Its been one week since Princess passed away. Although I am less emotional, I am still profoundly saddened. I’m taking it day by day, and I feel as if things are getting better for me, but at the same time, a part of me feels guilty for feeling better. I feel as if I owe it to Princess and Jenna to mourn and feel sad bit longer than just a week.
Looking at old pictures and videos helps. It reminds me of all of the good times we had, without otherwise, I would have probably forgotten. The trips to the mountains, the onsens, to Chiba, and the trip to Okinawa right before Haruka was born. I just wished I could have done more and taken them more places, especially towards the end
Yesterday, I took Haru to her weekly gymnastics lesson. I had promised her a week earlier that I would rent some movies for her on the way home, so we stopped of at the DVD rental shop and picked out some movies. The hole time she was looking for a movie to watch, I kept looking at the clock on the wall by habit. It use to be that every time we leave the house I would have to always be aware of the time because of Princess’s hypoglycemia. If unattended to too long, she would have a seizure, so it would be my job to be the time keeper. Now that she’s gone, I don’t have to do this anymore and yet I still do. I just wish I could just finally move on and not think of them so much.
While looking at old photos of Princess and Jenna, it reminded me of all the times we use to get together with other westie owners. Princess and Jenna loved playing with other dogs, especially other westies, and this was a very happy time for them. It made me wonder what happened to the other dogs, so I looked them up and have found that most of them have passed away too. But during my search, I found that one of the westies named Wing, who amazingly was Princess and Jenna’s cousin, had just passed away just last year. Wing was born in 1995 which made her just over 18 years old when she died. Wing was one of my favorites, because she had this amazingly long tail that was trimmed in a shape of a feather or wing. Looks-wise, she looked like a cross between Princess and Jenna, and there was definitely a family resemblance. I visited Wing’s homepage last night where there were even a few photos of Princess and Jenna, and I could tell that she was deeply cherished as well. It makes me wonder if Wing’s owners felt as sad as I do when she passed. I wonder if they recovered or are they also still in mourning -after all 18 years is a very long time.
September 13th and 14th will forever be etched in my memory as one of the saddest days of my life. If only they had lived one more month, we could have had a huge celebration to mark their sweet 16th birthday, which I had been planning. But never the less, I will celebrate their birthday anyway, complete with cake, candles and birthday wishes to thank them for being such great companions.
These are some rare photos that I haven’t even seen, taken from Wing’s homepage.
It’ll be exactly one week in a few hours since we lost Jenna. Although I am coping, I’m still trying to come to terms with the loss. My mind is still in disbelief and denial. I still see and hear them. And although I know I am hallucinating from the grief of my loss, some websites that I have been reading about coping with pet loss, suggest that the spirit or the souls of the dogs are still in this house and they are trying to comfort me.
Today, my wife took Haru to cheerleading practice to practice for a special event next month. I decided to stay home, because I really just wanted some time to be alone and collect my thoughts. But I think I was too alone, because I kept hearing things all day. I heard Princess snoring like she normally does when she was asleep, and I could also hear them walking around the floors. I also found comfort laying on the floor, where both dogs spent most of their time. I felt as if they were laying their with me. Perhaps this is why my wife spent the entire week sleeping on the living floor. Maybe subconsciously she also felt as if they are still with us in spirit. Usually, I don’t believe in this kind of stuff, and I am usually more logically minded person rather than spiritual, but I definitely feel sense of presence (not all of the times) but sometimes. It makes me wonder if there is such thing as spirituality and an afterlife, are the dogs still here?
Princess and Jenna were somewhat famous among the Westie owners community in Japan. We use to go to a lot of events a long time ago and we would often see the same people, hence Princess and Jenna was like a household name like Terry and Lala, Wing, and Mint and Basil. They were all well known names within the community. When some of the owners learned that Princess and Jenna passed away, they were kind enough to send us flowers which I included in the dogs’ memorial. The memorial has gotten so big now, that I actually had clear everything off the shelved to fit everything. So, rebuilding and expanding the memorial actually helped be to take my mind off of things and was extremely helpful and therapeutic.
I’ve also gotten to the point where I was able to sit down with Haru, and watch old videos of the dogs. Haru loved doing this, because some of these videos we haven’t seen in years. It was the first time I had been able to laugh in days.
And finally, I have created a memorial page for the dogs on this site. I will probably be updating it from time to time with pictures and videos I find of the dogs.
Yesterday was a bit better, I think. I managed to get through most of the day without having too many thoughts about Princess and Jenna, which in reality means that instead of thinking of them every single moment of the day, I thought about them a bit less than that. The memories have been slightly less painful, but they are still there and still painful none the less.
I think what remains to be the hardest part of the day is coming home. Right now, that house is a toxic haven for memories for me. The moment I see the house as I walk down the street, I begin to see the dogs on the balcony poking their heads through the railing, and hear their paws clicking against the wood deck as they bark and welcome me home from work. And as I walk closer, they begin to fade, only to bring me back to the realization that they no longer exist -except in my memories and in my heart.
