As I read this beautiful letter written by singer, Fiona Apple, I thought back on my beloved dog, Loulabella, who I lost last year at age 17. It was a numbing death to experience, however, I was honored to have known this type of unconditional love and was even happier she got me through so much during those 17 years – the death of two family members, breakups, marriage, moving several times, etc. Recently, I lost another beloved dog, Rocket, who died suddenly at age 10. Her death was different, because we experienced different things together, however, her gentle and sweet nature, and the fact that she always wanted to please our family made it as unbearable. I have heard folks say after losing a pet they would never have another one. I agree each pet experience will be different, based on what you are going through in your life, however, this type of companionship and love is a gift, one we should never shy away from. Especially if you are rescuing a pet from a shelter, maybe an older pet who just may die alone with no real family otherwise.
This letter by Fiona struck a nerve – if we only chose love more often, wouldn’t this world be a happier place. Enjoy and please grab a tissue, especially if you know what it means to love a pet…
“It’s 6pm on Friday, and I’m writing to a few thousand friends I have not met yet. I’m writing to ask them to change our plans and meet a little while later.
Here’s the thing. I have a dog, Janet, and she’s been ill for 2 years, as a tumor has been idling in her chest, growing ever so slowly.
She’s almost 14 years old now. I got her when she was 4 months old. I was 21 then — an adult, officially — and she was my kid.
She is a pitbull, and was found in Echo Park, with a rope around her neck, and bites all over her ears and face. She was the one the dogfighters use to puff up the confidence of the contenders.
She’s almost 14 and I’ve never seen her start a fight, or bite, or even growl, so I can understand why they chose her for that awful role. She’s a pacifist.
Janet has been the most consistent relationship of my adult life, and that is just a fact. We’ve lived in numerous houses, and joined a few makeshift families, but it’s always really been just the two of us.
She slept in bed with me, her head on the pillow, and she accepted my hysterical, tearful face into her chest, with her paws around me, every time I was heartbroken, or spirit-broken, or just lost, and as years went by, she let me take the role of her child, as I fell asleep, with her chin resting above my head.
She was under the piano when I wrote songs, barked any time I tried to record anything, and she was in the studio with me, all the time we recorded the last album.
The last time I came back from tour, she was spry as ever, and she’s used to me being gone for a few weeks, every 6 or 7 years.
She has Addison’s Disease, which makes it more dangerous for her to travel, since she needs regular injections of Cortisol, because she reacts to stress and excitement without the physiological tools which keep most of us from literally panicking to death.
Despite all this, she’s effortlessly joyful & playful, and only stopped acting like a puppy about 3 years ago. She is my best friend, and my mother, and my daughter, my benefactor, and she’s the one who taught me what love is.
I can’t come to South America. Not now. When I got back from the last leg of the US tour, there was a big, big difference.
She doesn’t even want to go for walks anymore. I know that she’s not sad about aging or dying. Animals have a survival instinct, but a sense of mortality and vanity, they do not. That’s why they are so much more present than people.
But I know she is coming close to the time where she will stop being a dog, and start instead to be part of everything. She’ll be in the wind, and in the soil, and the snow, and in me, wherever I go.
I just can’t leave her now, please understand. If I go away again, I’m afraid she’ll die and I won’t have the honor of singing her to sleep, of escorting her out.
Sometimes it takes me 20 minutes just to decide what socks to wear to bed.
But this decision is instant.
These are the choices we make, which define us. I will not be the woman who puts her career ahead of love & friendship.
I am the woman who stays home, baking Tilapia for my dearest, oldest friend. And helps her be comfortable & comforted & safe & important.
Many of us these days, we dread the death of a loved one. It is the ugly truth of Life that keeps us feeling terrified & alone. I wish we could also appreciate the time that lies right beside the end of time. I know that I will feel the most overwhelming knowledge of her, and of her life and of my love for her, in the last moments.
I need to do my damnedest, to be there for that.
Because it will be the most beautiful, the most intense, the most enriching experience of life I’ve ever known.
When she dies.
So I am staying home, and I am listening to her snore and wheeze, and I am revelling in the swampiest, most awful breath that ever emanated from an angel. And I’m asking for your blessing.
I’ll be seeing you.