The first episode of Doogie Kameāloha, M.D. second season — now airing on Disney+ — is about their family dealing with the loss of a beloved elder, and at work, Lahela got suspended for operating on a child’s beloved pet. The end song was a ukelele version of Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You into the Dark.” My Google-fu says the show’s musical director sang it but I cannot find it anywhere online for the life of me. Her version tapped deeply into our souls as we watched and there was nothing to do for my boyfriend and me but to weep even though we surely depleted our wells of tears this past weekend.
That’s the inspiration for today’s title.
We received the worst news last Friday.
The onslaught of old age caught up to Jack around the end of last year and progressed to symptoms indicating pre-cancer within the last few weeks. He developed a nasty dry cough that was waking him up at night, and by extension, me.
I figured going to the vet couldn’t hurt. The vet physically examined him and rather than send his blood work to a bigger lab as planned, they checked it in-house. The results weren’t good.
I shut down my brain meats as soon as the vet said “euthanasia.”
I was lying to myself, watching him deteriorate these last few months. I had moments of clarity that I would make the right decision when the time came. The days between bowel movements, the inability to go when he never had a problem before, drinking water like a fish, his inability to walk up the stairs without extreme discomfort, the loss of zoomies. But the coughing made me pause.
I wasn’t there for Simba when he passed. He was the dog we had prior to Jack, and I never forgave myself for that.
Is it strange to reflect on what happened this weekend and compare it in some cosmic way to losing my Daddy? Both events framing their deterioration was brutal, cruel, and swift.
I have this wonderful picture of my Daddy and Jack (below), being couch potatoes together. My dad had this little smile. His grin was so genuine. Him knowing Jack was there brought him great joy and comfort.
There’s nothing I loved more than being with Jack. I’ve been a homebody my whole life. If I don’t need to be anywhere I would never be upset at being home with him. If I needed an excuse to dip on an event I’d say, “I gotta walk Jack, he’s been cooped up for too long.” The lockdowns when the pandemic started? Loved it! We could be together all day! In fact, I still remember his face the first day that I was posted up at my computer as we switched to WFH. He looked so confused but that’s because he knew my schedule and I wasn’t sticking to it. Too smart for his own good!
And if it weren’t enough to deal with in one weekend, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of my dad’s passing. It was nice for us to come together. I still miss my Daddy terribly. I asked Jack to go find him when he crossed the rainbow bridge. They were such good pals that I also hope my Daddy was watching and was waiting for him this whole time. That brings me comfort. Neither one of them deserves to be alone in the afterlife. If we can’t be together, then knowing they’re together gives me peace.
When Simba passed, my dad said something along the lines that we’re destined to outlive all of our pets and it really sucks to have to deal with that with every pet. You can steel yourself against it and say I don’t wanna own a pet because they leave us so soon.
But I wouldn’t trade these last 12 years for anything. When I moved back to NorCal for grad, everyone told me to leave Jack behind. I literally got him a few months before. I couldn’t do that, he was already my shadow. Thankfully my landlady was cool with pets, as her kids always had cats around. She was worried Jack would bark incessantly but I can count the number of times on one hand that he barked while we lived there for almost three years.
I say all this because it took me awhile to find my footing. All I did was work and school. But Jack was the reason that I got up in the morning. Making sure he was taken care of gave me a schedule to adhere to, got us lots of fresh air, and out of the room that we stayed in. He was a big part of my healing process. This era of my life would not have been possible without him.
I know that with time, the feelings will become manageable. I wish I could fast-forward to that point though. Losing my Daddy was one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced. I question God’s plan when I must grieve again for another cornerstone in my life so closely together.
I’m grateful that my life plans shook out in such a way that I was there for both of them at the end. I’m grateful that I worked from home. I’m grateful that I work for human beings who wouldn’t think twice about granting me a day off without asking for it. I’m grateful for the time that I had with Jack. I’m grateful that Jack chose me to be his mommy.
He brought such a beautiful energy to our lives. The anticipation of knowing he was there waiting for us made coming home to him even more special. During the day, I’d make it a point to get up and move, and what would I do most of the time? Go find out where he was sacked out and give him kisses and smell his stinky dog breath for the quick endorphin hit and go on with my day. And that’s all we needed from each other.
Walking up the stairs clutching his blanket and collar afterwards was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. It’ll be forever seared into my brain. The loss of his energy is insanely palpable.
Getting another dog is absolutely going to happen but I want to let myself grieve a little while longer. I waited three months after Simba’s passing before actively searching the local shelter options. I’m glad I did.
If I could summarize how I feel in one word as I write this, I’d say numb. When I think that I don’t have another tear left, I’ll look at his things around the house and break down again. I don’t have the heart to even clean out his food and water bowls though I will eventually.
I hope that you’ll say a prayer for Jack today. I found this prayer and with some modifications, it feels right.
Almighty God, I was fortunate to receive the gift of Jack from You. Now that he has left this life, please help me cope with my loss with strength and courage. I know that my beloved companion no longer suffers, and will live on in many fond memories. May he be treated with the care and respect and I pray that I may enrich the lives of others as he has enriched my life. Amen.
Have courage and be kind,