Hank Burnsed Passes Away After Very Brief Illness.
Hank Burnsed, the legendary fishing dog of Sanibel & Captiva Islands, a friend of dolphins, an enemy of sharks, and doggedly loyal first mate of Captain Joey Burnsed, passed away peacefully today, Thursday, December 7, 2017, on Sanibel Island at home with his family by his side.
Hank would have been 11 years old on December 26. The Burnsed family announced his death this afternoon. The cause was lymphoma.
Hank was somewhat slowing down and in partial retirement but had been in good health and was still working a half day on the boat 3-4 times a week as recently as last week. On Monday, he suddenly stopped eating and appeared to be laboring and struggling. He was quickly diagnosed with late-stage lymphoma.
Many of Hank’s friends have asked about making a donation in his name. The Burnsed family asks that people support the Gulf Coast Humane Society, Hank’s favorite charity.
Hank Burnsed was born in Dallas, Texas and was of blue blood aristocratic Labrador Retriever stock. Rumors swirled of Hank and his siblings being the product of a brief affair between his mother and a handsome rogue, roving Chow, primarily based upon Hank’s unusually large head, thick neck, somewhat short ears, and spotted tongue.
Hank, typical of his easy-going nature, simply shrugged off the whispers regarding his mother’s alleged dalliance and his questionable lineage. Winston Churchill faced similar rumors early in his political rise, so Hank, as always, was in the company of great men.
After a rambunctious, slightly rebellious youth and typical yellow lab puppyhood, Hank matured into an extraordinarily tranquil, calm and dignified hound. Hank’s peaceful, low-key personality was a unique quality and made him an ideal companion on the boat. He was a friend of all people.
Hank went on thousands of charters over his 10+ year career and was a great first mate for everyone, including highly experienced fishermen and fisherwomen, beginners and, most of all, children!
This disposition was important because Hank spent many long, hot days on a small boat, often with very excited, high energy children, who were delighted to be out on the boat with the famous fishing dog. Hank was without fault and no amount of screaming, yowling, jumping, or tugging by children on his ample neck rolls (another possible indicator of a sneaky, disreputable Chow father), ears, or tail could shake Hank’s demeanor. He would simply give the children happy, big, wet licks.
Most of the time, Hank stretched out, and lazily slept on the bow of the boat, waiting for some action to develop. He was famous for maintaining this relaxed position, even at high rates of speed in relatively rough weather. Hank just bounced along snoring happily on the bow. If things became too rough or the sun got a bit too hot on the bow, Hank would meander back and find a shady spot on the deck.
Early in his career as first mate, Hank would become excited whenever he heard a rod and reel hum with a fish on the line. However, after the first year or so of his apprenticeship, he became very discerning of the different sound and register of the reel.
Redfish, snook, seatrout and even tarpon were run of the mill for Hank. A Sanibel slam was not worth waking up for or getting too excited about, although he loved to lick a ladyfish. Again, this innocent predisposition towards ladyfish was cited by rumor mongers as possible evidence of a skirt-chasing, philandering Chow father.
Hank only became truly engaged when he heard a shark or goliath grouper on the line. Then and only then, Hank would get his mojo going and he would yowl and howl in delight.
Sharks made Hank’s blood boil and it was all Captain Joey could do to keep him in the boat. He would be tied up in the back of the boat less something unfortunate might occur in a Hank encounter with a shark. Hank might have been just a tad bit overconfident in his ability to take on sharks. Captain Joey always protected Hank from this rare demonstration of poor judgment on Hanks’s part. In all his years, Hank’s only injury from a shark was a small bite on the nose from a blacktip shark that flopped back to Hank before being released. Hank healed up quickly and was quite proud of his battle scar.
He just detested those sharks. Other than sharks, Hank was solid, stayed calm, and always kept his wits about him. Well, with the possible exception of goliath grouper.
Hank did break loose several times and jump with unbounded joy on and in with some very large goliath groupers. It was unclear what Hank expected would happen once he was in the water with the goliath. He looked somewhat confused when he got in the water with the big fish and the goliath grouper also didn’t look all that happy. Hank was always promptly and quickly hauled out and, with a quick and vigorous shake, soaking everyone on the boat with a spray from his coat, he would go back to his dignified self and return to his position on the bow and take a nap.
Hank’s other major interest was in the dolphins who often would tag along, playing and jumping in the wake and coming up to the side of the boat. Hank was intrigued with the dolphins and they were fascinated by Hank. There were many nose to nose encounters – and some friendly barking – but mostly a lot of sniffing and investigation by both parties. This became a regular routine for Hank – checking in with his dolphin buddies several times a week.
Hank was also an intrepid sheller who loved a break from the boat to run along the North Captiva and Cayo Costa beaches. He often found human and dog friends at the beach and had perfected a quite dramatic and unique cannonball form to enter the surf in full flight in chase of a stick or tennis ball.
Hank’s lack of opposable thumbs hurt is shelling productivity, but he had a good Sanibel stoop in search of shells and often practiced yoga at sunrise and sunset on the beach, with a particularity impressive downward dog position.
Hank took on his own assistant for a period of time and trained Charlie Landon as his “second” mate. Hank wasn’t terribly threatened by this new entrant to the fishing business and he cheerfully taught Charlie the ropes – with a special emphasis on Charlie doing all the hard work like pulling up the anchor!
Hank also wasn’t opposed to a quick snack thrown from one his many fans in the fishing community. He loved bologna sandwiches and cheeseburgers.
For the most part, Hank stayed out of legal troubles and was a law-
abiding citizen but there were some near misses. He did go through a “Rebel With A Cause” period. Hank was very (very) briefly involved in the anti-leash movement. Afterall, everyone needs to voice their political beliefs and stand up for their rights.
Hank, we’ll miss you. You were a good, loyal and steadfast companion and a tremendous example of joyful, welcoming friendship to all people. See you in heaven – we understand there is some good fishing up there!