I've always believed that I'd be there for my dog when his time came to go. I could not stand to think how devastating I would feel if he passed away without me holding him in my arms until he took his last breath away. Just like anyone would wish to be with their loved ones on their deathbeds, I wanted to be with him when the time came to send him to heaven.
Although i've always believed in that, I never thought his time would come so soon because my dog, Pooh, was barely seven years-old when he was diagnosed with lymph-node cancer.
It had been almost a whole entire year since I left my home back in the States, where Pooh and I spent six years living together with my family. At first, to be free from the chore of walking Pooh every morning when my eyes were still half shut was, I'll admit, a bit of a relief, but at the same time I thought about those hot summer nights when both of us cuddled and slept together on the kitchen floor. I did miss him. However, his smiling face in the photographs, which I had neatly pinned onto the bulletin board in a new room in Tokyo, somehow made me feel all right.
One night after I got home from a long day, my dad called me, which I thought was unusual because it was always my mom who had been calling me since our parting a year before. We started to have everyday conversation, catching up on each other's lives and telling each other jokes. Still, somehow the voice I had not heard in a while and the one I loved listening to was oddly polite, yet mechanic, like that of a doctor when he breaks an unfortunate news to the family of a dying patient. Then, just when I started to feel something uncomfortable in the air, he plainly, as if this is just another daily news he had to tell me, uttered, "Pooh's not feeling so well." Right away, I responded in a calm tone, trying to sound ordinary as possible, "Did he eat something wrong again? What do you mean he's not feeling so good?" when I knew exactly what he meant. A pause. Then intense silence followed between both of us. My throat started to choke with something that was gradually forming inside and tears came running down on my hardened cheeks while my dad explained it so dreadfully calm. Pooh had cancer. The news blackened the world around me because the same fear kept swirling inside my head like one big cloud: I'm not going to see my friend ever again.
On the next phone call, this time from my mom, she told me that Pooh had less than six months with us. She, who usually talks in a relatively low key, forced herself to speak in such a high-pitched, polite tone it trembled and sounded like a sob. All I could do was to just listen to her while her voice cracked, trying to tell me that she was going to take him on a check-up that day and hopefully we'll get good news.
Still, that was better news for me. Hearing that he had at least six months left, I was a bit relieved, for I was thinking of going back to Michigan to see my dog during the Christmas break. Till then, I had to do something. I didn't exactly know what, but I figured I had to do something for Pooh and for myself as well. To look for an answer, I started to research on the cancer and read every single article there is to know about what it is that's eating my dog away. Among them, I found many promising information regarding life expectancy, nature of the disease, effective treatments, and so forth. It gave me enormous relief more than I had expected, knowing to get prepared for everything that was likely to happen. Then, I decided to work as much as I could and save money so I could at least pay for the expensive hormone shots Pooh had to get regularly. Three weeks passed since I had been informed of the news ad surprisingly, I had hope and faith.
However, the cancer was more vicious than we had imagined. Too vicious. It had caused to deteriorate my dog's body faster than anyone had expected. It was too much for him to bear anymore. One early morning in September, decision was made and he was put asleep by a shot only a month after the diagnosis.
My mom called me when he was finally put to sleep, only to find I had already gone to bed. Because of this cruel time zone difference, I was informed of his death via e-mail to my cell phone, which made me confused and distraught the next morning when I read it after almost five hours had passed from his death. As I read the words, "Pooh passed away this morning. We are very sorry," I felt someone stabbing me in my gut, spilling out all the hope, wish, and promise I had been building up so confidently. I was so ashamed I didn't see the knife coming, so discretely.
The sudden news overwhelmed me for the next two weeks because I simply could not believe how much I felt let down by something I was never going to understand or get compensation for. Tears were not the solution, I knew, and so they never came. Instead, I developed rashes all over my body. It made strange patterns like some ancient inscriptions and swelled up with flaming heat like it was crying out loud from inside. All day, I lied down on my bed, with my body all discolored and disfigured, not knowing how to feel or even worse, how I was feeling.
This continued for months without showing any improvement and finally I decided to spill out my thought, if I had any, in poems. To my surprise, I actually seemed to have thoughts, in fact, many of them. I wrote pages and pages of my heart and mind every night, all of my beliefs about living and caring for a dog I loved that were shattered by the cruelty of nature in a place so far away from me. Writing them away must have alleviated my pain and cleared my inexplicable despair to some extent. Gradually, rashes faded and I was starting to feel okay to accept, not his death, but myself because I had realized that not only was I shocked by his much earlier death, but I was blaming myself for not being there to see him go and to feel him go.
To this day, I think I still haven't gotten over his departure from my life and I don't even know if I ever will because we both didn't say goodbye to each other. It is hard to go out separate ways without saying farewell. I have recovered. Yet I can still see Pooh, looking up at me just as he did every morning before I left for school, like nothing has happened. Rashes went away, but the cut that was so deeply engraved in my heart would leave a scar on me forever.
Honest and warm gratitude to all who made me who I am today ：）
Love and smiles,