In Memoriam of Kai: A Letter

My beautiful Kai, I miss you so much it hurts. It literally hurts. I want so much to get through this as gracefully as possible. As far as you go, there is nothing I could wish for in terms of a better life, a better relationship or a more merciful death. I just miss you.
Kai sleeping
Today I hit a peak in my grief. It wasn’t a lengthy crying jag. I have many of those and they feel pretty appropriate. I’m crying now, as I write this, and that feels ok, too. Today’s peak had a different feel. An almost crazed, desperate feel. It was as if I’d lost you and couldn’t find you. I was trying to find you in remnants of your life, even as I know you are in death. I kissed the spot on the bed where you slept. I dug through the trash to see if the discarded tissue was still there from when I cleaned up the blood you coughed up onto the floor. I became irrationally alarmed when one of the other dogs tried to go in your crate. I checked to see that the last half-eaten Kong of yours hadn’t accidentally been given away to another dog. I sifted through dirty laundry to make sure the pants I wore to the veterinary ER with you last Monday hadn’t been washed.
Through most of these totally bizarro-world acts I was filled with sadness and a huge need to protect what is left of you. The oddness of it, the irrationality did not escape me. These weren’t things I told anyone about but secretly I felt like they were keeping you closer to me.

And then I thought, why? Why do I need to keep you close to me? You’re gone and ain’t nothing gonna change that. Holding onto you is like grabbing sand in a windstorm. It’s just not going to work. I understand that I’m having a hard time accepting you as a memory instead of a living, breathing 3-dimensional being. I feel an peculiar sense of resentment that I have to make that mental adjustment. Beach Kai
I also get that this is about me and not you. Every time I looked at you I felt such love. I felt like, damn, I’ve done so well with this dog and my life. You were a hugely joyful, furry, awesome dog that (with me, because of me) got through fear and aggression, choking and having me resuscitate you, shoulder surgery and eye surgery, living in a half dozen places..and you were so HAPPY. We did it! And, really, each day was a celebration of fetch and cuddling and meeting new people and dogs.
You were my inspiration and an embodiment of what I could accomplish. That’s great for, of course that makes me feel proud. Beyond that, though, was knowing that I had given the gift of such a good life for another living creature.
kai jumping1
Now it’s over.

That’s hard. There’s no two ways around it. Last week a client asked me if it was tough to work with other dogs after mine had just died. I said, you know, I didn’t know how it’d go. Truthfully, I didn’t know if I’d be able to work at all. I went to my first lesson…and then the next and the next. I felt such comfort working with these dogs. The only way I can explain it is that it’s an homage to you. Because of you, I can do what I do. I’m skilled and effective but also deeply attuned to learning, listening to and understanding other dogs. No one could have trained me to do that. You taught me, patiently, always willing to forgive my errors and let me try again. For almost a decade, I had that opportunity and I’ll be forever grateful. So when I’m teaching the reactive dogs and young puppies,  I’m able to listen and treat them with a respect that most humans can’t detect. It’s pretty cool and I know the dogs I work with thank us both for that.






I’m trying…I’m trying really hard to get to the good side of grief. I want to celebrate you, not cry because you’re not here. It’s frustrating to feel such love and happiness for your life and then burst into tears because I absentmindedly get out four food bowls when now I only need three. One of the best things about you and all dogs is how you lived in the present.

I’ll keep trying. You just keep teaching me, Kai Kai, ok? I’m still listening and I’ll never stop. Today was hard but tomorrow I’m going to work on being in the present. I’m working on not holding onto you through pieces of the past…but finding you in the goodness, love and fun that exists in a million moments in a million ways in each and every day. 

Thank you for (almost) ten years. Thank you for being the Dog That Changed Everything.
Kai aka KaiBear, KaiKai, or Baby Kai
March 8, 2004 – January 13, 2014
I would like to thank Dr. Krishna Paulson & the staff at VESH for being so kind and helpful and Dr. Janet Edman & the staff at Countryside Animal Hospital for caring for him for the duration of his life.  Kai lived a fully enthusiastic and awesome 9+ years until 7PM on January 13th, 2014. At that time, a tumor ruptured in his spleen causing him to collapse (I didn’t why he’d collapsed at the time). This is typical of hemangiosarcoma, a type of cancer of the blood vessels. After being rushed to the hospital, he was treated for his symptoms, stabilized, and diagnosed with this deadly cancer. Ultrasound and radiographs indicated the cancer had metastasized into his lungs and treatment was futile. We euthanized Kai within three hours of his collapse, I was cuddling with him on the floor of the exam room. It was quick and peaceful for which I am so grateful.


7 thoughts on “In Memoriam of Kai: A Letter

  1. I know how hard it is to lose a beloved friend to this hideous cancer. No matter how hard anyone tells you it is, it’s harder. Let yourself grieve – it’s ok. God gave us tears for a reason. Your heart will take a long time to heal. Let me just share that it takes a long time to get to the place where you think of them and smile and not bawl your eyes out. Don’t get me wrong . . . there are days when I have a cry over my sweet Sammi. Anyone who has loved an animal with their whole heart knows that no matter how long we are privileged enough to share their life, it is never enough. Be gentle with yourself Elise.

  2. Oh Elise – I’m crying at my desk at work. You are not in bizzaro-world. You are in the tremendously wonderful heartbreaking world of Love. Pure Love for your Kai. Please do not feel like to have to get over anything. Please let yourself grieve. Sending my prayers to you and Kai.

  3. So sorry for your loss. I lost my Rhett in 2011 to hemangiosarcoma. Your story is so close to mine. There was no warning, he was gone so fast.

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