The Irish and Hank

Every year, I always look forward to March 17, St Patrick’s Day, as does a large part of the rest of the world. Have you ever stopped to wonder why? Why are we drawn into wearing green, drinking Guinness and eating corned beef and cabbage on that one day out of the year?  Some might say that it’s just an excuse to get drunk, and I’m here to say that I think it’s more than that.  To explain, let me share about my dog and what he has taught me about it.

Hank is a rescue dog with an unknown pedigree.  I’ve had him for about five years.  He looks like a boxer in the torso, with broad shoulders and narrow haunches, but his head looks like a bird dog of some type. When I take him to the vet, his chart reads “boxer mix” because the doctor agrees with my visual assessment. But I now know different.

Hank is a lab. And his instincts proved it for me.

I take him to the city dog park each week because he’s impossible to manage on a leash. He can roam freely on the open acres fenced in for the dogs. On one particular day, two identical black dogs found us throwing the ball and decided to join in. At once I thought I had 3 Hanks. They all responded the same way to my gestures. I would throw the ball and the three of them take off running to retrieve it.  Regardless of which dog got there first, together the three would return to me, drop the ball, and stare at me, panting, as if to say, “Do it again!”

The owner caught up to us and I asked about her dogs. She said they were black labs, purebred. I told her mine wasn’t pure, but his instincts definitely were.

It’s fascinating to me to see how a dog can be bred for certain characteristics over time. It’s in their DNA. And that’s why I think we love St Patrick’s Day.  

It’s bred into us.

The Irish are a people that have been marginalized for centuries. They have been raided, pillaged and plundered by many sources. They are anything but lucky.  Yet they are a representation of what it means to be resilient. Their music embodies both grief and celebration. The Irish can dance and mourn, weep and laugh. They drink to be happy and drink to forget. 

I think I’m instinctively drawn to this, and I don’t think I’m alone.

Beneath the beads, the Lucky Charms, the shots of Jameson and the hangovers lie an innate reason. We’re all trying to find our way back home. We want to be in a place where we feel like we belong. And it’s reasonable to think that the Irish might be of some help.

The difference in me and Hank is he doesn’t have to think about it. He responds instinctively to his true nature. I, on the other hand, deliberate and talk myself out of my deepest instincts. My heart knows its longings, but I’ve been conditioned to distrust or ignore them. But there are always voices calling me back to where I belong.

Occasionally Hank will escape the yard following his bloodlust for the squirrel or fox. But I’ve learned to not worry. He’ll find his way back home. It’s his instinct.

My heart knows where it’s from. I do well to pay attention.

It will always call me back home.

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