An open letter to my mastiff Henry on his third birthday


I hated you before I even met you.

I swore at Chad when he told me he was getting you, threatened to divorce him for not compromising. I vowed to not lift a finger to help with you. I scowled when the barrier went up in our brand new kitchen. I refused to help pick out your collar or dog bowl. I pouted at home while Chad drove six hours to pick you up, refusing to be a part of this puppy business.

Then you came home. All floppy, droopy, wrinkly twenty-four pounds of your brindle self.

And I hated you even more. I hated how you cried in the middle of the night, how you tugged on my pant leg when I was trying to write lesson plans. I hated how you cried to go out every five minutes and then refused to come back in. I hated how you barked at everything.

I hated you so much I cried a few times.

Then, I decided to soften, to give you a chance. I held you, and you fell asleep in my arms, and we had a beautiful moment.

Until you peed all over me. And then I hated you again.

Despite my hate, you adored me.

Despite my hate, you adored me. You got super excited when I came home from work every day, throwing your toys in the air, tripping on your own feet. You whined and jumped and dashed around, happy to see me.

And then, at some random point, it happened. As your paws got bigger, and they started walking on my heart. It wasn’t a single, magic moment. There was no spectacular moment when I knew I’d changed my mind. You just wormed your way in, puppy breath and all. You defrosted my ice-cold heart. You made me love you.

Suddenly, I was laughing at your stupid antics. I cracked up when you froze on your walks because there was a squirrel. I forgave you when you chewed on a can of Coca-Cola and had soda on the ceiling. I laughed when you ate half a bag of puffed popcorn and when you escaped from your crate countless times. I forgave you when you made me feel like a fool at our first dog obedience class—you kept smacking me with your paw when you were supposed to be sitting still.

From there, it was history. I didn’t hate you anymore. You became my best friend.

Over the past few years, you’ve been there for everything, even when no one else was.

People laugh when I say that. How can a dog be your best friend? How sad is your life? People look at me skeptically when I say “I can’t go” because I don’t want to leave you at home, but I don’t care.

Over the past few years, you’ve been there for everything, even when no one else was.

On days when I’m feeling happy, you’re there, too. We run in the yard for no reason. We dance to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.” We jump and run and wrestle and make tons of noise.

On days when I’m feeling bored, you’re there. We go on adventures, even if it’s just to your favorite places—The Meadows, Poochey Chef, the dog park, or to grab some takeout from our favorite restaurants. Sometimes, we just go on adventures around town, walking and meeting new people. You remind me it’s good to be social, to talk to people, to explore. As we celebrate your third birthday, I think back on these past years with a smile. I know we’ll have many more years of running in the park and eating too many cupcakes and watching movies and going to parades. I know I’ll love you for so many more moments.

I also know that someday when you’ve reached your last birthday, when you’ve used up all your time for making memories, I’ll hate you again. I’ll hate you for stealing my heart, for making me love you, and then for leaving. I know I’ll cry and I’ll cry some more when I realize your paw isn’t there to comfort me, your head isn’t on my shoulder. I’ll cry thinking about the fact your big brown eyes just aren’t there.

You made me fall in love with you, you made me realize sometimes the best things in life come out of things we resist with all our might.

I’ll hate you for breaking my heart with those huge mastiff paws of yours.

But, when I’m hurting and wanting to just sit down and die, I know I’ll think of how I started out hating you. I’ll think of how despite it all, you never gave up. You made me fall in love with you, you made me realize sometimes the best things in life come out of things we resist with all our might. And because I went from hating you to loving you, I know I’ll keep my heart open. I’ll miss you and it’ll be hard, but I’ll open my heart to another four-legged buddy.

Because above all, Henry, you taught me to love with everything I have, even when I don’t think I can.

Happy birthday to my best friend.

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This is a personal essay by Lindsay Detwiler. Want to submit your own? Visit or email

Lindsay is the author of three contemporary romance novels, including Voice of Innocence, Without You, and Then Comes Love. She is also a high school English teacher in her hometown. She lives with Chad (her junior high sweetheart), their five cats, and their mastiff Henry. You can find out more about Lindsay at,, or on Twitter @LindsayDetwiler.


  1. What a lovely tribute to your furry BFF, Lindsay. As an owner of three dogs, I can relate to all the emotions you described. Dogs are messy, expensive, and very time-consuming, but I can’t imagine my house without them. They are love.

    Happy birthday, Henry! 🙂


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