The Saddest Day


I have had many sad days over the last six months. Days of intense loneliness like I have never experienced in my life, days of feeling heartbroken and helpless about children’s dire life circumstances, days of feeling despised, degraded and fearful. But today is the saddest day. My beautiful little puppy, my ray of sunshine in amongst so many dark clouds, passed away in my arms this morning. He had been sick for four days – he had eaten something or caught a bug, could not eat or drink and eventually couldn’t move except to vomit up blood. All I could do was wish his pain away and hope that it would pass quickly, one way or another.

Buddy was the best dog ever. Obviously, he was the cutest dog. I mean, just look at him. But he was also a good dog – without any training at all he immediately came when I called him, followed at my heels wherever I went (even up epic mountains with his tiny “lickle” legs) and stopped still behind me when there was a car or motorcycle passing by. He was also a brilliant judge of character; he instantly loved all my favourite people while growling his scariest baby dog growl at the super sleazy men. He was gentle and playful with the children. He was the perfect blend of courageous explorer and cuddly friend, always equally enthusiastic about an outdoor adventure or curling up on my lap. He did the ecstatic whole-body-wiggle and showered my toes with kisses every time he saw me, even if I’ve only been away for ten minutes. Until the last few days when all he could manage was a tiny wag of his tail, and then today when he could not move at all.

I had been preparing myself all along that he was not mine to keep, that all too soon I would have to say a forever-goodbye. I knew I had only a couple of months to ‘love bomb’ him with a lifetime’s worth of nurturing, cuddles, nourishing food, and friendship. He was a Jamaican dog; this was his home; where he was meant to be. I knew we were lucky we found each other, if only for a while. He had already been through much trauma in his little life, losing his mother and being all on his own. He was so strong and resilient. Locals told me once I left Buddy would become just like any other dog around here; all skin and bone and savagery. It seemed undeniable when I saw the house he was meant to go to – the concrete slab where their other dog was chained up, painfully thin and barking ferociously at anyone that walked by. I could not allow myself to imagine Buddy there, could not fathom him losing his curiosity; his openness; his joy. I had to believe that maybe if I gave him enough love now he would remember what it is to be protected and cared for, and his spirit would remain unbroken.

And now it will. Perhaps he was never meant to make it. He will not have to ever live without love. His short life was filled to the brim with it. Scratches behind the ears the way he liked, belly rubs that sent him straight into blissful sleep. Adventures with me to the river or the schools, splashing through streams and scrambling over rocks and feeling the lush grass under his paws.

The tough new Jamaican Cat is not a big crier (Say what now? Yep, strange but true.) But as Buddy gave one last whimper and fell still my tears fell down on his little body like rain. I cried for myself at the injustice of him being taken from me, the one piece of happiness Jamaica had given me. And I cried for him; for the pain he had suffered and the beautiful spirit that had not had a chance to live a full life. I lifted his limp little body back onto his pillow, half the stuffing torn out as a stark reminder of when he was full of energy and mischief. Then came those long surreal moments when every sound and object seems simultaneously clearer and further away. Time disappeared and for several slow heartbeats it seemed like it was not possible to go on without him.

And then something I read in Ashley Judd’s memoir All That Is Bitter And Sweet (an incredibly inspiring book) about how she coped with losing a beloved pet came back to me:

I called Tennie in the depths of my pain, and when I was able to calm down a bit she asked me,’What is the lesson Percy came to teach you?’ The answer, clearly, is unconditional love… Totally, beautifully, unflinchingly focused on that one person.

Of course, Buddy came to teach me the same thing. We have both given and received total, beautiful, unflinching unconditional love to and from one another, when we each needed it most. I wish I was able to call my own Tennie, wish I had a friend to sit with me in this pain, but as with all the heartbreaking things I have experienced here I know I must bear this on my own. There is injustice in that too, but also acceptance. There is justice in a beautiful puppy living just long enough to soak up a lifetime of love. Perhaps Buddy did not live the true length of his life, but he certainly lived the width of it. My heart will hurt for a long time knowing this sweet little creature is no longer on this earth, but he is one boy I will never ever regret giving my whole heart to.

24 thoughts on “The Saddest Day

  1. Big hugs to you, Cat, on the loss of your beloved friend. What a beautiful post you wrote to commemorate his sweet little life. He will forever be with you in your heart and is now with the angels.

  2. ‘Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all’. Can’t remember who said but it seems apt here. I know you would choose to love Buddy all over again. The pain will eventually cease, but he will always be in your heart. Don’t be afraid to grieve.

    • Thankyou, Predencia. Such beautiful advice – I remember when my grandmother died I was told by so many (including myself) to just focus on the good times and be happy because that is what she would have wanted. But then a dear friend of mine gave me a precious gift – he told me to allow myself to be sad, to acknowledge the loss and feel it. It is only after that process that we can really move forward.

  3. Buddy had your love. Beautifully written! I felt a lot of what you have experienced when we left the four cats behind that we had been feeding in california. Hugs to you..

  4. Very sorry to hear the loss of your Buddy, it may leave a little hole in your heart but a big ray of sunshine on your Jamaican memories. Love Dad.

