Kindness grows from tragic loss

By Terry Harris

Last Saturday as folks arrived at Sussex County Animal Services for the dedication of Logan’s Dog Run, Janet Barnett, mother of the young man for whom the new facility is named, greeted everyone with hugs and smiles. His father, Richard Henshaw, mostly stood quietly to the side, smiling, shaking hands.  It was the first time that either had seen the finished addition to the Shelter built with contributions from family and friends to honor their son, Logan Henshaw, who, on October 25, 2016, two days after his twenty-second birthday, lost his ongoing battle with depression.

“We lost our son four years ago,” explained Richard. “In lieu of flowers we designated the animal shelter as a contribution point. Our friends and family were very generous, and the animal shelter was able to build a dog run for the animals to get out and have some exercise time.  Today is the dedication of that – so it’s something positive that has come out of something negative.”

As the family wished, the event was largely upbeat, and laughter was often heard among the dozen family members assembled from all over Virginia as ASO Brooklyn Carpenter made the dedication with the plaque in Logan’s memory.    

“When Logan passed,” Janet later explained, “instead of flowers, we wanted to do something that would last. Logan loved animals, was always for the underdog whether it was an animal or a person.  And I really want to thank everyone that donated in Logan’s memory, and I wanted the opportunity to thank the Sheriff’s department again.  Sheriff Giles is here today. He was there that day...”

Logan’s mother paused to wipe away a few tears, then smiled and continued, “And you couldn’t have asked for more love than he and his department gave.”

“That day we all were there,” Richard added.  “We found Logan.  At his car.  The Sheriff’s department was there, and I was there, and his Mom was there.  The Sheriff was - everyone was very compassionate – professional, and compassionate. I really can’t say it made it any easier, because there’s nothing easy about it.  But I just couldn’t have asked for them to have done anything any differently than they did, in that it wasn’t a cold, hard suicide investigation.  They were wonderful at the worst moment of our life.  They…  took care of us as well as Logan.”

“And today,” Janet said, gesturing toward the flowers and the plaque and the memory bench and the group assembled in Logan’s memory, “this is good – that God brings good out of the bad.” 

“We were aware, and we were proactive in trying to get him the help that he needed,” Richard said. “Sometimes it’s not enough.  When I talk to people that say they’re not speaking to their son because of whatever, I just look at them and say, ‘You’ve lost your mind.’ We lost Logan.  We lost him to depression.  There’s no other way to put it.”

“Richard and I have learned a lot on this side of it,” Janet said. “Many times, I’ve wished, ‘Oh, if only I’d known this or that then, it might have changed things.’ But all we can do is pass it on and hope that it helps the next person.” 

“Whether it’s suicide or a car accident or whatever,” she continued, “we never know.  When I leave anyone, I say, ‘I love you… I love you’ – because we just don’t know.  And our last words with Logan were, ‘I love you.’  So, we’re blessed in that part.  So stick close and love each other.”

Reflecting on the ceremony afterward, ACO Lisa Moseley said, “It’s a pretty amazing thing for parents who just lost their child to stop at that moment and say, ‘We don’t want the flowers.  We want to help the animals, which is something that Logan was passionate about.’  The outdoor play area for the dogs to be able to go outside and have fresh air and room to play is a huge thing for the shelter to have.  Animals can go stir crazy in captivity without going out.  They become distant, aggressive, not adoptable… and then there’s only one other choice, and that’s euthanasia.  So they saved many lives with this act of kindness.”