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Goodbye to a Precious Companion

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

I woke Sunday morning with intense dread, not wanting to get up and face what the day had in store. Our precious canine companion, our treasured sweetheart Joey, had died the evening before, after lingering for seven weeks after losing the use of his back legs. He had been an outside dog all his life, romping in the yard, running up and down the front steps, vigorously digging up bulbs, leaping around when told it was time to go for a walk, but one evening I came home from the supermarket and discovered him sitting on the floor of the garage, his back legs tangled in a weird arrangement. I lifted him up to a standing position to untangle his legs, but when I let go, he crumpled onto the the floor and was never able to get up again. He was a shelter dog, so we don't know his exact date of birth, but we know that he was already, or about to be, sixteen years old. In the past year, he has had several medical episodes but had been taken to the vet and nursed back to health every time, fully restored to his old tail-wagging self. My daughter Kana hoped against hope that he would make a comeback this last time as well, but it soon became clear that despite her tender care and numerous trips to the vet, Joey would never walk again. Fervent rehabilitation efforts turned into elderly care, which turned into palliative care, which ended this past Saturday night when, passing the place where we had made a bed for Joey in our front entrance hall, I noticed his breathing was different and he was making a guttural sound he had never made before. I called up to Kana because I thought this might be the end. Kana rushed downstairs, gathered Joey's emaciated body in her arms, and sat there on the floor holding him, and as he died, we kept saying, tears running down our faces, "Thank you, Joey. We love you, Joey. We love you, Joey. Thank you, Joey." He passed away peacefully, and then moments later my husband opened the front door, home from work to join us in our sorrow. We were all in disbelief, despite having known for a long time that this would happen. Death is always shocking.

So on Sunday morning we would have to take Joey for his funeral. After a fitful night, I woke up dreading the day, wondering how I would deal with not only my own grief but especially with Kana's. I knew that losing Joey was to her what losing Kana or either of my other two children would be to me. Never-ending, bottomless grief. How do you get through it?

And then I had a moment of clarity, like a message from God. Just live this day from moment to moment. Shield your heart from ordinary feelings you often let in but which are unrelated to this momentous day--fear, anger, resentment, insecurity, boredom, worry, pettiness, jealousy, scorn, embarrassment, regret. Clear your heart and respond to what comes. You have the strength. Be there for your daughter, and for your husband, who has also loved and is grieving the loss of Joey.

We took Joey out to a city-run facility that provides pet funeral services. The ceremony was beautiful and moving. It was just the three of us saying goodbye, as my two other adult children live rather far away in Tokyo. We lit incense, said prayers, and took photos of Joey surrounded by the flowers customarily placed around the deceased in Japan, and then the gentle, compassionate staff took Joey away to be cremated. Kana and I used up half a box of tissues wiping all our tears, but driving home, we felt cleansed and grateful that Joey would no longer have to stay here on Earth immobilized in a body that no longer worked. We imagined him leaping through the fields of heaven, chasing his squeaky little orange football, sitting and waiting for treats on demand (he was a very smart dog), and wiggling and writhing in ecstasy in the rough grass in our yard. We will miss him terribly, but we know he is at peace. He lived a good life and will be forever loved.

And the message I got on the morning of Joey's funeral--it carried me through that day and the few days since. I was there for Kana. We sat for hours at the dining room table, reminiscing about Joey, how lucky we had been to choose him out of the tornado of puppies we saw playing outside at the shelter that day sixteen years ago, how he immediately took to us and understood that our home was his territory, how he never showed anger or barked or complained (except for when he was being bathed or having his nails clipped). On the day of Joey's funeral, I was focused on only one thing, saying thank you to Joey and supporting my daughter. I made it through.

The suspense is gone, but the peaceful feeling remains, and I will take the message I got in that moment of great stress--waking up to say goodbye to a precious one--to live life as it comes and simply to find enough strength, discipline, and love to control my reactions. I've always been under the false impression that I have no control over life. I've always thought that life just happened TO me, not that I could shape it with my inner resources. Heck, I've rarely even been conscious of any inner resources, so I'm grateful for that instant of knowing Sunday morning that my inner resources are there and available for use.

Oh, and one more thing. This is very cliche, but I have to mention it because it touched me. Just outside our dining room glass doors is a tree I planted two years ago. When I bought the tiny plant, the instructions said it might take a couple of years to grow big enough to blossom. I was excited to see a few weeks ago that buds had appeared, and I watched them every day to see signs of imminent blooms. A few of the heavy buds fell off, and I wondered if I was caring for the plant properly, as I'm not good at this kind of thing. But on the morning after Joey died, when I came downstairs after my epiphany, I looked out and saw that there was a beautiful purple flower halfway up the little tree. When I showed it to Kana later, tears came to her eyes and her voice broke as she said, "That was Joey leaving us a message on his way up to Heaven."

