Has it really been 10 days since I held you in my arms and heard you breathe your last breath?
In one way, it seems like it was yesterday. My emotions are still every bit as ragged and raw, and I still wake up nightly with my heart pounding and my adrenaline surging as if something terrible is wrong.
And then I remember.
In another way, it seems like you’ve been gone much longer. When I think of you, I tend to remember the times before your back legs stopped working, before you couldn’t control your bladder or your bowels, before you became so vulnerable. Before we made that awful, but necessary, decision to free you from a physical body that was no longer able to keep up with your spirit.
For most of your life, you were strong and confidant and majestic. You could chase a coyote a half-mile to the top of a ridge at full speed and run back down again when you heard me calling you. You could hike up mountains, and run alongside my bike, and play at the dog park without ever getting tired. You were so proudly independent -- like a cat, we sometimes said about you. And although you were too proud to ask for attention, you sure loved getting it!
I never told you this before, but we brought you into our lives to help us deal with the death of our baby boy. I was pregnant for 22 weeks when I went into labor on our honeymoon in Hawaii. When we came home, we were very, very sad that we couldn’t bring our boy with us. Your dad said that maybe getting a puppy would make us happier, because then we’d have somewhere to put all the love that we had been saving up for a baby. I wasn’t so sure, but he convinced me to at least consider it.
Once we took one look at you, we knew it was the right decision. You were gorgeous, with expressive brown eyes and little tufts of fur framing your ears. But it was your gentle spirit, sweetness and intelligence that really made us fall for you. We named you Kona, a Hawaiian word, which means “wind from the west.”
I'm so grateful to your dad for bringing us together, because you made it possible for me to care again. I soon came to realize that inside that fluffy, white body was an old, wise, nurturing soul who loved me unconditionally. Sometimes it actually felt like you carried the spirit of my little boy inside you.
And now that you’re gone, I’ve lost you both.
For more than 15 years, our identities were linked. You were woven into my DNA like my hair color and eye color. Without you, I don't know who I am anymore. I've heard it said that losing someone you love is like losing a limb. Without you, Kona, it's worse; I’ve lost my heart.
I’m grateful we had time together that last day. Those minutes when I was spooning you by the fire were so precious. And that look you gave me when the girls brought you up the driveway in the wagon: ears up and pulled slightly together; eyes bright, alert and focused directly on me. It was the same look that melted my heart countless times before. Pure adoration. Pure joy. Pure love.
I dreamed about you the other night. Your dad and I were visiting a dog pound, standing in front of a large, elevated platform enclosed by a chain-link fence. Inside were about 20 dogs, sitting along the back wall as if they were in a police lineup. There was one white dog that caught my eye. Then I realized... it was you. We made eye contact and you ran over to me. We touched through the fence. You licked my hand. And then you gave me that look.
I told the man in charge that you were mine and I wanted to take you home. He said, “Fine, but you’ll have to wait until 6:00.”
What? Why do I have to wait until 6:00?
“That’s the time when we can check them out.”
Oh, please! Let me take him now!
“No, you’ll have to come back at 6:00.”
We had to leave, so we did. To pass the time, we went for a drive. We kept checking our watches, but the hands never seemed to move.
When will it be 6:00?
Then I woke up. Sweating, heart pounding, adrenaline surging…