Yesterday, coming home was particularly difficult, because my wife had taken Haru to cheerleading practice, so I came home to in empty house. As I opened the front door, the silence was deafening. Usually, I would come home to the sound of the TV blaring in the background, or Haru talking or singing out loud, or to the sound of water running in the kitchen or bathroom, or …to the sound of the dogs clicking their paws on the wood floors of the hallway to see who just walked into the front door. Instead, it was just lifelessness, darkness, and dead silence, and the memories started again, and I began to cry.
This weekend is going to be hell, because it will be one week after their passing, and I already know I am going to struggle with it. Since its a long weekend for me (9 days off from work due to national holidays), I really wished we could just go somewhere far away from this house. But since we didn’t plan anything because of Princess and Jenna’s illnesses, it would be too late to plan anything now. I thought about going out to the summer house in Chiba, but that place would be equally painful for me because we spent so much time out there with the dogs. So in essence, I would feel trapped and imprisoned in my own home with painful memories tormenting every moment that I am there.
I am very angry at myself because I haven’t been able function well in almost a week. Aside from work, there seemed to be no purpose for doing anything. I just wanted to sleep all day, and I feel really bad for feeling this way, and for neglecting Haru. Haru, if you read this someday, I hope you forgive me for those days when you always saw me sad and crying. I shouldn’t let this sadness take over our lives , and I feel really really bad for not giving you more attention, and I promise to make it up to you when I feel better.
Despite the dogs leaving us, we had one really good thing that happened that unfortunately got overshadowed and nearly forgotten. Haru finally FINALLY got chosen to join the advanced gymnastics class! I couldn’t be more proud of her. She actually participated in her first class as an advanced gymnast last Saturday (right before all of this happened). She struggled with it at first because she had gone to her usual class earlier that morning, and was fairly tired by the afternoon. But her new advanced gymnastics coach, which is the same coach she had when she first started out in her kindergarten gymnastics class said that she will do fine once she gets use to the new routines.
Haru will actually be starting advanced gymnastics regularly in November, once she has completed all of her cheerleading events which will take up most of her Saturdays in October.
So out of curiosity, we all wondered why it took the coaches so long to recognize that Haru was ready for the advanced class. I thought that perhaps my wife and I were just being stupid parents for thinking that Haru was better than she really is. Or perhaps the coaches just didn’t see any potential in Haru’s ability, and just thought it’d be best to keep her where she is, or eventually that she might even quit. Or maybe it was because the coaches where just plain stupid and not paying any attention to the fact that Haru was clearly out performing everyone in her class including the much older senior level students. Well, the answer is none of the above.
Apparently, the coaches did recognized Haru a long time ago, apparently back in her kindergarten days. But the reason why she never got promoted to the advanced class was because of one misunderstood comment she made to her gym coach back when she was in kindergarten.
When Haru just started cheerleading a few years back, she use to be so proud of her cheerleading hair ribbon, that she use to wear it everywhere -even to gymnastics class. When her coach asked her what the ribbon was for, Haru said that she is a cheerleader and that she was so busy with cheerleading that she had forgetten to take it off. (which wasn’t true -she just wanted to wear it) Based on that one comment, her coach assumed that Haru would be way too busy to commit to being in advanced gymnastics and passed her up. She assumed that Haru was doing cheerleading several times a week, when in reality it was (and still is -if you don’t count tumbling) only once a week, and in no way would interfere with her schedule if she joined the advanced class.
This all came into realization when Haru attended the nature camp last month with her gymnastics school. My whole intention for Haru to attend that camp was not only to make new friends and have fun, but to also to be able communicate with the coaches in the hopes that they would recognized that she is a good gymnast -and IT WORKED! While at camp, her once was, and soon to be again gym coach approached her and asked how her cheerleading career was going, and Haru responded okay. Then the coach asked, are you still really busy? to which Haru replied, no….it’s only on Thursdays. The coach probably assumed that Haru was a competition cheerleader who practices several times a week and do complicated cheer routines, hence her ability to do skills beyond what is taught in regular gymnastics class. Thus, started a new dialog between us and the coaches and clarifying what Haru’s schedule is really like and how we wondered when Haru would ever move up into advanced gym.
The reason why the coaches what so concerned over Haru’s schedule is because her regular gym class was once a week and 50 minutes per session. Once she moves up, this can go up to 3 times a week and 90 minutes per session. If she moves up further to competition level courses, it can go up to 5 days a week and 3 hours per session. By this point, Haru have to make a commitment and pretty much quit everything else she is doing (including cheerleading and tumbling), and I know she isn’t ready to do that. But for advanced gymnastics, we both have time in our schedules to do it at least twice a week. Three times a week will be more of a challenge, but we will cross that bridge when we get there. So at this point, we are just going to ease in the advanced class to test the waters. If she enjoys it and is good at it, we will see about bumping it up to twice a week, and maybe even more if she wants to.
