This morning, I lost my sweet angel Konalani to hemangiosarcoma. My last post was an attempt to come to grips with the diagnosis: a tumor in her heart that would intermittently bleed, each time requiring a pericardiocentesis, or draining of the blood from the sac around her heart to relieve the pressure from the fluid build-up. Except one day, the way this cancer works, the bleeding doesn’t stop. Days to weeks were what we were told we had.
It would be so easy for me to spend the afternoon writing a post about the heartbreak. To rail against the unfairness and injustice of it all–Kona is the second dog I’ve lost to this particular cancer in two years. Both were the sweetest, gentlest, most loving souls; they deserved so much better. To be angry that I couldn’t fix it. To wonder why all the money that’s wasted in this world–that’s frittered away on meaningless pet projects or frivolities–isn’t spent trying to find a cure. Just imagine a world without cancer.
But I don’t want to spiral down the vortex of negativity and despair. This blog, after all, is about the things I love. And the reason I am writing this blog post is because I love, with all my heart and every ounce of my being, my canine companions. My sweet Kona, my gentle Maka Lea. My enthusiastic little Pono, who is keeping me company today. They are my teachers, my angels, my spirit guides. I am privileged beyond words that they have chosen to spend their journey on this planet with me. Each day with them is a gift.
When Kona was diagnosed, after I went through the initial disbelief and crushing sadness, I made the decision to try to be strong for her. She was always such an intuitive little girl, picking up on my every mood, and I didn’t want her days to be filled with shades of sadness. So we made every day a celebration. We played Frisbee. She was allowed to lick the dishes when I was loading the dishwasher. She got extra marrow bones and rawhide chews, plenty of her favorite freeze dried bison treats, and lots of extra belly rubs. Gourmet meals were on the menu: her Orijen kibble topped with Dr. Dressler’s homemade cancer diet–a mixture of chicken, brown rice, broccoli, cottage cheese, and calcium–topped with sardines, coconut oil, and blueberries. My co-worker Cindy gave me the recipe for her famous “salmon fudge”–something that induces drool stringles on my ‘lil buddies whenever they so much as hear the words–and they got at least one square daily.
Every morning when we woke up, Kona would snuggle up to me and I’d tell her that today was a good day, because I was waking up next to her. When we’d get in bed in the evening, I’d tell her that it was a good night because I got to go to sleep next to her one more time. Every little cock of her head, every one of her little idiosyncrasies, every time she’d put her paw on my leg or foot to make sure I didn’t leave her–each of those moments took on such depth and meaning and reflected pure, unconditional love. Every little thing was sharpened, in heightened relief, because all of a sudden time was precious. But the thing is: time is always precious. We never know how much time we have; everyone’s time is limited. But we go about pretending like it’s not. It’s so easy to get caught up in our routines, racing from one task to the next, striving to cross things off of our to-do list. I would like to cultivate such present-moment awareness and appreciation in my daily life; I don’t want it to take a crisis to bring me back to Here, Now.
Kona crossed the rainbow bridge with her head in my lap, surrounded by those who loved her (love her), looking out the windows at the mountains and the sunrise. Moments after her spirit passed, a hummingbird flew up to the windows at eye level, moving from panel to panel, looking in at us.
It was the first hummingbird I’ve seen all year.
Pono and I took a hike this morning, in memoriam. We went back to the canyon where the three of us hiked together last. While the air was thick with smoke from wildfires, the mountainscape was breathtaking nonetheless.
Do Not Stand at My Grave
Mary Elizabeth Frye
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
Cindy’s Famous Salmon Fudge
For your favorite canine companions
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit.
- Cream all ingredients together.
- Press onto a small cookie sheet or baking dish; mixture should be about 1/2″ thick.
- Bake 30-40 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of comes out clean.
- Let cool, and cut into squares.
- Stores well in the freezer.