My Dying Dog Found My One and Only
Six years after a devastating divorce in 1988, I was still single. As long as I had B.J. by my side, I wasn’t lonely. B.J., my Golden Retriever, accompanied me to work every day as a therapy dog for my special education middle school students. We ran together each evening for three miles after a full day of child care. I had never known such a perfect friendship. B.J. patiently absorbed my tears into the folds of her silken hair and reacted to my triumphs with gleeful barks and wet kisses. B.J. taught me to live in the moment, the most profound gift of my life.
Then one day it all changed. B.J. refused to eat her evening meal. I knew instantaneously that something was terribly wrong. Of all the things that this regal lady adored, food trumped them all. I took off work the next day to accompany B.J. through extensive medical exams. The prognosis was devastating. B.J’s kidneys were failing and her spleen was bursting with infection. After emergency surgery for her spleen, I slept on the floor futon with her night after night to quell her painful cries, just as she had soothed me through many tearful nights after my divorce. She lost the ability to run, but eventually we were able to take leisurely walks. I lived to keep her alive. Nothing else mattered.
On Sunday, May 1st, 1994, B.J. and I were walking on the green lawns next to the 65 Freeway in Lincoln, California. Colorful dual line kites filled the sky, soaring in figure eight patterns. B.J. slowly crumpled to the ground for a much needed rest far from the families who were sitting on blankets and sharing picnic foods. I watched the kites and prayed for my golden girl, hoping to have her for her eleventh birthday in August. In the distance, a dark shadowy figure was walking our way. I looked around to see if anyone was behind us. The indistinct figure became a gorgeous Asian man with dark creamy skin and straight black hair tied into a long ponytail at the base of his neck. Before I could speak, he said, “What a beautiful dog.”
We sat on the corner of Highway 65 and Sunset Blvd. for eight hours getting to know one another. Glenn Kato was an avid kite enthusiast who belonged to a kite club that competed for rankings. He enjoyed teaching others the tricks of flying stunt kites each day after he got off work. Glenn worked at a factory in management very close to the field where we sat. I didn’t want to leave, but B.J. needed to eat. This gorgeous Japanese American man didn’t ask for my phone number and I was crestfallen. For three days, I avoided driving by the grassy knolls to get to my gym because I didn’t want Glenn to think I was interested. In a way, I was also sad for B.J. because she perked up when Glenn joined us that day on the corner.
On the fourth day of avoiding the kite fields, I was weary of driving to the gym the long way. When I finally drove by the fields, Glenn ran out when he saw my car, a distinct gray and maroon Rocky Mitsubishi, and flagged me down. He insisted that I park and meet his friends. After introductions, I followed him to the middle of the field where he began my first lesson in stunt kite aerodynamics. “Where have you been?” he asked. I told Glenn that I was busy and didn’t go to my gym for a few days. Then I asked him why he didn’t ask for my phone number after our marathon talk on the corner the previous Sunday. His answer surprised me. “My stepbrother works for the Department of Motor Vehicles; I memorized your license plate, ‘The Beej.’ I knew I would find you eventually.” From then on, we were never apart.
B.J. loved Glenn. She seemed to know that he was destined to stay in our lives. Each day that he came to my house, she jumped up and met him at the door, tail wagging like a metronome on steroids. He was so loving and patient with her. When Glenn was around, I didn’t exist. One day I came home from work and B.J. couldn’t move. My vet called U.C. Davis, one of the best veterinary schools in the country, because Dr. Laura knew they had the technology to assess her condition and to keep her longer for tests. The vets at Davis told me to bring her in immediately. I asked Glenn to go with me when he got off work, but he did more. He left work early and rushed to B.J’s side. Glenn drove while I held B.J. in the back seat.
We stayed at U.C. Davis until they had B.J. sedated and comfortable. The doctors told me that she needed a blood transfusion to clean out infection, but that her kidneys were failing. Kidney transplants weren’t readily available in those days, but I would have given her my own if it were possible. They also told me that with the transfusion, she should have a few more good months with us. We picked her up after a few days and were literally greeted by a puppy. I couldn’t believe her wide smile, sparkly eyes, and the spring in her step. It felt as though the years had peeled away. I received my kisses first, but B.J’s eyes were glued on Glenn. He was the one she followed to the car.
We spent the whole summer camping in Bodega Bay along the Pacific coast with the kite club. B.J. and Glenn were inseparable. Glenn would take B.J. for long, early morning walks along the beach while I slept in the camper. She went to every one of Glenn’s kite competitions and she loved the attention the children lavished upon her. I hadn’t seen her that happy in months. However, much too soon, the long, hot days of summer turned into the short, dark days of autumn. B.J. began to slow down when my school year started in late August.
Glenn asked me to marry him in October. We set the date for November 25th, 1994. Unfortunately, my happiness was marred by my dying dog, my best friend and confidante. She had a hard time going up and down the porch steps of my Victorian house, so we lovingly carried her to the yard to do her business several times a day. When she began to vomit green bile, I knew the end was near. We couldn’t let this proud, classy lady suffer any longer. Five days before we had to leave for Southern California to get married in my mother’s home, B.J. told us it was time.
On November 20th, 1994, I got up to check on our girl. She could only move her eyes; yet, those eyes told me volumes. Glenn joined me on the floor around her bed and she greeted him with a few limp tail thumps. Those deep, liquid brown eyes thanked me for my unconditional love and then they settled upon Glenn. B.J. told me that she could go peacefully because I was happy and wouldn’t be alone. She also thanked Glenn for loving both of us. I called Dr. Laura and she cleared her schedule to receive B.J. that afternoon. I stayed in the car after I cried into her silky fur one last time. I was so racked by grief, I couldn’t possibly face other people in the clinic. Glenn carried B.J. into the office and held her until the end. He told me that she went peacefully in his arms.
I have been married to Glenn for twenty years now. There are only two times I have seen him sob. The first time was when he had to say good-bye to B.J. and the second time was when his mother died. We have rescued many dogs and cats in our twenty years as husband and wife; and, we have mourned many short-lived canine and feline lives. But we will always know that B.J., which stands for “Brings Joy,” was the one dog that was destined to bring us together.
Finally, there is one other part of this story that puts into perspective the meaning of modern love. My husband is not the most romantic or demonstrative person, but he did one thing that continues to prove his love over and over. On the year anniversary of B.J.’s death, I was feeling particularly sad. Glenn made no mention of it that morning and I didn’t feel like reminding him. When he came home that evening, he disappeared into the den before greeting me. Before I could inquire about his disappearance, he met me in the hall with B.J.’s pine box. When I looked closer, I could see that he had attached an embossed plaque that simply read, “B.J. August 28th, 1983 to November 20th, 1994. Mommy Loves You.”