I promised yesterday that I would try to focus on Haru, and I am going to try to keep that promise, but in a more gradual sense. I am still feeling an enormous sense of loss and loneliness, and I feel as if the only person who understands me and the profound sadness I feel, is me. I am at best. a “functional” emotionless zombie at work. One of my coworkers commented that I looked very fatigued, in which I gave very little or no reaction to, not because I was offended, but because I really didn’t know how I should react. Right now, I feel as if I have to turn off all emotions while I am at work otherwise I will fall apart, which is never a good thing in a structured environment.
However, by doing this, I feel that my despair over the loss of my dogs are being too suppressed and they tend to build as if I were holding my breath, to the point where I erupt with sadness the moment I walk into the door at home. I know Haru feels bad for me, but she’s not too sure what to do about it. It’s totally understandable -I mean, how is a seven year old suppose to react to an adult who constantly cries, especially when it’s their own father. She came into the bedroom last night and offered me ice cream, which I thought was kind, but I feel so weak in that I couldn’t even sit down and have ice cream with my own daughter.
I think my wife is getting sick of me. I haven’t eaten much in days now. Just maybe some bread and orange juice in the morning and that’s about it. I’m afraid that if I go out to lunch that I will start to think about them again. It’s best to just keep busy and keep my mind off of them as much as possible. so I would either work through lunch or sit on the bench in front of our office building for an hour and just space out until its time to go back to work. My wife actually got angry with me last night for not wanting any dinner, but I really didn’t feel like eating, and being in the living room is still too difficult. Even as I was sitting at the dinner table and Haru was spilling food all over the floor, I would think, it’s okay, Jenna will be by to lick it up, but of course that never happened, and I broke down and cried while my wife looked on with more anger. I wish she were a little bit more understanding of my pain, rather than caring so much about the time she wasted preparing my dinner. I just wanted to do what I did the night before and just go to sleep so I didn’t have to think about anything anymore.
Last night, I heard noises again. This time it wasn’t the sound of the dogs walking on the wood floors. It was whimpering sounds, -the kind of sounds that Princess use to make when she wanted to go outside. I buried my head in pillows and just begged for it to please stop. Why is my mind torturing me! But after a while, I realized that the sound wasn’t my imagination; it was real. So I got up and tried to figure out where it was coming from, but it was so intermittent, that I couldn’t pin point it. It sounded as if it was coming from the hallway. Maybe it was my mind playing tricks on me again. Then it happened again, and it came from Haru’s room.
I went into Haru’s room to check on her to see if she was alright. Her asthma seemed to be flaring up as she slept, because her breathing sounded rough. It reminded me of Princess in her final days; her breathing was very rough too. So naturally I was very worried. I crawled into her bed with her and every once in a while she would make whimpering sounds in her sleep -the same sounds that I had been hearing all night. I hugged her, and asked if she wanted to sleep in our bedroom (which she loved to do) but there was no response. She just continued to sleep.
I couldn’t sleep for the rest of the night. My thoughts shifted from the dogs to worrying about Haru. She is the most important thing in my life, far more important than the dogs, and if anything were to happen to her, I couldn’t imagine being able to continue on. Life wouldn’t be worth it anymore. All I could think about was Haru’s breathing and whimpering in the next room, and how Princess did the same thing before she passed away. So I stayed awake for most of the night making sure that she’d be alright, and walked back and forth to her room periodically to check up on her.
Having only slept a couple of hours or so, I woke up the next morning and immediately checked up on Haru again. She was breathing much better, and wasn’t whimpering anymore. I felt a great sense of relief, but then my mind shifted its attention back to the dogs. But this time, I felt a bit better. I think that realizing that the most important thing in life for me is Haru, and she is living and breathing and is right there with us. I need to stop feeling so much misery because it wasn’t doing me any good, nor was it going to bring the dogs back. I need focus on Haru and give her my full attention going forward, because she is who counts the most. This helped me to take a step closer to coming to terms with the loss of our dogs. I am still very far from achieving acceptance, but I think I am finally on the road to it.
First of all, I need to apologize to Haru for completely hijacking your blog site. I know this site is suppose to be dedicated to you, and not so much about me, but I really need a place to write about the sad events of the last couple of days to help me get over the pain. Perhaps when you are older and hopefully read this, you’ll understand why your father was so sad after Princess and Jenna left us. I promise that I will return to topic soon.
Yesterday started out okay. I started the day off pretty confident that I would be stronger, and I refused to let my emotions get to me. For the most part, I think I did pretty well. I kept myself busy at work, which kept my mind off of the sadder things. But at the same time, I barely remember anything I did yesterday. It was as if my brain was completely on auto-pilot and just doing things without being aware that I was doing them.
I completely skipped lunch because I have had no appetite for days now, but I did go for a walk during my lunch break, which might have been a mistake because it made me think again. It also reminded me that a part of me is still in denial. As I was walking, I saw a little stand selling charcoal broiled sweet potatoes -Princess’s and Jenna’s favorite food. I reached for my wallet while thinking, I’ve got to buy some. This will help Princess with her hypoglycemia. But then, reality hit and I broke down and cried.
