A Tribute to Harry

By Joanna Dunn Samson, FOTAS Vice President

“Love doesn’t need reason. It speaks from the irrational wisdom of the heart.”

Deepak Chopra

Ellen Priest knows all about the “irrational wisdom of the heart.” When she first learned about the sad young coonhound tied to the railing at the old Aiken County Animal Shelter in 2007 with a wire wrapped around his mouth and embedded into his skin, the last thing on her mind was another dog. She was in the process of transitioning from her job in Aiken to Summerville. Her family already had three dogs. Her life was busy and temporarily unsettled.

So Ellen arranged for the Aiken Standard to cover the plight of this poor animal in the local news, certain some kind-hearted soul would take him home, and moved on to her new job in Summerville. But still, she could not stop thinking about him. When she called to check on his progress, she learned, to her dismay, that there had been no takers for the sweet bewildered dog with the tragically scarred face. His time was up. He was to be euthanized the next day.

“I called my husband Jeff, sobbing,” says Ellen. “I said, ‘Please, please, just one more dog.’ The dog had suffered so much and deserved so much more—I just couldn’t let him go.”

And so it was that Harry the Goober Dog, as he was nicknamed by their son Greg, slobbered and loped and loved his way into the hearts of the Priest clan. At first it wasn’t easy. Perhaps because Harry’s previous experiences with the human kind hadn’t worked out so well, he escaped from the yard countless times, taking off for parts unknown. Each time, Ellen, Jeff, Greg and daughter Jayme brought him home and loved him more. Slowly Harry learned to trust his new humans, and because real love is patient, he eventually learned to love, too—probably for the first time in his short unhappy life.

Two weeks ago, Harry the Goober dog died on his way to an emergency clinic, likely as a result of the cancer that had almost killed him three years earlier. But in the preceding 8 years, Harry had loved and been loved by the Priest family, giving as much joy and comfort as he got and probably more.

Dogs are like that. They reflect back to us the best part of ourselves, without hesitation or expectation, in exchange for the simple pleasures of life: a warm place to sleep, something to eat, a good scratch behind the ears, a ride in the car, a romp in the woods—if a pesky squirrel happens to wander by, why, so much the better. If it’s true that dogs live in the moment, then all we can hope is that we’ve given them a lifetime of good moments, maybe even some great moments, in exchange for the love they’ve given us.

Farewell, sweet Harry. Your courage, resilience, forgiveness and love are a model of the humanity we often find lacking in ourselves. We will honor your memory by loving the next goofy, slobbering, loping, abused and helpless animal that crosses our path with the same happy abandon that you showered on those around you.

Help FOTAS and the County save the thousands of Harrys that find themselves in the County shelter each year: donate, volunteer, but most of all, adopt. Their lives are in our hands.