How I'm coping losing my sweet best friend
My sweet friend,
Today is a very, very big day. The kind of day most dog lovers fear more than our own death.
I didn’t get much sleep last night – maybe two hours at best. Work took me nine time zones away from you. I didn’t realize how bad things were when I left. Perhaps, deep inside I didn’t want to see what to you was already obvious.
Your injury took a lot out of you. You are sixteen, that is two times eight, or 112, in human years. That is old for a large dog like you. But you did so well for so long that I almost forgot. You didn’t even have much gray hair, your coat was shiny and the neurologist who saw you last week could not believe how good your teeth were.
When we went to see your neurologist, uncle Nick, and he told us you suffered a serious cervical disc injury, I should have clued in, but at that moment I was not a vet. I was a hundred percent your dad and dads don’t want to see their kids leaving, not for school, not for travel and especially not for good.
When a baggage porter accidentally swung a heavy suitcase and hit your head two weeks ago, first you tried to be brave, but then I had to carry you on the flight. The people of Westjet were amazing. They let us fly home and then one of their employees and a dog lover came to check on you when we arrived. But I could see the sparkles in your eyes had faded away. We knew, considering your age and diagnosis, surgery was simply not an option. I wouldn’t want you to go through that, my sweet friend. You didn’t deserve to suffer, it would be more for us than for you.
Deep inside, I hoped you’d bounce back like you always have. Brave, shiny, sweet and full of beans. You have always been caring, so worried about everyone else. Always ready to help, asking: “What do you need? What can I do for you? What else, what else?!” That was you – Mr. Skai Wantstofly, a border collie at heart, more human than a dog.
When we met, you were holding a bone, growling at all your brothers and sisters, fiercely defending your prized possession. But when you saw me, you dropped your bone, forgot about the growling and came to say hi. That is how the story began.
Yes, it’s true I was told by your people that you’d be aggressive and I should not choose you, but they could not be more wrong. All I needed to do is to get you two bones and teach you, by switching them, that there will always be enough food for you.
Over time, you turned into a Zen dog, our pride and joy, a true best friend! As time progressed, you’ve taught me so much and inspired hundreds of thousands, or possibly millions of dog lovers to take better care of their best friends. You were a true dog ambassador and I was very happy to live in your shadow. You were the star and I was your dad.
And then there were the girls. Boy, you loved girls! You had it pretty dialed, walking on the beach or in the park, laying right at their feet! Girls love boys to be at their feet and you were a master at that. Your success rate was pretty close to 100 percent.
In fact, you were the only male I know who got to sleep in the bed on the first night every single time. That is a skill that many guys would love to possess!
Yes, I know, the Labs and Golden Retrievers were sometimes challenging. They were like the Italians. Loud, rowdy and cordial. “Manger, manger!!! Mamma Mia!!!” For you, they were a little too much.
You were the master of manners and etiquette, after all, your ancestors were British. Many people told me you were the best trained and well-behaved dog and I agree. Your manners led you to be my guide and protector, my service dog to help me with my sleepwalking. Yes, I sleepwalk and have since I was a child. When I was at vet school, I walked through a glass door and almost died. But since I got you, you made sure I was safe. You were my guardian, and I was yours.
Adventures! Oh boy, you lived for adventures and we had so many! There is enough for a whole book. Do you remember when we cashed our air mile points and flew you to Paris in first class? As a service dog, you were able to fly in the cabin and had your own pillow! And there was a woman having a fit because there was a dog in the cabin. If I had an airline, I would fly all dogs first class and put all the anti-dog people in cargo!
It was fun to see my crazy dreams come through. You ran around the Eiffel Tower, you loved that. Also around the Louvre pyramid. Do you remember how we put you in the lap of a female statue in the park and took pictures? You were smiling as if you understood it was funny. That picture is one of my favorites.
There was a point when you were clearly trying to tell me that I was burning out at work. It was you who gave me the idea of living a more balanced life, doing yoga, enjoying nature and spending our winter months in Maui. I loved doing yoga in the park with you because I could watch you sleeping and chasing bunnies.
The first time I brought you over to Hawaii, we flew to the island of Oahu. I took you to the beach, the water was warm. You taught me that anything was possible. You were seven-years-old then.
When you were a puppy, I almost thought you didn’t love me because you were always ready to go for an adventure with your other human and canine friends. But one day, we went to a lake and everyone tried to coax you in the water, but you would not go.
Then I jumped in and in a second you were in the water, trying to ‘rescue’ me. Perhaps my swimming style made you think I was drowning?
Your sister, Peggy was a very special friend to you and us too. Did you know, originally, I chose her, but then she started to run away from me. Obviously, she had a plan. She didn’t want me to leave you behind. Have you ever thought what would happen if I left you behind? I can’t imagine. It was meant to be.
There are not many dogs who get the chance to see their sister or brother every week. I love spending time with my siblings, so I understood how much you loved being with her and you especially loved sleepovers.
I could go on and on, writing about our adventures and crying my heart out because today is a pretty tough day. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had a tougher day in my life and there were some tough ones!
You were barely walking when I took you to your favorite park the other day and I found a little stuffed doggie leaning against the post. I couldn’t believe my eyes because the doggie looked exactly like you, brown and white and he even wore glasses. It was you! I took the little stuffed “you” with me to Norway because I missed the real you so much.
And then there was the phone call. You were not doing well. The call I was the most afraid of. I saw your eyes and knew you were asking me to let you go. You didn’t eat or walk for three days and you were waiting for me to come home.
I spent three hours looking for flights to see how I could get to you faster. Interestingly the same airline that carried us home when you were injured is now carrying me to you.
I am on the way and I know you are waiting. They say the biggest expression of love is when we let someone go despite the pain we feel.
I am aware I could go to heroic measures. I know I could take you through procedures, but that would mean more suffering. I have had many breakdowns today. Walking through the airports, not caring if someone sees me crying. I know I am coming home to help you and it feels like someone ripped my heart out.
I so don’t want to let you go, but I know that the biggest expression of my love is to let you go.
I will cuddle you, I will kiss you, I will lay down beside you and then I will let you go because I love you.
I am writing this letter on the plane to pass the time, ease the pain and be closer to you.
You, Mr. Skai Wantstofly, are the big reason why my life has been so good. You taught me how to be a better vet and a healer, you showed me how to be a better person and that the biggest purpose in life is to help others and spend time with family and friends.
So, when I get to Vancouver we will act like big boys who know that the real you is timeless and limitless and that in our world you will never leave. I could hang on for a little longer because many people do. Often, I have seen people hanging on for too long. I know you loved to run and I really do not want you to suffer, unable to walk and not eating. You are telling me to let you go.
You see, I am terrified right now, but I know I need to be strong. As a vet, I have seen many heartbreaks but I also learned that the biggest expression of love is to let you go my friend, even though it hurts like hell.
Just hang on Mr. Skai, I am coming….
Note: I arrived in Vancouver at 1 p.m. on Wed. May 17, 2017. When I got home, Skai was waiting on his favorite sofa, a pillow under his head. (He loved pillows) We spent a few hours together. He had his loved ones by his side. He passed away at 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time at his home in North Vancouver, Canada.
Our hearts are broken and it will take time to recover from losing him so fast.
My family and I thank you all for all the messages of support and encouragement.
I promise I will continue to be there for you and your dogs as soon as I can.
With love and gratitude,
Mr. Skai Wantstofly 2001 - 2017
Mr. Skai Wantstofly 2001 - 2017