A Tribute to Hanni, Seeing Eye Dog Extraordinaire

May 7, 2017 • Posted in blindness, careers/jobs for people who are blind, guide dogs, memoir writing, Seeing Eye dogs by

My last post shared both sad and happy news. My loveable retired Seeing Eye dog Hanni died Wednesday, and the book I’ve been working on for more than a decade had been released just the day before.

It’s been an emotional week for sure, but in the end, so much good to think about. Hanni lived an amazing 17 years, and she wasn’t suffering much at the end. Those 17 years just caught up with her.

Beth Finke and Seeing Eye dog Hanni

That’s me with Hanni, a back cover photo from Writing Out Loud (Photo courtesy Kaitlin McCall)

Hanni played a major role in my life, and she plays a major role in my new book, too. It’d been a while since I wrote and revised some of the stories about her for Writing Out Loud, and rereading them these past few days made me smile. Publishing an excerpt here that highlights her guide work might be just the right way to honor that brave, funny, smart, cute, fluffy, heroic, tail-wagging retired Seeing Eye dog. Here’s an excerpt from a chapter called “Getting There,” where Hanni guides me to the very first memoir-writing class I led in Chicago back in 2004:

On our way to the first day of class, Hanni looks ahead, makes a split-second decision, and darts left. Holding tight to her harness, I sidestep along with her. My shoulders breeze by something as we needle our way down Michigan Avenue. A tree? A lamppost? A person? Without being able to see, I have no idea what we missed. I’m just glad we missed it.

“That dog isn’t looking where he’s going!” a random voice calls out from behind me. But what does the voice know? That’s just the way Hanni works. She’s quick on her feet. A proud graduate of The Seeing Eye, class of December, 2001, Hanni – her name rhymes with Bonnie – was taught to make quick decisions. She has to. That’s the only way we can avoid collisions with pedestrians. With cars pulling out of parking garages. With taxis turning right on red. With delivery trucks rushing out of blind alleys.

The trip is less than a mile from our apartment. Commuting by foot and paw, we sail down Michigan Avenue. Weaving through the lunch crowd, we are right on time. Until we run into this guy. . .

Aha. A cliff hanger! I won’t leave you hanging there for long, though – you can find out who “this guy” is by clicking on the Look Inside link on Amazon free of charge. “Getting There” is one of the chapters featured.

Hanni guided and kept me safe (and gave Mike some reassurance, too) for eight years, then brought joy to our friends Steven and Nancy for seven more. As one of you commented to my last post, Hanni really did lead an important life.
Thank you, Hanni. Thank you.

Jean Thompson On May 7, 2017 at 7:35 am

Oh no! My dear Cooper boy also died on Wed., very unexpected. Urbana lost two good dogs, so sorry.

Beth On May 7, 2017 at 10:07 am

Cooper? He was so young. Very sorry to hear this, and you are right: Urbana lost two beloved dogs that day.

Laura On May 7, 2017 at 8:59 am

I’m so sorry to hear about Hanni. What a long and amazing life she lived, and she was loved and given good homes. May she rest well.

Beth On May 7, 2017 at 10:10 am

Thank you, Laura. I do hope you will link to that Amazon thingee to read the rest of the story about Hanni — you will recognize who the “guy” is.

Laura Jelinek On May 7, 2017 at 9:17 am

We are so sorry to hear of your loss. I loved when you would to bring her in to the Easter Seals office. She was an amazing dog.

Beth On May 7, 2017 at 10:16 am

Oh, Hanni loved coming to the Easterseals office, too — there’s a fun chapter later in the book about her behavior one day in the office bathroom that I hope you’ll get a chance to read. She brought joy to a lot of people, didn’t she? there

Brad On May 7, 2017 at 1:25 pm

Hanni was your dog when I first met you. She had two wonderful halves to her life and apparently really enjoyed both of them. I know you’ll miss seeing her when going to Champaign/Urbana.

Beth On May 8, 2017 at 12:44 am

True: she had a great life, and Yes, I will miss her.

Bev On May 7, 2017 at 2:29 pm

That pic by Kaitlin McCall says it all. Hanni was special….you two had a special bond. Sorry I cursed her when she would sit at my feet.

Beth On May 8, 2017 at 12:46 am

Ha! You are forgiven.

Linda Lyon On May 7, 2017 at 4:36 pm

We were so saddened to hear of Hanni’s demise. We loved that caring dog. She was always our “guard dog”, sleeping outside our bedroom when we stayed with Steven and Nancy. Rest in peace, Hanni. Your working days are over.

Beth On May 8, 2017 at 12:48 am

And you two wre always so sweet to welcome her in your Galena home –thank you.

Diane O'Neill On May 7, 2017 at 5:01 pm

I’m so sorry for your loss of Hanni. I loved reading about her in your picture book, Safe and Sound. So sorry.

Beth On May 8, 2017 at 12:50 am

I had to tell the publisher of that children’s book this past week that Hanni had died. She gave lovely condolences and added that gee, how many dogs get their autobiography published? Hanni!

Audrey Mitchell On May 7, 2017 at 5:18 pm

Hanni learned well and was good at her craft.. We can say “Well Done, Hanni. Rest in Peace”.

