Kona by J.L.S. / momdog

Let me tell you about Kona the wonder dog. The dog who’s faster than a speeding squirrel, who can climb sheer hillsides with a single bound, the scourge of cats from coast to coast. The same Kona who steals my dinner off the grill as it cooks, then hops onto the sofa and naps at my feet. The same Kona who bares her belly shamelessly, begging for tummy rubs. And the same one who lets me wrap my arms around her and cry into her fur, who lets me know she’ll always be there for me.

A chunky, 70-lb shepherd mix, black and tan, with a big smile and a floppy ear, Kona is nearly 14. She’s slowing down some, but she remains as wondrous as ever. Remains. Remains. Remains.
They are on the dining room table in a tin cannister.
Her tags, collar and leash are in a bag.

The night before Thanksgiving, Kona’s back legs gave out on her. She needed to get to a pet hospital, but I couldn’t handle it. I want to say I held her through the night, that I kissed her and told her I loved her,
but the truth is, I don’t remember.

I remember spending Thanksgiving day at the hospital. Pneumonia. possibly cancer. Tests and more tests. I couldn’t breathe: Friday morning I was supposed to get on a plane to California to see my father, who just learned he has cancer, a form of melanoma that doesn’t respond well to treatment. That is said to act quickly.

Couldn’t I postpone my visit a couple of days? Some friends — who know more about parents? Sho know less about dogs? — ripped into me. It got too late to change plans, I was too tired. So that night, Thanksgiving night, I stayed with Kona for hours, telling her her life story — How she came to live with me and my ex. How we got her a sister dog. How she, Astro and I left her daddy and moved to Washington, D.C.

A few hours’ break, clothes in a suitcase, hugs and kisses for Astro back at the hospital, Kona was too weak to walk to a private room. So I lay down on my belly on the floor in front of her cage, rested my head on her rear, and continued with her story. Ten minutes into it, she turned around so we could be face to face, eye to eye, nose to nose. She was so beautiful, but so tired, so pale, so old. I cried more as departure time approached. I hadn’t finished her story. I told her I was saving the rest for when I got back. So she would have to wait for me.
She didn’t. She couldn’t.

Four veterinarians worked fiercely, but cancer had spread throughout her body. The only question was which would kill her first — cancer or pneumonia. But Saturday they thought she’d stabilized and might even be able to come home with me! But Sunday she was worse. They made a last attempt while my family took me out for dinner. It was my birthday.

The plasma transplant failed. Late that night, I had to make the decision. It was easy, really: everything we’d done so far had been to prolong her life; anything more would only prolong her death.

Sweet Dr. Bartl, who was crying with me, said something lovely: we don’t put her down, we don’t put her to sleep, we let her go. I wasn’t there and when I got home Tuesday night, she wasn’t here. Only Astro, scared and skittish and lost. She needed me.
So I gave her enough love for two dogs.

Death is new to me. I’d expected constant, crushing agony. Instead it is a numbness, broken by brief but painful crying jags. This is a feeling I’m afraid I’ll come to know very well: dad is noticeably thinner and paler than he was six weeks ago.

Days later, Kona’s presence can be felt throughout the house. As can her absence. Both make me ache. Astro and I are going to take a trip to North Carolina’s outer banks. The three of us once spent a week there. Kona charmed all the beach boys into throwing tennis balls into the ocean for her to chase. I begged them not to throw so far. I was sure she would end up in England or France. Who knows, when we scatter her ashes, maybe she will end up in France. Where she will eat baguette and pate, while Astro and I grieve.

In memory of the wonder dog,
please pet your animals tonight.

December 1988-December 1, 2002


All dogs go to heaven,