Everything has been reminding me of them, and when I say everything I mean absolutely EVERYTHING, even things and objects that has no relationship to the dogs. For example, as I was doing my routine work yesterday, I would see dates and times on emails and think, Princess and Jenna were still alive then, or Princess and Jenna were doing this then, etc. And since I work for a pet food company now, seeing pictures of pets and their owners around the office in some ways helps, but in other ways makes me feel even sadder.
But the worst place for me to be right now is at home. Everything about that house reminds me of them and there is no escape from it. Pictures in the hallway, the stairway, the living room, the empty water and food dishes in the kitchen, the stock of unused toilet sheets and dog treats are all constant reminders that they are no longer with us. The living room is the worst. It’s where we all spent most of out time together, especially the dogs. The scratches on the hard wood floor where they use to chase each other around, the little memorial we created, the pictures, the painting of the dogs that my mom gave us, the old toys that Princess use to love to play with were in the living room.
As I came home from work and entered the living room last night, Haru knew I had been crying. Are you still sad?, she asked. I just nodded my head because I knew if I tried to say anything I would start sobbing again, which I wound up doing anyway. I laid on the living room floor for about 15 minutes and the more that I was there, the more difficult it became to be there, so I went up to the bedroom, where I had to pass several pictures of the dogs to get to bringing back even more memories. I figured that the bedroom had the least reminders of the dogs, but I was wrong.
As I entered the bedroom, it was as if there was a movie playing right before my eyes. I had an instant flashback of when I use to throw Princess’s favorite blue squeaky toy across the bedroom and play fetch with her, while Jenna would tackle her when she brought it back and try to take it away from her. It was like I was being tortured with flashbacks -one after another of all of the times we had playing fetch in the bedroom, to the point where I had to just bury myself in a pile of blankets in the hopes that I would just fall asleep and not have to think anymore, so that I could be temporarily relieved from the pain of the memories.
20 minutes later, I was awoken by Haru telling me that dinner was ready, but I was not in the state of mind to where I could go into that living room again. It was too much, too soon, so I skipped dinner and went back to sleep.
I was constantly awaken by what I thought were the sounds of the dogs walking on the hard wood floors in the living room. I knew that it wasn’t real and I kept saying STOP! STOP! You’re not real! Go away! Stop torturing me! But it kept persisting. I felt, and still feel as if I may be losing my mind from all of this grief. They’re just dogs! Get over it already! I kept saying to myself.
16 years is huge part of my life -almost 40% of our lives were spent with Princess and Jenna; 100% for Haru. And to have that suddenly gone, feels a like a huge hole. I guess it’s only understandable that I feel the way I feel, but I have been wondering why my wife wasn’t feeling the same. How is she functioning? Is she over them already? But then I realized that she has still been sleeping on the living room floor, and hasn’t slept in the bedroom since last Saturday night when Jenna passed away. I guess this is the way she had been grieving.
This will probably be the last time I write about my thoughts (at least on this site.) I doubt Haru would want to go back and read about how her stupid father fell completely apart over two silly dogs. So hopefully I will be able to return to topic the next time.
For most of the day yesterday, I was absolutely distraught over the loss of Princess and Jenna, so much so that I had to leave work early because I couldn’t stop crying, especially after leaning that Princess passed away too. They had been a very significant part of our lives for the last nearly 16 years. They were in fact a part of our family. Some may think it’s silly to regard animals as family members, but those people have obviously never cared for and loved a pet as much as we loved and cared for Princess and Jenna.
I promised myself that I would be strong today and to not to think about them so much and try to concentrate on work, but I find it to be more therapeutic to reflect and write about them, as a part of my healing process. It’s difficult -very difficult, and although I have never lost a human child, I cannot imagine it being much worse (at least for me).
Princess passed away yesterday morning while I was at work. I got an email from my wife shortly afternoon that Jenna had taken Princess with her. I immediately went into the restroom, lock myself into one of the stalls, and wept heavily. The person in the next stall must have thought I was crazy. As much I tried to focus on work, I couldn’t; it was just too difficult, so I left early with the permission of my boss, saying that I wasn’t feeling well -which was the truth.
When I got home, I was already weeping even before I saw Princess. Why I got my first glance at her, I saw something that I saw everyday. Princess was sleeping peacefully in her bed. My mind kept telling me, she’s just asleep! I will pet her on the head and she’ll spring to life like she always does. This is called the first stage of grief: Denial. But when I did petted her, she didn’t spring to life. All I felt was coldness and lifelessness. I kept petting her and petting her, thinking that she will wake up at any moment; and for a split second, I thought I even saw her breathe. But of course, this was just my imagination.
Since we were pretty much prepared for this moment, I thought Princess’s passing would be much less of a blow, but it was too soon. It was too soon after Jenna left us. She didn’t even give us a chance to recover, and she left us. So for a short time, Iwas mad at her for leaving me. This is the second stage of grief: Anger.
