Harley Mehaffey 2/3/2003 – 5/27/2018
I still remember the first day I met Harley. The memory of that day is as vivid as if it happened last week. His owner brought him into the vet clinic where I worked at the time, and he was shaking and terrified at her feet. He sat there looking scared while she went on and on about how horrible of a puppy he was…he was peeing in the house and having accidents, etc. You know, typical 10 week old puppy behaviors. As she went on to explain that no amount of yelling or hitting was ‘teaching’ him, I interjected and offered for the clinic to take him in and find him a home. She agreed, and promptly left. Leaving me, and the terrified, adorable, baby alone. I leaned down and said, ‘hey buddy, it’s going to be ok…I’ve got you.’ And from that moment forward, he was my best friend and furry side kick.
You see, I didn’t have a dog growing up. So this puppy who landed in my lap near the end of my freshman year of college was definitely not planned, and was also not the ideal timing. He spent the first 3 months with me sneaking in and out of my dorm room. Everyone on my hall was in on it, and we would hide him whenever any of the security guards came around! He also moved home with me for the summer, and the first night I left him with my parents he howled for 4 hours straight until my mom finally called me demanding I come home. I moved off campus to keep him, and every decision from that day until now has included Harley.
For the past 15 years Harley has been my constant companion and keeping him has shaped much of my adult life. Moving off campus led to meeting my husband Tom, and keeping him solidified for me that veterinary medicine was for me. I was having doubts before then, but once I knew first-hand the bond between a person and their furry companion, I knew vet medicine was right for me. He came with me through 4 moves, a marriage, a baby, 3 different veterinary jobs, and starting my own practice. He was also the muse for our dog rescue, Harley’s Haven. He was the first dog to steal my heart, and that inspired me to want to help others in need, just like he was when we met. Our rescue takes in the sick or scared, young or old, and everything in between. All of this was made possible because of this one dog.
This past Memorial Day weekend, we made the impossible decision to let Harley cross the rainbow bridge. His arthritis that we had battled for years finally got the better of him, and we could no longer stand seeing him in such pain and watching him fall. We did all his favorite things – he got ice cream (with jimmys!), he ate his own hamburger, we took a short walk on the Perkiomen trail (so he could sniff and pee on things, as a true gentleman does), and we sat in the grass to watch his final sunset together.
There are no words for the deep sense of loss that I am feeling right now, and there will never be another Harley. I can’t even imagine how different my life would be if I had not been working that day, 15 years ago when he trembled his way into my heart. Though Harley is gone, he will never truly be gone. He lives on in me, and in the nearly 1000 dogs we have rescued in his name and will continue to rescue in his name for many years to come.
This one is for you Harley – may you run joyously on pain free legs. May you have endless ice cream, and mail men to bark at. May your days be long summer days spent rolling in the grass in the grossest possible smells. And may you save a seat for me on the grass to watch the sun set when we are together again. Thank you for giving me the honor of being your human. Rest in peace, you handsome devil. You earned it.
-written by Dr. Beth Mehaffey, Harley's person