I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t bring myself to write it out before now. Putting my goodbye to her in writing made it final. That she isn’t just “away” or “out of sight.” She’s gone. But realizing she’s been gone almost a year now, and seeing the picture below triggered a tug in my heart I couldn’t ignore. I felt like not putting this down in writing was an insult to her memory – like I never said goodbye. And I know her – she is sitting up there, patiently waiting for me to do so. Waiting for me to say, “Ok Jo Jo” so she can leave her “Stay” position and run around in heaven.
This photo isn’t the best I have of her. But it is a special picture. It’s a photo I have from the last day I saw her. It was taken totally by chance. I didn’t take tons of random pictures of her when she was alive – I was too busy enjoying her company. But she was there when I went to try on my wedding dress for the first time, and since we were taking pictures of that, we took some pictures of her, too. She was so happy to see me. Especially after losing Kasey only a few days prior. We helped each other heal a little bit that day.
I don’t know why I couldn’t write this sooner. I owed her a proper goodbye. But I think it was my own way of keeping her close. It was my way of holding on to her just a little bit longer. I’m not delusional. I know that both of my dogs died within 2 weeks of each other. I know that I saw both of them for the last time over Thanksgiving last year. I’m very aware, physically, that they are gone.
It is sad, but it is true – it was far easier for me to let go of Kasey. I came to terms with Kacey’s death many years ago. We had to deal with reality – she was sick. My parents bought her literally YEARS of extended life. In anyone else’s care, she would have died 4 or more years ago. And don’t worry – it wasn’t the kind of extra life that is sad or pathetic and hanging on simply because we humans can’t find the strength to let go. No – She LIVED for 4 extra years. She ran, and played, and loved her little heart out until the very end. It was easy to say goodbye because I was prepared. I could let go because she had told us to be ready a long time ago. I could let go because I was the only one who really, truly got to say goodbye. I was there. She waited for me so I could tell everyone else that she was ok. She told me she was ok. There was no possible way for me NOT to let go then and there. Kasey girl made it easy.
But Jo… My Jo baby. My Princess, my Ju Ju Bee, my gorgeous girl. Nothing, not even my gut feeling that this was going to happen, could have prepared me for that phone call 12 days later. It didn’t even hit me right away – My mom was crying and said those words – “Honey, I’m sorry. She’s gone.” And I couldn’t process that sentence. With Kacey it was instant tears; the time had come. But with Jo, it was, “huh? What are you talking about? Gone where?” It took several moments to even acknowledge that anything had been said, and several more moments for it to sink in. Visions of her literally flashed in my mind. The day we brought her home. The day she met Kasey, and somehow was able to tell me that we needed to keep her. The day I left for college and the first time I really realized just how close we were. Every time I came home from school – or really any time I came home from any extended leave of absence, and the joy in her face that I was home. Her high fives and handshakes, how happy she was when I let her up on my bed, the way she looked at me when she wanted me – no – NEEDED me to pet her incessantly… all I could see for several minutes was images of Jo.
And there are so many images. I wish I could pluck them from my mind and put them together in some cool montage for you to see. She was beautiful. She was everything a dog is supposed to be. She was friendly, happy, loyal, patient and loving. And don’t ask me to explain it because I can’t. But I swear to you – I could communicate with that dog. Not just your average “Here girl” and she came, or response to her name or knowing the tone of my voice. No, seriously people. I could talk to that dog. Like she spoke clear and plain English. She had this uncanny way of telling me things. Things I needed to know. Like that Kasey was the right dog for us, or that Alyse needed me but she wasn’t going to say so, or even that Anthony was someone she trusted.
Jo was more than a dog to me. She was a friend. A real friend. She could tell when I needed her. I could be crying in my room upstairs, and she could be out in the back yard barking at a rabbit, and she would instinctively know – Jen needs me. And she’d come looking for me. She’d wait for permission to jump up on my bed and then she’d just lay down there, next to me and wait. She’d listen to my whole story, and then she’d lick my hand and nudge her head under my arm so I knew I could hug her. I’d always feel better. She was an awesome friend and companion.
I don’t know… there are moments when I’m so angry. Maybe even at her. Jo, why didn’t you say something? After all the talking we did over the years, why didn’t you tell me you were sick?! I would have helped you! I would have made it better. I would have taken care of you the way you always took care of me! I would never have let you down.
But then, I know, in my heart of hearts that you didn’t want to tell me. You didn’t want any of us to know. You took it upon yourself to take care of Kasey, and you put your own pain and suffering aside to do so. And by then, it was too late. When she was gone, you were too far along for anyone to do anything.
I’m so sorry, Jo baby. I’m so sorry I wasn’t there with you. I’m so sorry I wasn’t there to hug you and tell you I love you and to let you know it was ok. I’m so sorry I didn’t instinctively know, the way you always did, that something was wrong. But most of all I’m sorry it took me so long to say goodbye. That is the difference between dogs and humans. I had to hold on. I had to pretend that I could still hear you bounding up the stairs. I had to pretend you were still sleeping under my bed. I had to pretend that every time I cried, you’d know and send your love. But you’ve loved me, unconditionally, from the day we brought you home. And I know that didn’t stop just because you passed away.
I know you and Kasey are wherever we are supposed to end up. I know you are there, waiting so patiently for me. I know, without a doubt that you found Kasey right away, and you helped her find our home in heaven. I know that, no matter how long it takes me to get there (and I’m sorry it will be such a long time before I get to see you again) that you will never, ever leave. I know you’ll wait. I know you’ll be there to welcome me home and it will be like nothing ever changed. Play with as many figure 8 toys as you can find while you wait for me.
I love you so much, Jo. My little black bear. I think about you all the time. I miss you, and you will always, always hold a special spot in my heart.
“Ok Jo Jo. It’s ok.”