That morning before I rushed off to work, I took one good look at the memorial we set up in Jenna’s honor. Everything will be alright, Princess is still here, I thought to myself. She’ll help me through our loss by helping us remember all of the great times we had together. I petted her on the head and she looked up at me. For a very brief moment, a thought went through my head that this could be the very last time I see her alive, but I immediately dismissed it. She’ll be okay. If only I had known, I would have stayed longer and gave her a proper goodbye, or maybe I might have even taken the day off. The guilt I feel right now for leaving her without a proper goodbye hurts my soul to it’s core.
Although she never expressed it, I think Princess was also feeling grief in her own way over the loss of her sister, and after a very long fight with illness, felt that it was a good time to leave too. Being Princess, I am almost certain that she didn’t want us to have to grieve again later. All that went through my head as I laid their on the floor next to Princess’s lifelessness, is if she could only come back for only one minute so I could thank her and say goodbye properly. In my head, I pleaded with her over and over again, but of course it wasn’t going to happen. Bargaining: the third stage of grief.
Having never experienced a death of a pet, I never knew how overwhelming it could be. The grief engulfs you and takes over everything if you let it. I am trying not to let it overwhelm me by continuing my daily activities, but it’s hard -very hard. Even at Haru’s tumbling practice last night, all I could think was -why am I here? Haru doesn’t need me to be here. I want to go home and just go to bed. I don’t want to have to think about this anymore. I just want to go to sleep and dream about better times. The more I thought about it, the more sadder and distraught I got. Then I realized that I cannot let this happen. Depression is dangerous and it cannot take over my life. It’s okay to mourn, but its not okay to let it overtake you. So as I normally do on all Monday nights, I coached Haru through the glass and made sure that she was sticking all of her tumbling skills. It made me much MUCH happier to see Haru smile back at me. The fourth stage of grief: Depression.
The fifth and final stage of grief is: Acceptance. This is when you have come to terms with everything and understand that there is no reversing the affect. You just accept that what happened has happened, and you move on. Well, I am definitely NOT there yet. I am in a constant state of limbo between denial and depression. My mind still can’t accept that they’re gone, and there are actually still parts of me that believe that Princess and Jenna are alive and well, and waiting for me to come home. And when the logical side of my brain swats that thought down and brings me back to reality, I begin to feel sad and depressed once again. And this has been a constant cycle for the last 48 hours.
Last night during dinner, Haru was talking about wanting another pet -this time something she could call her own. I nearly broke down and cried, but realized that she wasn’t saying this because she didn’t care about Princess or Jenna, but out of sense of loss. She said that the house was too quiet and she felt lonely. But as much as I would love to have another dog, it’s way too soon, and I just want to be able spend some time with my family without the responsibility of caring for another pet right now. I just want to be able to travel again, take over night trips, and enjoy life as a family of three once again, and now is a good time to do it. It will also help us to finally find acceptance and recall all of the joyous memories that Princess and Jenna brought us.
Just a little more than a day after her sister’s passing, Princess, our beloved Westie decided that it was time for her to leave us as well. Princess was born on October 13th, 1999 in Shizuoka prefecture among a litter of five Westies, three females and two males. Among the females, Princess was the most friendly, active, and rambunctious. We were instantly in love with her and decided that she would be the one to come home with us. Jenna was quiet and evasive and tried to avoid human contact, and for that nobody wanted her, except for us, so we adopted her too -and she became a lifetime companion, sister, rival, and best friend to Princess and us.
Princess loved people and was the most happiest when she was around us. She had a very sweet demeanor, and trusted everyone. She would always snuggle up to us while we were asleep or just jump up and lick our faces without warning. Often times when Haru was afraid to take a bath alone, Princess would comfort her by sitting outside by the door and keeping her company. She was playful, sweet, kind, gentle, comforting, funny, mischievous, and smart.
During the last few years of her life, she suffered from a number of ailments including cancer and hypoglycemia. We tirelessly struggled to keep her well with numerous visits the vet and even surgery, but she finally succumbed to her illnesses earlier today.
Jenna and Princess were virtually inseparable during life, only being separated from each other when in the hospital. They played together, ate together, slept together, and even traveled together. It’s only fitting that they are inseparable in death as well.
Both will be furiously missed. We will never forget you Princess and Jenna, and thanks for filling our home with love for the last 15 years and 11 months.
It’s been a bit more than 24 hours since Jenna died, and I have been profoundly heartbroken and saddened. From Jenna’s death, I learned something new about myself, and that is that I don’t handle death too well. Fortunately for me, I have not been exposed to a death of a loved one too much death in my life. As a matter of fact, I can only think of only two other instances when I was exposed to death: when my pet bird died when I was 9 years old and when when my grandfather passed away when I was 20 years old.
When my pet bird died, I think I was too young to realize that the bird was in fact a precious life. I was more disgusted over having to dispose of the body, which in hindsight I realize I did in a very cruel and disrespectful way. I wrapped in a ball of tissue and threw it into a dumpster. I remember that my pet bird had died the day after I got my first dog, so my lack of grief could have been stemmed from the fact that I was too excited over having a new puppy.
I never had to face death with my first dog, because I had gone off to college and learned that my mom had given him away to someone else a short time later. Although I never witnessed his death, I did grieve in the hopes the he got a proper send off when he eventually did die. I occasionally do think about him and even quietly celebrate his birthday every year (August 9th, 1981).
