Henry Keller Rodriguez aka HKR, the Henster and on occasion, Smooth Operator, is 10 years old. That might not be much of a milestone for the average dog, but it’s a big one for Henry. Some might even call it a miracle.
You see, Henry came into an uncertain world without the ability to hear, was lost (and thankfully found) at just two months old, had four surgeries before he was two, and five homes before he was one.
No one really knows how Henry came to be on the side of Highway 101 in Soledad on December 20, 2005. Around dusk that evening, a kind passerby saw a dirty Dalmatian puppy at the edge of the freeway; he was covered in his own poo, the result of dehydration, starvation and a prolapsed rectum. That unknown angel of a man picked him up and drove him to the most logical place he could think of, the Soledad Fire Department. There, firemen bundled the sick puppy in blankets and couriered him “in style” over to a Salinas emergency clinic.
|Baby Henry, courtesy of Dr. Kerrin Hoban, Harbor Vet|
The veterinarian on duty that night was Dr. Kerrin Hoban, a Santa Cruz-based vet who was working her one shift a week at that particular clinic. She took one look at Henry and saw a tiny little “loverboy.” Not yet named, Dr. Hoban estimated Henry was two months old. She was determined to save him, and boy did she!
The first of Henry’s four surgeries was to repair his prolapsed rectum and get everything back to functioning normally. He cleaned up nicely and with proper nutrition began to grow into a handsome young dog. Dr. Hoban tested Henry’s hearing and discovered he was 100% deaf; she set about teaching him sign language. She named him Henry Keller – a play on words of course – Henry, for short. She even fancied keeping him, but Dr. Hoban also rescues horses, and she grew concerned for Henry’s wellbeing on account of his inability to hear.
A succession of temporary foster
homes followed including one with another deaf Dalmatian and a fairly long-term
one with an adventurous woman and sailor name Kristy Lugert. Kristy fell in love with Henry but for reasons
beyond her control couldn’t keep him.
|Baby Henry, courtesy of foster mom Kristy Lugert|
October 30, 2006: Henry had just turned one year old and our sweet old girl Lucky had crossed the Rainbow Bridge in September at the age of 17. I can still remember the phone call on that date like it was yesterday. It was from our veterinarian’s office. Were we ready to add another dog to our family? Did we want to come down and meet a deaf male Dalmatian puppy? “What? I - don’t - know,” I thought. I must have said yes because the next thing I know we were taking Henry for a test walk.
|Henry Keller, October 30, 2005|
The test walk turned into a test slumber party, and three days later we were the owners of a 1-year-old deaf male Dalmatian.
|1-year-old Henry with his first stuffie (didn't last long)|
Over the course of the next nine years, Henry has went about proving that he had a reason to live. He’s changed our lives in many ways - some taking some getting used to - given us generous doses of appreciation, makes us laugh hardily, and he's changed us for the better.
|3-year-old Henry, at Santa Cruz Dog Beach|
It is Henry Keller that can be credited for each and every dollar that is donated to local animal causes through his store “The Honorable Dalmatian.” His mom just works there. I guess that's Henry’s way of showing his gratitude.
At ten, Henry’s had his share of some of the more common Dalmatian issues: bladder stones at 18 months old, prompting education on the proper diet for a Dalmatian, the deafness (one in ten Dalmatians are born 100% deaf and 30% have some hearing abnormalities), and when he was eight, he was diagnosed with Wobblers Syndrome.
|A happy sleeping Henry Keller|
Wobblers Syndrome (most common in the Doberman and Great Dane breeds) is really just a catch-all term for any kind of disc compression along the spinal column that interferes with the nerve sensations that send information from the brain to the hind end. For Henry, the signals are diminished and he tends to “wobble” when he walks. He also has neck pain when he turns it certain ways and he takes medication to manage it.
Henry Keller Rodriguez is a truly special dog, at least to his mom and dad, his veterinarian and to the nonprofit organizations The Honorable Dalmatian donates to.
So, we celebrate Henry’s 10 years on Planet Earth and we wish for many happy, healthy days ahead.