would pamper him with the most magnificent treats and always make special recipes when he wasn’t feeling well. After we moved back to Texas, she would call to FaceTime with him, he would hear her voice and I am very sure he knew it was her.
Ladda would worry about him when he would fly back to Texas with me for visits but he was cool. Flying him aged me however by 1000 years. After our first flight, I became quite good friends with ACE Pet Movers based at the Zurich airport. If you EVER want to know anything about flying a pet, please call them. They work all over the world and are truly a blessing for pet owners. They helped me understand how to fly him without their services and I am so grateful. Rachel, Patrick, Tara, you were there for me on so many of these trips. It is tricky to place your heart in someone else’s care – that’s what it felt like every time I flew him. And Tara…….you are the only reason I didn’t have a heart attack each time we landed at IAH with him.
For those of you that didn’t get the “joy”, let me describe the flight day:
- 3:30am alarm goes off
- 4:45am depart apartment using an unhappy Uber driver because I have a dog, a kennel, a carry on and two 70lb bags full of wine and chocolate – they don’t drive SUVs over there.
- 5:30am arrive Zurich airport. Grab 2 carts and Uncle Henry leads me in. He and I get all the bags checked and head to the other counter to pay for him. Then we head for the door for one last walk outside.
- 6:00am I put Uncle Henry in his kennel, zip tie the door and put some ice cubes on his tray, kiss him on the nose and tell him I’ll see him in Houston.
Making his connecting flight
- 6:45am I’m watching him out my window being loaded and if I can’t see him, I ask the flight attendant to confirm he is on board. The pilot comes back and assures me “Uncle Henry is safely boarded” and he’ll have his eye on him the whole flight.
- 7:00am take off for Frankfurt.
- 8:00am arrive in Frankfurt. Race off the plane and to the window where Uncle Henry should be the first unloaded. Once I see they have his kennel, I race like OJ Simpson to our gate ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE AIRPORT. I won’t be able to see him loaded there, but once I’m in my seat, I once again ask the flight attendant to confirm he is onboard and once again, the pilot comes back to calm my nerves and tell me he’s got Uncle Henry under his watch.
- 9:00pm Zurich time (2:00pm Houston), we land at IAH. I race to baggage claim and load up all my crap on one cart and then race to the big bags where I await Uncle Henry’s kennel. Usually about 15 minutes later, they push him out with a smile on his face. RELIEF, but we’re not done yet. I recklessly maneuver and race with two lloaded carts through the “special” lane for customs and have Uncle Henry’s passport hanging out of my mouth trying to be speedy. Once cleared, I run, two carts wobbling around in front of me and rush through the big doors to arrivals. There she is, as always, our savior Tara! She’s got a knife and we cut the tie straps on Uncle Henry’s kennel, I grab him in my arms and we run for the door. Tara is left with all our stuff! I know the ONE spot outside of Terminal E where there is a spot of grass and Uncle Henry does too. FINALLY. a very long day for him, but he’s happy to have a bathroom break. Then we happily trot back inside where Tara has a cup of water from Starbucks waiting for him…..and the three of us would go laughing all the way to the truck for the trip to Fields Store….. WHEW!!!!! Uncle Henry and I could never thank Tara enough.
And so, the world traveler he was. And so happy.
The last year we were in Switzerland, he was showing his age and I remember my prayers “God, just get us back to Texas before he goes. I just don’t know how I would handle his passing here. If I can just get him home to Auntie Em, I’ll know what to do….” And God allowed that for me.
He was happy and healthy. 14 and 1/2 wonderful years blessed to me.
Thank you all for your love and care of Uncle Henry. Mom and Jeff, thanks for all the times I needed you to care for him here stateside. He loved all of the gifts everyone would send and bring when you all visited.What a full and blessed life! Thank you God for the beautiful blessing of this companion. My confidant, my soldier, my heart.
My confidant, my soldier, my heart