In the wee hours of 08-07-19 I bid my final farewell to the love of my life, my best friend, my kid, my constant companion, my Josie. As I type this, I feel her spirit in the wind.
In some ways, I have no words. My tears continuously stream. My heart hurts. My stomach gnaws. My head aches. I’m emotionally drained. Physically exhausted. And I feel completely lost without my counterpart. In other ways, I don’t have enough words to describe the depths and the breadth of our bond. The dependency. The understanding. The love. And the beauty. I don’t know whose eyes will read this. Honestly, I don’t really care; I’m writing this post for me. For her. To celebrate my baby’s precious life. To allow myself to cry out while I write it. To take the time to process the last 17 years with her. To heal. And to maybe let our love story touch some hearts.
I remember the day I saw her six-week-old little face, eyes wide, tail wagging. I was interning at the Humane Society. Josie and her dad were found wandering the streets as strays and taken to the shelter. They both came home with me that day. Josie sat snugly between my legs as I drove. My parents cared for Sammy until he passed on a couple of years ago. Josie, well, I was blessed to call her my own.
We’ve been through a lot together, me + my Josie. She was my constant rock through college, grad school, 6 moves, 3 surgeries, marriage, divorce, post-dating adventures, unemployment, financial devastation, a variety of health challenges, and also a myriad of joys and growth. Through the ups and downs, she never left my side. And I never left hers.
In 2013 Josie had her own health scares. For about two years we were chronic patients at Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center (PVSEC) trying to uncover the root cause of her Hypercalcemia. From Internal Medicine to Oncology to Surgery - Josie was her own little medical mystery. One day I woke up in a panic when I noticed she was jaundiced. I rushed her to the emergency hospital where she had a 4 day stay in liver failure. I remember the fear I felt thinking I was losing her, the absolute despair felt so deeply in my soul. I prayed Scripture over her body for healing. I worked on my own attachment issues to this little creature. And when I went for my daily visit on that 4th day, the veterinarian told me that there was an unexplained miracle. Josie’s liver enzymes were normalizing and her Hypercalcemia was gone. My girl was restored and made whole again. I praised God for my precious miracle. $10,000+ out of pocket and no medical explanation, but I got to cherish six additional years with my beloved angel. I can never thank God enough for that miracle.
Josie was a funny little pup. Super smart. Sweeter than pie. Routine oriented. Haughty at times. A firecracker. Tough. Cuddly. Loyal. Concerned. Warm. Playful. Protective. Full of personality. And boy, I don’t think we’ll ever forget the day Josie ate “Squirmy” - the first ever pet for the 4 neighbor children - a hamster they had just brought home the day before. Those poor kids are still probably traumatized as I recall them screaming, crying, and running in all different directions while Josie swallowed up their Squirmy in one big gulp! But years later, at least we can all look back and laugh, remembering Josie and all of quirks!
Over the past two years I watched Josie age and decline. Lyme Disease affected her joints. She began to have difficulty ambulating. Most of the time you would find me carrying my girl around from point A to point B as her own personal Uber; she was worth every lift. She had been there for me through so much, so I knew I had to be there for her in her time of great need. Josie deserved nothing short of a great life full of dignity. When her limbs stopped working, she got a stroller. We called them her new “legs”. She loved her new wheels and soon the whole neighborhood knew and adored Josie as they watched her smile wide as she felt the wind against her face and made new friends. She would whimper to tell me what she needed. But towards the end, I didn’t know what she needed anymore. I began to feel helpless and I started to see cognitive decline. I tried CBD oil, tinctures, anti-inflammatories, you name it. I knew I was losing my girl. I knew I didn’t have much time. And slowly I began to prepare myself to say goodbye.
I was intentional about being present with her. We would go on our evening strolls, sit on the benches and watch the water fountain. We’d have conversations only ever intended for her and me. My favorite time was waking up in the morning with her next to me. I never rushed my wake-up call. I’d wrap my arms around her to cuddle, she’d stretch out her body and then lay her face directly on top of mine. I would place my hands on her belly, listen to her breathe, smell all of her “stink” and try to permanently engrave all of it into my heart and mind to ensure I never forget. I wish I had her here with me. I miss her so much. My home doesn’t feel like my home without her. And my insides don’t feel whole without her either.
Someone once told me that DOG is spelled GOD backwards. That always brought me comfort. I know God specifically placed Josie in my life so that we had each other on our journeys. She taught me so much about life: patience, responsibility, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, perseverance, and unconditional love. She was a part of me in every way. And she always will be. I grieve so heavily, and yet I consider my grief as a blessing because it speaks directly to the great love I got to share with my best friend.
Two weeks prior to our goodbye, I had a small surgery. I wasn’t able to carry Josie like I usually do, so she strolled with me everywhere. A girl in my building told me she watched us one morning and it moved her to tears to see our tender love. On the day of our goodbye, another woman thanked me for caring for Josie the way I did. Just yesterday another neighbor told me that she couldn’t stop thinking about me and Josie after she heard the news. She, too, would watch us on our walks. I am comforted that our bond was witnessed by so many. The night after I let her go, I grabbed Josie’s collar and went for a drive. I didn’t know where I was headed, but as I pulled out of the parking lot, a huge rainbow shined in front of me and I was overwhelmed with peace. I know Josie was telling me that she is okay, that she is in Rainbow Bridge, youthful again, pain-free, playful and waiting for the time that we meet again.
My heart feels shattered, but I feel so incredibly blessed to have shared life and love with my Josie. She was my kid in every way. And I’m honored that I got to be her mom for 17 short years. She is forever embedded into my being, making me a better human today. She was so much more than a dog. Josie was God’s special touch in my life, a way for Him to show me His great love for me. To teach me many great lessons. And to remember to cherish every moment, because they go by so fast.
I love you forever, Josie Lee. Sweet Josie. Cozy Josie. Boobah. Puppaluffagus. Puppers. Dearface. Birdy. Lovey. Pooby. Josephiney. My kid. You left your mark in my life and you are deeply missed, but I know I carry you with me. Thank you for everything you gave to me. Have fun in Rainbow Bridge. Until we meet again, my beloved friend.