My father called me last night.
Father: What's new?
Me: Not much. Same all, same all.
Father: How's Marilyn?
Me: She's doing good. You know, she's fine as 17 years old. She gets up by herself, walks around if she wants. She eats well. So, it's good.
Father: Well, she seems to be good taken care of... If you put more your heart into her, that hurts you more...
Me: Well... but that's all I can do.
Father: Chibi was suffered at the end... She was in so much pain. I had to let her go...
He was remembering his last dog, Chibi. She lived for 15 years. She was a stray mutt. My friend's fiancée got her as a puppy. Then, she found a fancy apartment which didn't allow pets a couple weeks later she got the puppy. She moved into the apartment and had her friends pass around the puppy until she would get her new home. None of her friends was living in a place which allowed pets. The friend asked me if anybody wanted the puppy. I asked my parents if any of their neighbors were thinking of getting a dog. When I told them how the puppy was treated, my father told me to bring her home though we already had a dog. Next day evening, I picked up the puppy. I didn't hear from his fiancée a word even we knew each other and she knew the situation. That's how Chibi joined my family.
At that time I was living with my parents. It's common that girls live with their family until they get married in my country... just in case you feel that's weird. Her first night, we left her in her make-shift bed at the foyer. At the middle of the night, she started crying. It was dark. She was alone. Nobody was around her. She didn't know she got her forever home. She didn't even know if she was safe or not. The scared puppy never stopped crying. I brought her into my bed. She was so attached to me since then. My parents ran business at home, so they were always around her. But, she spent most of a day in my room alone while I was at work. When she took naps, she hid in a small space where she found in the house and nobody could reach. It looked like that was something she picked up on the street to protect herself. That broke our hearts. At that time, she was as tiny as fitting in my palm.
When I moved out of my parents', Chibi filled the empty nest. She got all my parents' attention. Especially, my father enjoyed nurturing her. She was smart. She listened to him well. He put his heart into her. He adored her, and she loved him back more. A couple years later, I moved to the US. They were even more bounded. My parents found she had a problem with her hip. They gave her as much as comfort they could. They took her everywhere they went. She wanted to go anywhere they would go. They were always together. She made their life brighter and more vibrant. She was the excitement of the old couple's life.
No matter how perfect care we give them, and/or how much love we give them, dogs' life spans are unfortunately much shorter than ours. Chibi's time came. Her lever and kidneys were giving up, and she was in great pain. They had to make the decision. Her death took big chunks of my parents' hearts. My father emailed me the news. I called them. They were crying over the phone as if they lost their child. I didn't know how to comfort them. I could feel their grief, their pain and their sorrow. We always had a dog since I was four. We had sent off our dogs to the rainbow bridge multiple times. But, this one hit them very hard. I told them how great life they gave her and she would appreciate everything they did for her knowing any of my words wouldn't be able to make them feel better. I felt so powerless. On the top of it, I was thousands miles away from them. I couldn't even hold their shoulders.
A couple years later, my parents came to the US for my wedding. They met Marilyn. She welcomed them very well. She hung out with them a lot during their stay. They fell in love with her. They took pictures of and with her. They went for walks with her. They had avoided to have another dog. They were still grieving. They started sobbing whenever Chibi came up in our conversation. But spending time with Marilyn triggered it. They got a Shiba mix puppy.
They adore their dog, Goro. My father has spent a lot of time training him. He listens to my father well, but he also doesn't hesitate to tell what he wants. They are inseparable. Goro keeps my father's life structured, and helps him stay healthy. After his chemo, my father lost tremendous weight and strength. He couldn't even step out to the yard for months. Goro helped him rebuilt his strength. Now, he can enjoy his life again though he still has the cancer. My father tells me how high maintenance Goro is (well, he's still young and has a lot of energy to burn.), but I can tell he's smiling over the phone.
There is no doubt that my father adores Goro. Chibi, however, still has a special place in his heart. When he hears how Marilyn gets old, he starts thinking of his Chibi. That reminds him his sorrow and pains. He is over eighty. This old man doesn't even cover up his feelings like he used to anymore. He is afraid Marilyn's time could run out anytime, and faces another death again.
Yes, it tears your heart apart. It breaks you. I know... because I've been there. But, how is it possible not to put your heart into them? They give you themselves — their trust, loyalty and love... How many times in your lifetime do you experience that anybody give themselves to you and ask no return? If you don't put your heart into them and they passes, you'd get hurt even more by not doing that with a great regret you'd never be able to fix.
So, why not? Put your heart into them. They never take it away from you. Even when they leave you, they don't take your heart with them. You feel it's gone with them, but it's still there. That's why you feel the pain and sorrow. They mark on it, but never take it away from you. So, you could do that again with other dogs. When you feel hurt and your heart is missing at their death, that tells you how much you love them, how much you gave them, and how much they loved you. How could be better honored their lives than that?