    • So sorry about the loss of your puppy. All of us who are following your Jamaican story are sharing this with you, thinking of you and are very much with you in all your experiences joyful as well as sad. You have all our love care and support. Best wishes in your endeavours.

      • Thankyou Inna, its so nice to know I can share these experiences with you all in some small way. There are certainly extreme highs and extreme lows! But that is life. Look forward to seeing you when I am home in a couple of months. 🙂

  5. Just lost my dog Japhy who I’ve had since I was a sophomore in college. It’s heartbreaking and Vivi still calls for him. I know how you feel! I’m sorry about Buddy. Japhy is probably taking care of him in heaven!

  6. I’m so so sorry to hear this, what a terrible thing to go through when you were already having a hard time. Just think, maybe he was there to come into your life to help you make the best possible decision for your future and your health! Hope your enjoying your last few days in Jamaica!

  7. Oh, Cat… I’m so sorry for your loss… what a deep loss it is…and how very, very sad you must be.
    We lost our beloved dog Nali, at the end of June. She ate a metal brush and died from surgery complications. At that time, it was almost like it was just meant to happen…no matter what we did, another complication came along and she got worse.
    I’ve worked my way through it enough to learn to value what she and I shared…the love, appreciation, tenderness…and to now offer those same precious qualities to others, as often as possible.
    I also recently read about a young woman who was grieving the death of her mother…and she referred to the overwhelming feeling of having “left over love”…a heart still bursting with love, but without her mother to offer that love to. She started working with funding women’s projects in Africa, to offer that love out again. I also created more of those sky with white hearts” pages with that idea of “left over love”…it so resonated. I’m guessing you’re still bursting with love for Buddy? …. with time, the sadness subsides…what a very very precious being he was… Wasn’t it such a gift to love and be loved and trusted by him? …a very very precious gift… I’m so sorry that he passed away…

    • I think it was “meant to be” for Buddy too, to ensure his life was nothing but happy and love-filled. If he had lived on, I know he would not have been looked after the way he deserved.

      Oh, I can so relate to the idea of having “left over love”. I have also felt it strongly at the end of close relationships, which is a grieving process in and of itself.

      One of the biggest reasons I set out on this adventure was to “live the width of my life”, and I believe a life fully lived means embracing both the positive and negative emotions and experiences. Knowing Buddy gave me both sides of the coin.

      • Yes, I think maybe so… for him to have had a happy and love filled life is such an amazing blessing…for both of you.
        Cat, you’re really (!!!) experiencing both the depth and width of life in your time in Jamaica… and Buddy is such a big and precious part of what you’re learning and experiencing…the joy, playfulness, happiness…and the confusion and challenges…what a teacher, and loving friend, Buddy is, and has been, for you.
        I had done a copy/paste of this post and emailed it to Jampa, (RFAF) because I was so moved by what your love for Buddy and thought he also would be. (he doesn’t have enough data to go to websites from his computer at the monastery in Australia) I asked him if he would include Buddy and you in his prayers. I just heard back from him, and he asked me to tell you he just did a puja (prayers) for Buddy this morning. (well, tomorrow in Aussie now) . He wrote about how special it is that Buddy was surrounded by your love.He also mentioned how sorry he is that you’re having a hard time and that Buddy passed away. He took care of lots of kitties when he was at the monastery in India. They didn’t live long, due to so much disease and predators, but he valued that he was able to give them love and care…as you did with Buddy…. So…wishing you peace of mind and heart…blessings to you… kathy

  8. Cat, I was just looking through some older emails,from the time that Nali died…before she died, when we thought/hoped she would be okay. I had written this, below, to Jampa. I thought some of the ideas might resonate with you…and offer some comfort… (the sadness, however, turned out to be far deeper and has lasted far longer than I had any idea that it would…but slowly, slowly one moves on to being able to have more happiness with the memories…but it takes time…each of us in our own time… )

    “… I had a thought…. isn’t it something that even when
    Nali dies…whenever that might be…and there is some level of sadness
    and missing in us…that after awhile…. who knows how long…. I
    dunno… at some point there will be fond and happy and appreciative and
    grateful memories that she came into our lives…(well, I feel those now
    too) ….especially when she did…and that she offered such stunning
    amounts of affection, soothing, calming, steadying, care, attentiveness,
    gentleness and tenderness and companionship, etc…so many wonderful
    gifts….and hopefully we added those to her too…and loving and caring
    and all of those. So, at some point, she will be a wonderful happy
    memory… and our hearts filled with gratitude for all that she brought
    with her and opened our minds up to…so that will be special. And where
    ever she goes next, whenever that might happen….that she’ll have the
    opportunities to continue to offer those to others around her, no matter
    what type of being she might be…”

    • Wow, that’s just beautiful, Kathy. Thankyou so much for sharing it. There is certainly what seems to be an endless well of sadness that sometimes surges up in quiet moments and catches me totally unawares. But I do feel so much gratitude for what Buddy gave to me, what we were able to give one another, and so despite the heartache I would not change a thing. 🙂

  9. Pingback: 10 Moments in Jamaica I Will Never Forget | Year of Jamaica

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