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.