My grandfather’s death was a bit more abrupt, and although I did grieve and cry at his funeral, in all honesty, in the 20 short years I knew him, I was never really close to him. Probably in the 20 years I did know him, he literally said less that 30 words to me. The longest conversation we’ve ever had, was being when he asked me how school was (because I had just started college), and me responding with a one word answer: “good”. The whole conversation was less than 10 seconds; and the longest conversation we’ve ever had. So, my grief after my grandfather’s death was short lived and only came as a sense of sudden loss and disbelief rather than sorrow.
So as I said earlier, I didn’t had too much exposure to death in my life, and although that can be seen as a “good thing” conversely, it could be a not so good thing for me later in life, because that means I will eventually have to deal with it more later.
Princess has been sick for months, if not years (if you count her hypoglycemia condition) which is makes caring for her quite a challenge. On top of that, when she had the growths removed from her face and stomach a few months ago, the vet told us that many of the growths were cancerous and had spread to her lungs, and would get progressively worse. Because of this, in the last month, Princess’s breathing had grown very shallow. My wife and I had prepared for the inevitable for quite some time now, knowing that the moment could come really soon. Because of this, our future plans to go on family trips really included finding care for Jenna, but not Princess, because we believed that Jenna would be would be around a while longer.
Then last Wednesday, when I returned home from work, and as I opened the door to the entrance of our house, I found Jenna panting and drooling heavily in the hallway and wandering around aimlessly. Since she had arthritis in her hind quarters, I figured that she had been trying to jump up to up to the hallway, so I helped her up and lead her to her water dish where she took a very long drink of water. However, things only got worse from there.
It was only a couple of days earlier when she had a seemingly insatiable appetite and was eating not only all of her food, but Princess’s food as well. But after Wednesday, she had completely lost her appetite and refused to eat anything. By Friday evening, Jenna had lost her eyesight and was bumping into walls and walking in circles, which was soon follow by completely losing her ability to walk. At first, I thought this was because she had not taken a few rounds of her medication, because the symptoms were very similar to the Cushings Syndrome symptoms which she suffered from since 2013. And by Saturday afternoon, she was completely bed ridden.
My wife and I had been taking turns sleeping in the leaving room to watch over Princess, although my wife had taken up much of the burden due to my work schedule. But on Saturday night, I decided to be the one to stay up. Although Jenna wasn’t too great of shape at the time, I had no idea she was so close to death. If I had to put money on it, I would have bet that Princess would be the one pass away that morning. I had fell asleep on the living room sofa at around 12:30am, and has woken up 3 hours later by the sound of one of the dogs drinking out of the water dish. I looked up to see that it was Princess which was a relief, but when I went over to check on Jenna, she has already passed away, and her body had already grown cold.
I went to wake up my wife to notify of her of the truly saddening news, and her first reaction was that of disbelief -as to say, NOT Jenna! But she was okay. How could it be Jenna? We both petted Jenna’s body, which was once full of life and energy just a few days earlier -both of us in disbelief that she was gone. I don’t know if it was out of a sense of denial that this was actually happening, but I felt emotionless and stoic, whereas my wife was already in tears and obviously deeply saddened. At the time, I thought, this isn’t too bad, and I am taking this surprisingly well. But after about an hour of petting Jenna and quietly thanking her for the 15 years and 11 months of happiness and joy she provided us, the reality finally caught up to me and I also broke down and cried.
Haru woke a few hours later, and her initial reaction to Jenna’s passing was very discomforting. She just shrugged it off and had an “Oh well” type of reaction to it, as if this really didn’t concern her. I didn’t really know how to react to her reaction -whether to get angry because she wasn’t grieving with us, or whether to be okay that she was more comfortable with death than we were. She had a much more emotional reaction when the two cock roaches Japanese Beetles that she brought home from camp a couple of years ago had died after she left them outside in a plastic transparent case in the hot summer sun, but I think this was because she felt directly responsible for killing them. Out of deep sense of remorse, she buried them by the Shinto shrine near our house and still thinks about those two dead insects from time to time.
My wife had made arrangements for cremation later that morning. Until then we laid Jenna to rest on her blanket as if she were asleep, and said our final farewells. By now, I was an emotional wreck and so was my wife. I didn’t realize how much of an impact Jenna had on our lives. We were both in our late 20’s, newly weds, and childless when we adopted our dogs. They were like our daughters and we cared for them so much, almost to a fanatical degree. Because of both Princess and Jenna, we made new friends, we learned to care, and most of all we learned how valuable all life is and passed that value down to our daughter, who refuses to even kill ants if they get into the house.
The pet cremation service service arrived at our house to pick up Jenna later that morning. This was literally the most emotionally difficult thing I have ever done in my life. I carried Jenna’s lifeless body and laid he down on the hallway flow near the entrance, and we all kneeled down around her to give our final goodbyes while weeping furiously. Haru still seemed emotionless over the situation, although she had grown quiet. We carried her outside, where the cremation truck had a small little prayer shrine built in. We gave her incense and said a small prayer for her. It was at the moment that the reality that Jenna would never be returning to us hit Haru, as she she began to weep with the rest of us. I then realized that we all grieve differently, it all hits us at different times, and the sadness and sorrow lasts differently for all of us.
