It was a sweltering hot July in 2002, the kind of summer day you wonder how birds can tolerate the heat, perched high on the wires so close to sun or how kids can run around barefoot. I was noticing Sony (yes, like the TV and radio brand) wasn't as perky as he usually was when we went on our daily walks. He was a 13 year old Shih-tzu and 15 pounds at his top weight. I had noticed the change over the past couple of weeks but attributed his lack of energy to the unbearable heat and humidity that year, just like it seemed to sap my energy. But I became more worried when he refused to walk more than a few yards, now stopping at the next-door neighbor's driveway. I finally took him into Dr. Al, our long-time vet and neighbor. He said he'd run some blood tests, that it might be from the heat or from eating some infected bird droppings which didn't seem too plausible but he got tested. I was shocked to hear that his weight had dropped 5 pounds since his last exam. Because of his fluffy coat, it wasn't obvious how skinny he'd become.|
The next day, Dr. Al reported the bad news that Sony's kidneys weren't functioning well and he was dehydrated. He suggested subcutaneous (under the skin) fluids a couple of times a week to build up his fluids. I think that was mid-week. The good doc stopped by my house with the fluid, syringe and drip bag and demonstrated how we could do this ourselves. Luckily my son, who was in medical school, agreed to do this for me, but after that first infusion, Sony's lack of appetite became more alarming and he was too weak to drink any water or barely lift himself up. Within a couple of days, Dr. Al warned his kidneys were fast shutting down and to prepare myself for the inevitable. By the end of the week, I made the difficult decision to take him to the vet's and put to sleep. I remember watching the lights in Sony's eyes suddenly go out...just like a candle's flame. For the next 2 weeks straight, I was inconsolable and totally wretched.
Within a couple of months I yearned to have another dog and against my husband's wishes, my kids and I went looking for another Shih-tzu and we found Chibi as a fluffy 3-month-old puppy. At that time, his coloring reminded me of a St. Bernards -- white, dark brown and black. The word "chibi" is an abbreviation of the Japanese word for "chisai" which means "small one." My daughter argued against the name for days, insisting that the dog wouldn't be "chisai" forever! He had that wonderful "puppy smell" about him and sharp little, fish-like teeth
Chibi's personality was distinctly different from Sony's. Whereas Sony was playful and outgoing and easily learned several tricks, Chibi was anxious and fearful of other dogs despite the many training and obedience classes we went to, such as, pre-school for puppies at the vet's; obedience at the AKC; private classes. He preferred humans but never was as playful as Sony and I suppose over-protected by me. After all, my kids were now gone and he became my empty nest-filler. Chibi's coloring grew lighter and whiter as the years passed and his coat was a mixture of silvery and golden strands. The tips of his silky ears were brown and charcoal grey. His large brown eyes were like dark pools of water, expressive and curious. His little nose and lips were black against his white fur. There was also some tan and brown coloring. My other dog's fur was fairly flat and straight, while Chibi's was "double-coated" with a slight natural curl to it which the groomer kept in a shorter, "puppy cut" for easier maintenance.
One fond image from his puppy days was when he'd clumsily climb up the ball pedestal of my round kitchen table. We'd laugh as his little legs and feet would slide off the slippery wood as he struggled to keep his balance. As he got bigger, he'd wrap himself around the base with his hind leg propping himself up. I also remember how he didn't like to be left alone so when my husband and I went to work on one of our rental houses, Chibi would whine and cry if we penned him up (to keep him out of the mess). One day I got an idea and tucked him inside a small cloth tote bag, about the size of a phone book, and slung it over my shoulder. I'd carry him around as I raked the yard or cleaned the house. He'd be so content and cute peeking out of that bag!
Chibi was born the day after the Fourth of July 2002 but we didn't adopt him until that fall. He grew to about 15 pounds at his heaviest and lived to just over 13 years, just like Sony before him. I think the reason this loss of Chibi is harder for me is because my 2 kids were still young when we got Sony. They were only around a couple of years when we got Chibi who basically became "my" dog. My daughter would constantly urge me to get another dog for Chibi, because he "needed a friend" to play with, she reasoned. Neither of the kids became as close to Chibi as they did with Sony. I knew, given Chibi's standoffish personality that he'd not like to have other dogs in the house and so it was a hard call to take in my son's 2 little dogs, Sammy and QP, when he and his wife decided they couldn't take care of them anymore.
