Last night, Katie, our beloved family dog, who was nearing 16 years of age, passed away peacefully, surrounded by her doting family members sending her off with tears, smiles, and kisses.
I have had my heart broken before this time, but it has never been on this scale. It feels like my heart has been ripped from my chest and returned as a disheveled, incomplete organ. When her heart stopped, mine stopped too.
As I sit here at my desk, typing away on a tear-stained keyboard and having to continuously wipe my eyes so that I can read the screen, I cannot help but feel that our KK took pieces of our hearts with her. She loved us in that unconditional way humans have yet to fully comprehend. She was more than a dog to me, she was the sister that I never had but always wanted.
There were days in my youth when I would play dress-up with her, draping a blanket around her body and placing a crown upon her head to give her the outfit of a princess–her innermost being. In my days of homeschooling and having fellow students at my house for classes, she was everyone’s pride and joy, loving the attention she got as much as the affection she gave.
People have said that when you lose a loved one, your whole world stops spinning for a time, and that time has come for me. In the middle of the night, I awoke from a vivid dream under the impression that what happened wasn’t real, and it took several seconds for my brain to fully wake up and remind me that my dog had truly passed on.
Accepting death is a strange sensation. Last night, when the veterinarian told us that the only gracious option was to put her out of the misery that had escalated within hours, I went into a shock that was reinforced by the gut feeling that said we would not be returning home with my dog alive.
Even sitting here now, mulling over the events of last night, the conversation I had with my mother and brother, the drive to the vet, and our last moments with her in the room as the veterinarian injected the medicine that would release her joyful soul from her depleted body, it all seems surreal. The heartache I felt and still feel is the worst of my life. And when I realized this, I thought, Wow, I am almost 21-years-old and this is the most difficult loss I have ever experienced. God has surely been good to me, and He has had me and my family in His capable hands throughout this painful time.
I went into work this morning to keep myself productive. As an adult, I know that I cannot fall apart when life gets tough in this way, and the best way for me to deal with all of this is to work through it. As a writer, I purge my emotions through my fingers, whether I am typing on a keyboard or writing with a pen. This is the medicine that I need to receive peace.
There is so much that I can say about Katie. She was our precious pup from day one. I remember the first day when my mom brought her home and surprised us with her. My brother and I were gleaming with joy, and at the time of her arrival, we were watching cartoons, so we retrieved a towel, put it on the floor in front of the TV, and stared at her as she watched the screen. We were so marveled over her surprise presence in our lives, and man, we were blessed to enjoy her for almost 16 years.
Katie loved the ocean, she loved the feeling of water halfway up her legs, but any higher and she would run for her life back to the sand. Katie loved long walks wherein she could roam and meet friends. She loved going to my Grandparents’ farm in Crowder’s mountain and exploring the acres, chasing after unfortunate chickens and really being a dog.
She loved snuggling in blankets–to the point where she would shiver dramatically if she wasn’t covered in one, even when it was the dead of summer. She loved cheese and other treats, and it saddened me greatly when pancreatitis infiltrated her system and she was no longer able to eat it. She loved our cats who were all kittens with her. We joke that our cats are like dogs because they took after her, but I see that same sense of comforting and love whenever I am upset around one of them. I saw it last night when we all came home with Katie in a box and cried in the kitchen. They gathered around us, purring and nuzzling us.
Katie loved being loved. There was nothing she craved more than adoration because it gave her purpose and fulfillment. In the last days of her life, she distanced herself from us and she wasn’t the joyful, neurotic Jack Russel we had come to know so well. This entire ordeal has been another reminder to me that God’s timing is exactly right and He NEVER fails us. She passed on in the most peaceful, loving way possible, and I have God to thank for that for the rest of my life.
As much as I feel her absence, I also feel her eternal presence within my soul. Katie was kind to everyone, and she taught me to give everyone a chance and approach all situations in a friendly manner. She taught me that love is a strong bond that cannot be broken by such harmful doggy acts as using the bathroom on the carpet or scratching up a door, and as a translation to human interaction, forgiveness is a powerful healer that should never be withheld.
Some of my favorite memories with Katie are our many trips to visit our Grandparents on the weekend in high school. We loved the drive with the windows down, singing and howling ’til our hearts were content, and I loved seeing how free she felt at the farm. I have thought about her so much that I had to pray to God to put me to sleep last night. We took care of her and loved her until the end, and I will love her always.
Late this afternoon, I drove out with Katie out to my Grandparents’ house to bury her at their farm–a resting place befitting of her free-roaming spirit. It was my last time driving with her in the car, and it is a memory I will cherish for the rest of my days.
It was an intensely emotional ordeal, watching the dirt pile onto her coffin that we adorned with her name, a photo, and some personal notes from each of us, telling her just what she meant and how much she will be missed. My family decorated her grave with beautiful flowers and an angel statue, befitting of the diva that Katie was.
My family and friends have been incredible people throughout this experience. They’ve comforted me from the moment I needed it, and the irony is that Katie was always the one I would go to for comfort like this. She always knew how to make me smile, how to restore my soul.
I love you, KK. Thank you for making my life so special. Thank you for making the act of leaving the house to get the mail a dramatic homecoming ceremony. Thank you for the love you showered upon anyone or anything that you encountered. Thank you for being my best friend, confidant, sister, snuggle buddy, comforter, and now, guardian angel.
It’s hard speaking of her in the past tense since she was alive a day ago, but I know that she will always be with me. I wanted her to live forever, but that’s not how life works, and God made sure that she left us in the most peaceful, loving way possible. In a weird way, I am thankful that she passed on the way that she did.
Though I have to face her physical absence with a strong heart, I cannot help but feel her spiritual presence emanating around me, watching over me always. In my heart, Katie was the most special dog on this earth, and even though she has left us, she has impacted us for the rest of our lives. A piece of her will always be in my heart, just like a piece of me will always be in hers.
Rest well, sweet girl.