For me, its already Monday and I as sit at my desk at work and write this, I think about Jenna constantly and tear up every time I recall her lifeless body aboard the pet cremation service truck. I am an emotional wreck and I feel as I am not in the right state of mind to even be at work. I feel guilt for not being more intuitive to her dire condition and I can’t help but to think that perhaps there was more I could have done to help her or maybe even save her. But even so, this would have only postponed the inevitable, and maybe even caused more suffering for her. I also feel guilt for putting so much in emphasis on Princess thinking that she was in a more dire state, hence more important than Jenna was. Had I known better, I would fed her better food, petted her more, comforted her more instead of shooing her off every time she tried to eat Princess’s food. The guilt is so overwhelming sometimes and I know its not healthy to think so negatively but sometimes it just can’t be helped. I just hope she didn’t die thinking that she wasn’t loved because it is very far from the truth, and me being sobbing emotional wreck is proof on that.
Jenna’s final resting place is in our living room her ashes are kept in a small little urn on top of a shelf. Haru and I even bought some flowers yesterday on the way back from Haru’s gym practice and placed in near her small little memorial. Although I feel sad every time I look at her memorial, I also feel comforted to know that she is there.
Rest in Peace Jenna. We all love you and miss you terribly.
Edit: As I finished writing this, I got an email from my wife. Late this morning, a little over a day after Jenna’s passing, Princess decided to follow. I have no words, just deep profound grief.
Rest in Peace Princess. You will be missed and we will always love you dearly.
At about 1AM this morning, Jenna our beloved West Highland White Terrier past away in her sleep. She was 15 years and 11 months old -exactly one month shy of her 16th birthday. Her death comes a shock to us, and came suddenly as she was very active just days earlier. However, a couple days ago, Jenna suddenly lost her eyesight followed by her ability to walk, and eventually passed away earlier this morning.
Jenna came into our lives just over 15 years ago, on our search to find a family pet. We initially intended to only adopt Princess, but after learning that Jenna was the only puppy in litter who still hadn’t found a home yet, we decided to adopt her too. She was initially distrustful, frightened, shy, and unfriendly and had a biting habit -all of the traits people tend to avoid when adopting a puppy. But even knowing that she would be a difficult dog to keep, I knew we had to take her home too.
After a few months of giving Jenna plenty of love and care that she deserved, Jenna learned to trust us and returned the love we gave her. Jenna became a wonderful, sweet, and active friend to everyone. Haru especially loved Jenna because she was so patient with her, even when Haru was still a baby. She will be missed dearly. Farewell Jenna! We love you!
I just realized how many unpublished blog post drafts that I still have pending. It’s been quite busy lately especially at work, and now with Haruka out of school on summer break, both Saturdays and Sundays are spent either at gymnastics and tumbling practice, or just keeping her entertained (which isn’t easy sometimes).
For me, summer time is a time to create memories, and I have a lot of fond memories of taking trips to Japan during summer break as a kid. So, I find it to very important to create good summer vacation memories for her. Ideally, I would like to take her for long vacations preferably out of the country, but with two aging dogs and no one able to take care of them, this plan will have to go on hold for a while.
In the meantime, we try to keep Haru busy by sending her off to summer camp. She’ll be going to two summer camps -one through her school, and the other through her gymnastics school. It would be really nice if this were gymnastics camp, but unfortunately it isn’t. It’s just a nature camp that is set up and sponsored by her gymnastics school.
Of course, spending time with family is also important. We don’t want Haru to look back on her childhood and think that we sent her to all of these camps just to get rid of her for the summer. So I decided that we pack up the dogs and do an overnight stay at our favorite onsen and pool resort in Chiba.
It wasn’t too long ago since the last time we went there. As a matter of fact, the memory of being stuck in a 3 hour traffic jam because of an overturned truck on the Yokohama Bay bridge was still fresh on all of our minds. But the last we went, it was just a day trip, and because our stay was significantly shortened by an irresponsible truck driver, we didn’t quite have the relaxing and joyous time we were expecting to have. So this time around, we decided to make it an overnight trip. And since there is an on-premise pet hotel, we could take the dogs with us and check on them periodically.
Haru LOVES overnight trips. We could be staying at the Motel 6 and she’d still love it. But we all love this resort because its so close, but just far enough out of the city as to feel that we’re taking a trip somewhere. There is nothing too spectacular about this resort; it’s far from being a five star luxury hotel, yet there is something very charming about the place. My wife thinks it too much of a pain because its quite a bit of a walk from the hotel rooms to the dining and play areas. I think the vastness of the hotel is part of the charm.
So we left for Mikazuki Hotel in the late morning with the anticipation that there would be some summer season traffic, but the trip there was pretty pleasant -absolutely no traffic at all, so we made it there in under an hour. This was a vast contrast from the three and half hours it took the last time.
