I’m heartbroken to share with you that on December 23, I lost my beloved baby Kona. He was attacked by a German Shepherd belonging to my middle brother and his wife. He died before we were able to get him to the emergency department at the Cornell University Vet School. They did everything they could to save him, but it was too late.
I’m still haunted by the scream he let out as the dog attacked him, and by the way he looked on the way to the veterinary hospital. I’ve been going through photos of him from our two years together, trying to forget, but some things just can’t be unseen.
Many of those who are closest to me, myself included, thought that I wouldn’t make it through this. Kona carried me through some of the darkest days of my life – days when there was no way I could make it on my own. In many ways, he saved my life. He was the reason I got out of bed in the morning and the reason I couldn’t wait to get home from work in the evening. He was a faithful companion and a source of hope.
After I lost him, if I could have just laid down and died I’m pretty sure that I would have.
My parents and my youngest brother were by my side the whole way. At one point on Christmas Eve, I managed to drink three glasses of homebrewed hard cider on an empty stomach and ended up screaming at my mother. I’m sure the family members who were there to witness it thought it was the alcohol talking, but it wasn’t. It was me, completely incapable of dealing with the bleeding chest wound where my heart had been ripped out. I cracked.
I’m sorry, Mom. I love you.
My friends back home and scattered across the country rushed to my aid from every direction. One offered to get a ride up to NY and drive my car back to NC so I wouldn’t have to. Another friend, a girl who hates entertaining, scheduled a breakfast for dinner at her house. She wanted me to have a place to go where I didn’t have to change out of my pajamas. I was so touched, but the kindness only made me cry harder.
One particular friend sent me a text message saying “This is probably one of the hardest things you will go through in your life. But you can’t lose your will to live, Kona wouldn’t want that.” It was a message I’d recieved dozens of times from my friends and family. I’m not sure why that particular time it registered, but I think it had to do with the source. If anyone knew about grief and sudden loss and the Godawful unfairness of life it was Danielle. And I carried that text with me for the next several days.
On Christmas Day, I knew I had to go to the Sheriff’s department to file a report on the attack. My brother and his wife weren’t willing to do the right thing and put the dog down or give it up to be rehabbed, and because the dog had shown a pattern of agression, this needed to be on record for the next time it attacks (God willing, next time it won’t be a child).
I didn’t want to shower or even change out of the pajamas I’d been wearing for two straight days. I forced myself to clean up though, knowing that looking like a basket case wouldn’t help me be taken seriously by the police. I dragged myself into the shower and was surprised to discover that I was able to shower. I guess I expected I’d melt like sugar and disappear down the drain. I promised myself (or rather, promised Kona) that I’d do that one thing, every day.
That afternoon, we opened Christmas presents. It wasn’t a particularly joyful time, it just seemed like a way to keep our hands busy and maybe have some new things to play with and keep our minds off things. I got a Kindle and immediately started to chase away the ghosts by reading. I’m not sure how exactly I ended up downloading My Mother was Nuts by Penny Marshall (of Laverne & Shirley fame). I’ve never even seen the show and didn’t know who Penny was.
There’s a part in the book where she talks about “giving somebody a life.” Those of us not in the TV industry might call it giving them their big break. It was a chance to offer someone who was struggling a job that would forever change their life.
Later, she talks about her volunteer work in post-9/11 New York…
My brother had opened my eyes years earlier when he told me that I could give someone a life. It was true – and it didn’t require much effort. If you can’t always provide a new life, why not do little things that help simply improve someone’s life?
The passage hit me hard. Kona had given me a life. And before that, when he was a six week old puppy, I had given him one. I got him from a place where he’d have been fed, but kept outside with twenty other puppies in a wire kennel. He wouldn’t have gotten medical care. If he hadn’t died from exposure to the cold that winter, he would have died of heartworm or something similar when the ground thawed. I took him home and loved him and gave him a full but short life.
In his two years, he went to the mountains and the ocean, to the lake and the farm. He walked the streets of historic Charleston and romped off leash in beautiful Upstate NY. He had treats and toys and clothes and love. He slept curled up beside me and got belly rubs every morning before we got out of bed. He rode around in Target in a little tote bag. He played at the dog park and at doggy daycare. I did the best I could for him, to give him a life.
I kept going back and reading that passage. Over and over, until I understood: My resolution was right there in front of me. In order to honor Kona, and in celebration of the lives we gave each other, I want to spend this year doing good. Giving people a life, or touching lives in some small way, like my sweet buddy did for me. I’d like to say I’ll do something every single day, but I don’t want to commit to that. I’m afraid that on those days where I just don’t have the chance to do something, getting on the web and making a donation will feel like cheating, like letting Kona down. So I’ll just say that I’m going to do the best I can this year.
I’d already signed up, months ago, to be involved with Do. Good Stitches, a charity quilting bee. Earlier this month, I was notified that there was a space open for me in the TRUST circle. I’ll be starting in January, 2013. Something tells me this is not an accident, that God knew I would need to be part of it this year. A reminder, I guess, that there is a plan.
I wanted to thank all of you who have sent messages of sympathy or lifted my family up in your prayers. This has been a very difficult time for me as well as for my family. Your continued prayers would be so very appreciated as I grieve my beloved best friend and try to adjust to the new “normal.” This has been so very hard.