This is Joey, 2017, two years before his death, facing into the light.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    You have such a way with words... so glad I found your blogs
    148 days ago
    I found this blog because you are a friend of a friend. This is absolutely beautiful and touching and brought tears to my eyes. I am so sorry for your loss.

    We had an elderly cat. My husband and I loved her dearly. So much so that my husband told her she was not allowed to die before him because it would break his heart. He had many life-threatening medical issues. After his last ambulance ride to the hospital, he was sent to a nursing home because I could no longer care for him at home. Within a couple weeks he went into hospice. The Sidewinder missed him and was going downhill fast, but I had a talk with her. I told her that her human Daddy had not died, he was just in a nursing home. If she died before him, I would not be able to hide it from him because I would be so sad.

    That cat rallied! She started to eat again, and she cuddled up to me when I was at home. Charles died on Thanksgiving of 2018. The Sidewinder died a week and a half later. She stayed true to Charles' request that she wait for him. She was 22 years old.

    We had already adopted two feral kittens, so I had immediate companionship. I hope your new dogs have been as lovely for you as my kitty boys have been for me. Still, there will never be another cat like The Sidewinder; and I know there will never be another dog like Joey.

    323 days ago
    Just saw this. So sorry for your loss. I know when we lost our Chloe it was so hard. It's been about 18months and we went to the shelter to get another dog. She's not Chloe but she's loving and needed a home.
    379 days ago
    Carolyn, I’m sorry I missed this when you wrote it. I’m crying my eyes out as it was such a moving tribute to Joey. You are such a beautiful writer. I know how blessed your family and friends are to have you.

    387 days ago
    436 days ago
  • MARTHA324
    Just read this and my heart is breaking for you on the loss of Joey.

    May he live in your heart forever.
    436 days ago
    Carolyn -

    I'm so sorry to read of the loss of your precious Joey. They truly take a part of our hearts with them when they go. Glad to hear you were able to find some peace - the purple flower definitely was a sign that he is OK.

    449 days ago
  • FITNIK2020
    I no longer get notifications and I am so grateful that I found your blog about Joey. The flower was indeed a symbol, particularly because it is purple the symbolic spring colour. Your story is touching, insightful , and beautifully expressed.
    461 days ago
    Very sorry for Joey... emoticon
    469 days ago
    Carolyn, I just found your blog .I feel your pain, having lost my 14.5 year old cat this year. Your tribute to Joey moved me to tears. You write beautifully! emoticon
    470 days ago
    I am sorry I missed your blog--and am seeing it so late--But I truly extend my deepest condolences to you. I can see what a sweetheart he was ---My eyes till with tears, and may you be comforted in knowing you will one day see Joey again. emoticon
    470 days ago
  • no profile photo CD25088232
    So sorry for your loss. Pets are close family members. I do believe the purple flower was a gift from Joey thanking you for a good life and letting you know he is in peace.
    472 days ago
    Carolyn, just saw this blog. So sorry to hear about Joey. We lost our Chloe a year ago and we still miss her so much. We feel her around us all the time. Sending hugs emoticon
    474 days ago
    Carolyn...I can SO relate to your feelings of utter and total loss having lost many animals myself. I know our connection to our animals (I call them our angels just hanging out with us wearing their little fursuits). And I'm so proud of you for reaching deep to find an epiphany on how you could pull yourself together to be strong for your husband and daughter. I also relate to that being strong for my husband after losing our beloved son Josh. I'm not sure that was the prudent course of action because I never allowed myself to fully grieve Josh's loss so when I lost DH it was a double whammy that brought back all of those unresolved feelings.

    I know they say you can never compare the loss of an animal to the loss of a human being but I'm not sure that is true. I say love is love and the loss of that most sacred experience in our world is always profoundly hard...not matter who or what it is that causes that loss.

    Holding you tight in prayers and love my dear friend!! emoticon
    479 days ago
    What a moving tribute to your dear Joey. When my cat of cats died, we buried him wrapped in a piece of my clothing, and I played music from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Requiem. One of our current cats is 19 years old, and I dread the day.
    480 days ago
  • PCOH051610
    I'm so sorry for you loss. What a beautiful tribute. I hope Joey has found Louisa and that they are romping through the grass and basking in the sun. Hugs to you
    485 days ago
  • HEYRED221
    Carolyn I am so sorry for your loss. It is never easy to lose a cherished member of our family. Sending you love and hugs. emoticon emoticon