We got there three hours before check-in which was perfect. we had a light lunch that we bought at a nearby convenience store, and immediately headed for the pools. Although the pools were pretty crowned from all of the kids being on summer break, it wasn’t too insane. I was imagining that it would be like Tokyo Summer Land -which is the least desirable spot to be in probably all of Japan. It’s like being in a subway during rush hour, and being wet and in a bathing suit at the same time. What a nightmare! Why anyone thinks that’s fun is way beyond the realm of my comprehension.
After a 3 hours of pool hopping, and playing a few rounds of hide and seek, which Haru kept cheating at, we went to the onsens and then headed up to our rooms which by then were ready for us. By this point, Haru was in super hyperactive mode and was still bouncing off of the walls (almost literally). We tried to get her to take a nap before dinner, but there was no way she was going to calm down. So I suggested tat she play some video games until dinner, which my wife hated. It it were up t my wife, all video games would be banned from the face of the earth, even though she plays them.
After about an hour or so, we headed down to the dining hall, inconveniently located on the other side of the hotel, where we had to go through long hallways, board a series of elevators, and take off our shoes somewhere along the way.
The dinner was exactly the same as the previous year. A buffet with a variety of both Japanese and western food. It wasn’t too bad, but nothing special either. But for some reason Haru had lost her appetite and wasn’t feeling well. We figured that the hyperactivity crash kicked in and she was feeling sleepy, but she kept assuring us that she didn’t feel sleepy. As the dinner progressed, she sipped on some clam soup an had a couple of bites of fries and that was it.
After dinner, we headed back to our room, and Haru laid down for awhile on the bed. She looked tired, but just when we thought she was out for the evening, she burped. After that, everything was well again,and she was back to her hyperactive self. Stomach gas! She even insisted that she was hungry….arrrg! But instead of giving into Haru whining about being hungry, which is a very common occurrence these days even after having a big dinner, we decided to take her down to the game arcade and play area to help keep her mind of of her insatiable appetite.
Before we went to the play area, we stopped by the pet hotel which is right in the next building to check up on the dogs and give them their dinner. Both Princess and Jenna seemed to be doing fine and both ate their dinners without issue. We then headed to the arcade which was on the other side of parking lot.
Haru really likes little stuffed animals and dolls, so I spent most of my time (and money) feeding the UFO catcher type games with coins to try to win prizes for Haru. I managed to win 3 or 4 little stuffed dogs for her which she was really happy about. Haru and my wife spent their time competing on Taiko No Tatsujin, a game where you beat a taiko drum to the beat of music.
After about an hour or so of playing games, we bot some drinks at a little gift shop near the arcade, and then headed back up to our room. Haru was again bouncing off the walls with excitement, and the half a can of Mountain Dew she had probably wasn’t helping to calm her down. It took about two hours for her to finally calm and enough to go to sleep, but by then, I was already out like a light.
The next morning, we headed down to the restaurant for our morning breakfast. Once again the menu was unchanged from the previous year -a buffet with a mix of western and Japanese food. Haru was feeling better so she ate a bit more heartily than the previous night.
After breakfast, we went to check on the dogs once again and fed them their breakfast. We also brought them a few things from the dining room which they seemed to enjoy.
Originally, we planned to go to the pool and onsens once again, but Haru wasn’t up for it. I want to go swimming, but don’t want to have to take a bath and wash my hair again. It’s too much trouble, she said. So instead, we decided to head back to the game arcade….yay, let’s spend more money!
We basically repeated what we did the previous evening. After about an hour, we decided it was about time to leave, but Haru didn’t quite want to leave yet. So as my wife went shopping at the gift shop, I took Haru to the play area where they had air filled tumble tracks. When we went their a month earlier, I challenge Haru to do a round off to double handspring, and although it wasn’t quite the perfect landing, she was able to do it none-the-less. And because of that, her tumbling coach is working with her to tidy up her landings so she can do it at an actual event.
This time around, I challenged her to try to do a back tuck, or a back flip -an aerial skill using no hands. Since she’s never done that skill before (ever), she immediately said, no I can’t do that yet, so I told her to just practice her handsprings to which she agreed to.
She did a couple of round off back handsprings on the air tumble track, and then said., it’s too hard doing a handspring on the tumble track. It’s too bouncy so my hands don’t touch the ground. At first I didn’t understand what she was saying. What do you mean your hands don’t touch the ground?, I asked. She then proceeded to explain that when she does her handspring, she bounces so high that her hands are a few inches above the track.
I immediately realized that she was effectively doing a round off to a back tuck, which is a more difficult skill. I then told her that instead of trying to touch the ground, to keep her hands to her sides instead. The result was a near perfectly executed round off, back tuck. I was amazed because no one had taught her to do this yet. She taught herself, almost by accident.
After spending a half hour in the play area, Haru and my wife played one more round of Taiko no Tatsujin, then we all headed home. Haru was obviously tired and so she fell asleep in the car on the way home. It wasn’t even noon yet, and yet it seemed like a full eventful day.