I spent the next couple of weeks pouring all my love and attention to Chibi, showering him with lots of his favorite treats, like bananas, bread, boiled chicken. I carried him around the house and down to the basement where he knew I had treats. I cradled him in my arms and tilted his head slightly backwards like a sleeping child, holding him as long as he'd let me. Then I sat on the floor to brush out his soft coat. He'd always sit between my outstretched legs with his butt towards me as I brushed and massaged his back, his legs, his ears, neck and tummy. He slept a couple of nights with our daughter who was visiting over the holidays but he wanted to be with me, so I placed a red and green flannel sheet on my bed and let him nestle close. (My husband was out of town during this time.) I'd have to be careful if I turned or got up too suddenly as he sometimes snapped when startled. I held him close and told him how sorry I was that the two interloping dogs disrupted his "golden years", something neither of us had imagined happening. I didn't want the last day to come, but it crept into our house anyway and led him away.
I took his brown quilted winter jacket with its fur-trimmed collar and wrapped it around a soft sherpa blanket which is now tucked in a square basket on the floor next to my bed. In the dim light of the room, it looks like Chibi sleeping soundly there. I took his other jacket, a homemade green-blue plaid jacket that I sewed for him and wrapped it around a stuffed toy dog that I had bought while in Japan the year after we adopted Chibi. I had impulsively bought the toy dog after spotting it a hotel gift shop there, thinking how much it looked like him and how much I missed him. This plaid jacket is what he wore on his last day. Now when I pass by my living room, it looks like Chibi is sitting quietly by the fireplace, watching me. Or perhaps, more accurately, watching OVER me. I can still see him lying peacefully on his side, his head pointed upwards, large, dark eyes gazing at me with love and gratitude. "Sayonara, Chibi-chan. Mata aimashoo ne." ("Good-bye, little Chibi. Let's meet again.")
Across the morning sky,
======================JANUARY 17, 2017 ====================================
My hand was still on your back, patting and stroking as if to tell you it was all over now: be at peace. Your eyes were still open, beautifully brown but no longer seeing me. I could still feel your warmth through your brown jacket, the one with the faux fur collar that framed your head like a lion's mane. With a small pair of scissors I brought in my coat pocket, I carefully snipped off a bit of your wispy, white tail with golden threads. Warm tears blurred my eyes but I managed to place the soft hairs into a small plastic bag. My face pressed next to yours, I apologized to you over and over: I'm sorry, Chibi; I'm sorry, sweetie!
Three days later, I hosted Christmas at my house. I forewarned everyone that you were gone so that they wouldn't be shocked or, worse, ask me where you were. The busyness of the holidays kept me distracted although every time I passed by the photo of you and Sammy and Qp by the front door, I'd break out crying. How I missed you.
Chibi, you probably won't like to hear this but on February 1 of the new year, I got Qp back from Brin. I had been feeling lonely and guilt-ridden about having given her away at Thanksgiving so that I could take care of you and Sammy. She never got to see you 2 boys again; Sammy never got to say "good-bye" to his sister. I knew you never took much to either of them but I suddenly found the house totally empty and quiet, especially since Dad was at the kids' over the holidays. Qp was obviously disoriented and confused to be suddenly back home without you and Sammy here. She's now completely home again. She likes to lay on the stair landing like you did, where she can see out the front door. At this moment, she's lying here in my office on the same spot you did. One big difference is that she doesn't sleep in our room at all; in fact, she sleeps in her crate at night. Another huge difference is she definitely doesn't like car rides like you did! We miss that. Oh, yeah, she lags behind me on our walks, isn't that funny? She always insisted on walking in front of you and/or Sammy!
Qp is NOT you, don't get me wrong, and she can never, ever replace you. But she is a dear, quiet, much lighter, and doesn't snarl or snap like you did! She's very sweet and cuddly, not like you. But when I let her fur grow out and she looks fuzzy, she does remind me of you, a little. I miss your thick, double-coat softness, your big brown eyes, your cute little black mouth, your plume of a tail, your playfulness. I miss YOU!