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Saying goodbye with a smile: A therapy dog's last day on Earth

Posted on Aug. 22, 2017 ( comments)

Recently the Mary Bridge community said goodbye to a beloved friend, Harli the therapy dog. This letter from Harli's partner Diana is a tribute to her service at Mary Bridge and helps us remember Harli with a smile. 

To the staff and patients at Mary Bridge,

As you may have heard by now, on Sunday, August 6, Harli's cancer finally won. I want to assure you that since her retirement in February, she maintained her indomitable, unquenchable spirit to the end. 

After her last and fourth cancer diagnosis, she and I made a deal. She would tell me when it was time and, no matter how hard it would be, I would do the right thing for her. We both held up our end of the agreement. 

I was able to give her a Best Day Ever on that Sunday morning. It included all of the things she loved — except going to the beach. She just couldn't manage that one. 

This is what her Best Day Ever looked like:

  • A stop for lots of treats from her favorite baristas. 
  • A long, slow sniff and stroll at her favorite park, Bradley Lake. We've spent many hours training and playing there over the years. She was able to check and send lots of "pee-mail" while we were there. 
  • A short swim in Bradley Lake. She got in a couple of doggie paddles, but those ducks were just too fast for her. Instead she chose to just wade near the shore where the ground was a bit more secure.
  • We hung out by the playground so she could watch the children play and take a short nap.
  • After refueling her energy, off we went to Wendy's where she ordered a hamburger. Her biggest complaint was that she had to wait until we got to Starbucks to eat it. There was absolutely no regression in this girl's appetite!
  • We sat outside Starbucks on this beautiful sunny day while she enjoyed her burger, followed by a Pupaccino. Again, no problem there!
  • We returned home for a final frolic in her (next to the beach and park) favorite thing to do — play in the water from the hose. She was frisky and couldn't get enough. 
  • We of course had to freshen up, so a bath was in order. She always loved her bath because what usually followed was a visit to Mary Bridge. Baths are always followed by getting her teeth brushed (she always trots happily to the laundry room for this event, and Sunday was no different, although it was more of an amble). Then she got four doggie breath mints. Because that's how many colors there are in the tin. 
  • She took a long, lazy nap in the sun while she air-dried, then it was time for a final brushing. Again, she always loved this because her favorite place (the hospital) always came next.

Although I am certainly heartbroken, I take much consolation in her lifetime work with the families and staff at Mary Bridge.

She truly did have the Best Day Ever.

I want to share with you a last poignant moment in this amazing girl's life. As the vet tech was inserting her IV, I was sitting beside her with my arms wrapped around her neck. The tech needed someone there to restrain her. Ha ha ha! There was absolutely no restraint necessary. This girl laid so quiet and unflinching the entire time, even turned her head to steal a treat off my lap. 

As soon as the tech finished, Harli reached her nose forward and gave her a big slurpy kiss on the face. This scene was such a great summary of her life's work and purpose. She was grace and dignity to the end. 

Although I am certainly heartbroken, I take much consolation in her lifetime work with the families and staff at Mary Bridge. As I look back at our visiting journals over the past nine years and nine months, I am astonished at how much this girl gave. She visited over 7,300 patients and staff. And this does not include parents, grandparents or siblings who also might happen to be there. She loved everyone she met.

When you think of Harli, please remember her with joy. That was after all, her purpose in life.

And I feel so honored so have been invited to share her at so many hospital events over the years including Nurse Camp, Mary Bridge health fair, the Tacoma General NICU open house and Mary Bridge 60th anniversary celebration (to name a few).

When you think of Harli, please remember her with joy. That was after all, her purpose in life.

Diana Doolittle

Crossfire Harli, RA (AKC Rally Advanced), THDE (AKC Therapy Dog Excellent), CGC (AKC Canine Good Citizen), Registered Pet Partners Therapy Dog, Mary Bridge Dog Squad

harli beach
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