For often I see his shape in the clouds and this is a continual blessing – Mary Oliver, Dog Songs
A little love goes a long way; it has a healing power. It has the power to transform a kill shelter to a guide dog. With love and a little tinker bell, Heppu guided Hani on walks teaching her confidence…so what if she couldn’t see. He became her sight; she became his later-life companion. As for their human Sari, she is transformed for life – for having loved and lost. But can anyone erase the memories that are etched forever? That’s the power of paws and fur, which Sari felt with Heppu and Hani – both of whom have crossed the rainbow bridge. They are, however, harnessed at heart forever.
Under a year old, Heppu, a Chihuahua and Miniature Pinscher mix, was at a kill shelter in the US and had only 14 days left before he found his forever human, Sari. The rest as people in the dog-world would say is ‘dogstory’.
More than 15 years ago, Heppu met Sari for the first time. As he crawled up to her shoulder under her hair, Heppu became Sari’s first “official” companion. “Before I chose him, he chose me. And gradually, he taught me the true essence of a human-dog relationship. He taught me the power of compassion.”
Weighing five kilos, but with a “big” personality, Heppu – a Finnish nickname for ‘dude’ – travelled a fair bit with Sari, from the US to Finland to the UAE. And in the UAE, began a new adventure that changed Heppu’s life overnight, as Hani walked in. A blind dog of almost Heppu’s size, Hani needed not only love and care but guidance.
And Heppu guided Hani quite well! “Heppu always made it a point to show that he was the boss, but to my utter surprise, there was no conflict between them. There was a tacit understanding actually – Hani quickly understood that if Heppu barked, she too had to. He also taught her to be around me when I cooked, so they could pick up whatever fell off the kitchen counter. It was beautiful how the roles reversed, as Hani became the lady of the house and Heppu was the boss outside home and her guide.”
“Heppu was quite a character you know, much more than just fur and paw,” Sari wells up with pride (even though it was a Zoom voice call, I could hear her pride – literally). “So, was Hani; she would sit in front of the mirror and admire herself, with head cocked up although she couldn’t see, except partially when exposed to light.”
When Heppu crossed the rainbow bridge, after being ill for six months, Hani had to ruffle herself and stand tall. Soon after, Sari moved back to Finland with Hani. But within a year, Hani was paralysed from hip downwards and gradually headed towards a multiple organ failure.
“It was tough to lose both of them in a matter of 18 months. The loss of a pet is not easy. I didn’t quite realise that losing a dog could hurt that much. But my husband Risto and I had a good run with Heppu and Hani. They taught us how incredible this human-dog bond is. They taught us that if there’s one word that sums up a dog, it’s family.” That’s why a dog is never really gone; they are harnessed at heart forever.
Sari and Risto live in Finland. While they are not full-time dog-parents currently, they enjoy doggy-sitting and constantly engage with animal-focused charity initiatives.