    488 days ago
    I am so sorry for your loss, pets touch our lives in such a special way this past year I have lost 2 of my own pets and it's a tragic hurt that stays with us. My pets are my kids and they show us such love that makes us treasure our moments with them. emoticon
    489 days ago
    I am SO SO SORRY for your loss of Joey. Losing our pets is like losing a child in many ways. They become part of our family and are so comforting and fun to be around. Joey was so lucky you chose him when you went to get a dog at the shelter 16 years ago. I had my dog for 15 years and she got sick too and we had no choice but to put her down. Otherwise the dr said I would come home one day and find her. Could not handle that. We were lucky to have our dog Erin too.
    I am again so sorry and know you and Kana will miss Joey so much. Grief does not go away and it is the result of love. Just know I am thinking of you and keeping some prayers for you so you will heal from his loss. Cherish all those memories and watch that lovely tree grow. God bless.
    hugs and heartfelt wishes to you,
    Eileen emoticon emoticon emoticon
    492 days ago
  • ALICIA363
    emoticon emoticon
    496 days ago
    Oh my goodness Carolyn. I am sitting here with tears in my eyes - for Joey, for you and Kana's loss, and for the beauty of your words. Your gift is simply amazing. What you described was so clearly seen by me - I could picture Kana holding Joey, and the funeral. I could see you both sitting at the table reminiscing.

    I can even see the purple flower though I have no idea what kind of tree you planted.

    I am so sorry you had to say goodbye to Joey - for now. I can also see him happy and well again, thanks to your words. I am also so glad that you have found some peace, and hope it continues to remain. Much love to you and your family. emoticon emoticon emoticon
    496 days ago
    I'm so sorry for your loss....
    497 days ago
    This is a very beautiful account. I loved how you thanked Joey, and gave him a funeral. emoticon

    emoticon Death is shocking. It interrupts everything and people have to find a new way to live.

    I'm feeling your sorrow. Joey was a lucky dog, and so was your family! emoticon
    497 days ago
    What a lovely tribute to your precious Joey. They leave such an empty place when they move on. emoticon
    497 days ago
    My dear friend Carolyn,
    May Joey be forever in a place to romp and play now on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge. MY heart goes out to you and your loving family who were so blessed to love and be loved by such a wonderful creature of God.

    Gentle Hugs
    Susan emoticon

    497 days ago
    Ah geez, the tears are a flowin! Thank you Carolyn for this beautiful gift. Thank you Joey for the material. Carolyn, you have the resources and even more so, you are a writer. When will you accept that? emoticon emoticon emoticon Love to you and Kana
    498 days ago
    Such a beautiful post. I am so sorry for your loss. I really loved the revelation you had that, " I've always been under the false impression that I have no control over life. I've always thought that life just happened TO me, not that I could shape it with my inner resources. Heck, I've rarely even been conscious of any inner resources, so I'm grateful for that instant of knowing Sunday morning that my inner resources are there and available for use. " Yes! That is a message I will keep with me as I deal with stress. Thank you for the inspiration.
    499 days ago

    Comment edited on: 9/12/2019 9:18:18 AM
  • DESIREE672
    You write so beautifully, and in your sadness, you pass on wisdom which is a gift to us.

    Thinking of all five of you as you cope with Joey’s passing.
    499 days ago
    Oh, Carolyn, I saw this blog and knew what it meant, and I had to stop reading a few times, because I was bawling so hard, and I'm continuing to cry as I type. I am so sorry for your family's loss, and my heart hurts so much thinking of the pain you are going through. It's bringing back so many memories of the final days with Sammy, especially the night before and the absolutely awful day of his passing. I wish you all peace and comfort in the coming days, weeks, and even months.

    I have a letter for you that I just need to put in the mail.
    499 days ago
    My heart really hurts for you and your family. It is hard losing a beloved pet, even harder than losing people in some cases. You are in my thoughts dear friend.
    499 days ago
    What a wonderful tribute to your beloved Joey. He is at peace. You are at peace.

    You have such strength to draw upon.

    I am so sorry for your loss.
    499 days ago
    Ugh! You're killing me (making me cry)! My heart goes out to all of you. I am a dog person so I get it. We said goodbye to our 15 year old Stitch in June. It gets easier I promise. We were so lucky to have loved them and to have had their love. Dogs are so so special. Sending you and your family lots of healing thoughts.....
    499 days ago
    Oh, Carolyn, tears in my eyes, hugging my little dogs in my lap. We know they won’t live with us forever, except in our hearts. Spartacus is at least 17, getting whiter & whiter in the muzzle. If he’s not at the front door with the others when I get home, I worry - call him & search for him until I find him (only takes a few minutes, but ...

    Wonderful blog, exquisitely written. Bless you.