Cam On May 7, 2017 at 7:55 pm

RIP Hanni

Lori On May 7, 2017 at 8:23 pm

Thanks for sharing all of your stories about Hanni, what a dog she was! I’m sorry for your loss. I’m loving your new book!

Beth On May 8, 2017 at 12:54 am

Thanks,Lori, and hope the chapters in the book about Hanni make you smile –I re-read some of them this past week and they wre a huge comfort.

Raymond Vegter On May 7, 2017 at 9:11 pm

So sorry to hear about Hanni. I’m reading your book to my Granddaughter!! Any book tour to the suburbs coming up?

Beth On May 8, 2017 at 9:13 am

What a sweet picture I have in my head of you reading to your granddaughter, Ray. Bring her over to The Bookstore in Glen Ellyn on June 3 and I’ll introduce her to my new Seeing Eye dog, Whitney. I’ll be there from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 3.

Camilla Krone On May 7, 2017 at 11:05 pm

Hi Beth! I just saw your blog in my Facebook feed. It was posted on the York Class of 1976 page. And I just ordered your book to my Kindle after reading the intro. So you’re a true Chicagoan? I’ve been in Saint Cloud, MN for 25 years. Thanks for sharing Hanni’s story and yours. Cam

Beth On May 8, 2017 at 9:18 am

So good to hear from a fellow York high School alum. Afraid the only people who can claim to be true Chicagoans are the ones born here, and I was born in, you guessed it: Elmhurst, home of York High School! I envy you living in St. Cloud, I hear it’s beautiful up there. Thanks for ordering my book — I think you might especially like the stories about growing up in the 60s…

Kim Holly On May 8, 2017 at 10:41 am

So sorry about Hanni. No matter how long we have them with us, dogs just don’t live long enough.

Beth On May 9, 2017 at 1:37 pm

Ain’t that the truth.

Stephanie On May 8, 2017 at 10:57 am

Hi Beth. It’s been a while. Just wanted to extend my condolences. Hanni made a huge impact on me when you came to NJ that time for your visit/talk. So happy you had her and for the role she played. Congrats on the new book. When will you be touring it?

Beth On May 9, 2017 at 1:39 pm

Oh, Steph, you bring up such good memoires there. Hanni was da bomb, wasn’t she? As for when I’ll be out in NJ touring, when will you have me? I’m serious! If you read this message, get in touch with me via email. If not, I’ll contact you — I assume you are still in the library business, right?

Barbara Gaither On May 8, 2017 at 11:08 am

So sorry to hear of Hanni’s death. We were so honored to meet her (and you) when Scott was the Easter Seals Child Representative. All of my children were so intrigued by her and her service. She was a beautiful, smart animal and I know she will be sorely missed, but oh what a purposeful, full life she lived.
And congrats to you on the new book! I can hardly wait to get my copy. I have loved reading what you write for these past 9 or so years and really look forward to this. Such a great thing to happen for you and though the timing seems sad, in some ways, it is so perfect! One chapter ends and another chapter begins. And how great that you get to honor and remember Hanni in such a special way through this book.
Much love,
Barbara Gaither

Beth On May 9, 2017 at 1:45 pm

Oh, Barbara, you said it all so beautifully with this comment — I’ve had a hard time expressing how, in the end, I think Hanni’s timing was pressient (I think that’s the word I’m looking for!), I feel like she stayed around long enough to give me her blessing, and then it was time for, as you say, a new chapter. I remember our time at that banquet so vividly, Hanni under the table but nudging your girls for attention, She was very young then, but then aagain, so were we, right?! Thank you so much for all your encouragement over the years, and I do hope you like this new book of mine.

Leone C. Anderson On May 8, 2017 at 12:37 pm

I’m so sorry to learn Hanni is gone. I remember her when you came to Freeport for our writer’s conference. Such a sweet dog. I look forward to reading your book. My three York High School graduate sons have fond memories of Elmhurst, as do I! Lee

Carli On May 8, 2017 at 2:54 pm

Beth, I’m so sorry to hear about Hanni passing. My thoughts are with you guys and I agree that it’s an amazing thing that Hanni has her life immortalized in print! Much love to you.

Alex Schneider On May 8, 2017 at 10:37 pm

You have my deepest sympathies on the passing of your beloved Hanni. She is to be admired and remembered for her long and devoted service.

As a fellow resident of Chicago’s west suburbs I can picture the scenes and situations you describe.

Your new dog has big pawprints to fill.

Beth On May 9, 2017 at 1:59 pm

Carli, thanks, it’s true she is immortalized in her own picture book! Lee and Alex, nice to hear from people who understand life in the western (and far western!) suburbs. I’ll have to think if the west suburbs comes up much in Writing Out Loud. Pause. Oh! Yes! Just about any time Flo is mentioned (that’s my mom, Flo) the action is set in the western suburbs. Hint: look for the Harrington Inn in Geneva in one of the later chapters.
Thank you all for your good wishes about Hanni, and Alex, you are right: my new dog Whitney has big paws to fill. Soon she’ll be asking me for her own book, too.

Deborah Darsie On May 12, 2017 at 4:13 pm

Hanni was a wonderful partner for you, Beth.
I love the stories you have shared of your time with her.
She had a love-filled life, not much more a dog can ask for really.

Romp free, Hanni

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