When we brought Kito home to us fifteen years ago, we had no idea what we were doing. Maybe in the end, we still didn’t. I scolded him for peeing on our floor no more than ten minutes after he entered our home. My wife Vindu needed him to sleep in a crate in another room as he howled through the night. Thankfully, it only took a few days to get his crate into the corner of our bedroom.
Off leash, his little fluff-ball self ran behind us to keep up on the trails of Gatineau Park. On our first trip to Algonquin, I threw him in the lake like bait on a line to see if he could swim – “Oh good, YES, he can!” Kito – our little Buddha boy – always calm and steady, solid, a grounding force at the center of our life. Poised with some air of French-ness about him, and joy. I would often shout enthusiastically: “wave your flag, buddy, wave your flag!” – as his tail whipped in wild circles on his bulky behind.
At home during my lunch hour, one day after I launched my website and posted my first “musing,” I received a call from our vet that Kito’s blood results were off the charts – like arrows shooting up into the sky, no longer pointed to this earth. Kito was definitely slowing down, but he was still healthy and agile in most ways. This picture was taken in Tofino last summer, our last trip as a “pack of four” – Kito still sweet and strong, Mika’s four little legs never far from her brother.
As I shared our story of Kito, other dog lovers openly spoke of their heartbreak and loss of their beloved pets. Friends and strangers told details of their dog collapsing and bleeding on the stairs; their dog’s sudden inability to walk; carrying a pet lovingly to the grass, only to hold them in their lap as they died; a year of seizures that neither pet nor owner could endure any longer. Phones came out of pockets to show pictures. While petting our now solo-dog Mika, a sales clerk at Red Top told the story of the loss of her two dogs within a year, now six years ago. No matter how much she loves dogs, she can’t bear to get another, to go through that pain again. Her husband, she says, is worse.
When we were sure Kito could leave us in a few weeks, I kept saying: “I just want to bottle up his energy; that’s all I want. I don’t want to live without his energy in my life.” I have been with Kito, more hours in his lifetime, than I have been in the presence of my wife of now twenty-three years. Any dog owner knows, they follow us around like a shadow of light. Kito permeated the car as he rode on Vindu’s lap like a hood-ornament, or rode shotgun with me alone, or on our long walks and swims at the lake. Mostly, I feel him in my writing space – the hours he sat perched by my side, fixed in my peripheral vision, or in the chair at my back – looking on, beaming, as I dreamingly gazed out the window or created a collage of words.
Several friends that I consider stronger and bolder than me said they cried everyday for a year after losing their dog, or felt strangely disoriented for a year, or needed to run out and get another dog to fill the gap. This terrified me – a whole year?! At Fintry Provincial Park last week, we walked the labyrinth for Kito, in gratitude for his life, and our time as a “pack-of-four.” We also walked the labyrinth with a willingness to move on and honour our new life, wholeheartedly, in our now smaller “pack-of-three” – for at least as long as we are gifted with each other.
As we held Kito’s seriously sedated body, limp on our laps, I kissed his nose for the last time. I still wanted a bottle – I still want his precious spirit alive, here in this room. Hang on, hold tight, but not too tight – we’ve always got to let go of what we love. This much I know.
It was the shared and common stories that helped us the most during this time of heartbreak and loss. I also know we keep alive the spirit, the best parts of whoever we love – human or animal – that somehow, radiate out from inside us as we bring them into our minds and hearts.
Especially, on this round anyway, our beloved Kito. 💜