    500 days ago
    Tears rolling down my cheeks. WE said our good-byes to our precious Mr. Spot a little over 2 yrs. ago. He was such a wonderful companion, as your Joey. HUGS and healing vibes. Joey knew he was loved by you, and that's a gift!

    500 days ago
    First, I am so sorry for your loss of your precious Joey. I so understand how strong that bond is between a pet and it's person(s). I read your blog with my own sweet Daisy is lying by my chair patiently waiting for me to move to the next place in the house. It had been 15 years after the loss of our Golden Retriever Ginger before I was willing to let another precious animal into my heart, but I am so glad I did. Our beloved pets teach us so much and love us unconditionally, no matter what.

    I also loved how you focused on all the wonderful memories and good times you had with Joey instead of being stuck in the grief of losing him. And what a beautiful sign with the blooming of that purple flower on your tree. And what a revelation that you found you could control at least your reaction to life as it happens. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    And on another note, thank you for checking in with me last night. I have been less active on Spark these past few months - trying to find my way back to some kind of normal with the healing of my husband. He is doing well but we are both finding it a bit challenging to go back to our routines!
    500 days ago
    I am sorry for your loss of a treasured friend and companion. The love and loyalty of a dog has no equal. I am glad you found a sense of peace and serenity. Joey would like his people to be happy...it’s easier said than done. He sounds like the best kind of friend.

    We both know that grief is a slippery slope. I offer prayers and strengthening thoughts for you and yours...hugs for you, sweet chica.
    500 days ago
    Oh, my...what a loving tribute to your dear Joey, Carolyn.
    And so happy that you found it within yourself to cope with that difficult day by living it mindfully and focusing on comforting your dh and daughter....which brought you peace, as well.
    You are a wise and wonderful woman.
    500 days ago

    Comment edited on: 9/11/2019 8:12:49 PM
    Read this through tears and went through this in June with my dear cat. Here's a quote that brings me peace.

    Grieve not, nor speak of me with tears; but, laugh and talk of me as if I were beside you.
    I loved you so .... 'twas heaven there with you.
    - Isla Paschal Richardson

    500 days ago
  • SEAGLASS1215
    I am so, so sorry...losing a pet is like losing a family member...I must say, I love the idea of a pet funeral and that the grief is acknowledged. You are able to have a formal ceremony which I think helps us to get through the loss - unlike here in America, Japan seems to be aware of how important such a ritual can be.

    My heart goes out to you... emoticon emoticon emoticon
    500 days ago
    I'm sorry for your loss, Carolyn,
    and thank you for sharing how you let the emotional pain be, how you stayed with it and arrived to insight and peace. Beautiful words of wisdom.
    500 days ago
    So well written, Carolyn. It took me back to the last year of our little Yorkie's life. What a wonderful revelation you received in the midst of what you were experiencing. What a beautiful ceremony to help you move through this with your loved ones. Thank you for sharing this with us.
    500 days ago
  • _BABE_
    I haven't had a dog since I was a kid but I can sympathize with you losing your Joey. I am so sorry because I am sure he brought you a lot of joy. emoticon
    500 days ago
    so sorry to hear of your loss of Joey. our fur babies are a big part of our family. they give so much love. i know Joey will be missed by all. is that a pic of Joey? it is beautiful. i'm sure Kana will miss his companionship and the love he knew she needed. Sixteen years is a good old age for a dog. Joey knew he was well loved and that you gave him the best life anyone cold of given to him. i can remember you writing about taking him for walks. (((HUGS))) to you my sweet friend.
    500 days ago
    I'm sorry that you have lost a loved companion. Joey was a lucky dog to be adopted by a family who would love and care for him to the end.
    500 days ago
    I am so sorry for your loss. I hope you take comfort in knowing that Joey was loved and cared for and that he is no longer suffering. emoticon emoticon
    500 days ago
    I am so very sorry to learn that your beloved furry friend, Joey, has passed over the rainbow bridge. He is now running free again with his tongue lolling out the side of his mouth I'm sure. You and your family feel poorly today and will for several days to come, even months but you all are so much richer for having had Joey in your lives.

    You are always "THERE" for others, don't forget to be there for yourself my dear friend. God Bless you.
    500 days ago
    I shed tears for you and your family as you relayed the sad but touching process of saying goodbye, dear Carolyn. How wonderful though that the farewell brought you a promise of strength that I hope will carry you through many other difficult moments!
    500 days ago
  • EISSA7
    I am so very sorry .... my heart goes out to you and your family! Joey was much loved and will shine in your hearts forever. Sixteen years is a longgg time, many memories to treasure.... emoticon
    500 days ago
    I am so sorry Joey is gone.

    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    500 days ago
    Sorry for your loss.
    500 days ago
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