Have you lost a loved one in your life? Whether it’s a family member, close friend, or colleague, being apart from them for the rest of your years can be painful and heartbreaking. A companion you need to say goodbye to.
You are not alone. I’ve experienced such loss and the grief that came with it. Two years ago, on August 1, 2019, my grandmother named Tessie died of intestinal or colon cancer. She’s been suffering from the disease for as long as I can remember. Despite her condition, she never failed to rise above it and continued working almost 24/7. That is how she coped, by using her remaining strength from her weakening muscles and hoping that all the regular aches would go away. All my family members and relatives witnessed her everyday struggle. From waking up early in the morning at the age of 65 to sleeping with abdominal pain. Sadly, her courage was beaten by her illness. And one morning, I just knew that my life will never be the same as it was.
By accepting, remembering, and loving my grandmother from afar, every day became lighter. The pain was still there, but embodying her fearlessness illuminated the light within my living soul.
I am a firm believer that when one says goodbye, life never stops but we’ll be directed. We just have to find the best pathway, appreciate what we have now, and look for a companion. Pro tip: the companion doesn’t have to be a human being or person with perfect glass skin; sometimes the best ones have furs and wagging tails.
Three weeks later, my family and I heard of a dog opening for adoption from an old friend. The latter, however caring and pet-loving, confessed he cannot afford to raise a new dog. Everyone knows that a true warrior for the animals will extend all their affection, effort, and money to bring the best out of the fur friend. At first, I kind of hesitated at the idea of opening my doors to a new potential clingy and face-licking member. After several discussions, weighing the pros and the cons, answering the who, how, where, and especially why questions, one day, I just went home with a tiny, black and tan Mini Pinscher on my favorite sofa.
I personally named her Ji-Soo, following one of the famous and visually pleasing Korean pop personalities of my generation. The experience of having her brought a tantamount of joy and realization. Like any other new pet, she was very shy and always looked for a hideout. I guess she thought that with her dominating black color she would camouflage along with the pile of clothes in my room. But I and the rest of my family remained patient as we adored her small steps. Back then, just hearing her barks made me draw a curve on my face and even take videos of it, knowing that she often does that for the time being. I gave my time and best shot to make her feel comfortable and warm up. From buying the right food, going into dog clinics, getting vaccinated, and more. She was even rocking like a Kardashian as I shopped for clothes for her. She was a superstar!
Time went by, and my Ji-Soo warmed up and affectionately showered love on me. When I woke up from sleep, she was already on my bed waiting for a massage or belly rub. The moment I ate my breakfast, she was almost on my side munching her favorite dog food. When it was time for me to go to work, all I could hear was her puppy’s cry and eyes. Believe me, I did feel the connection like she was telling me not to go. Every single day of my life changed for the better. I was excited to go home knowing that Ji-Soo will be waiting on my doorstep wagging her tail and ready to jump on me like we had not seen each other for decades. That is what makes her amazing in most ways possible. That is the art of having my dog, Ji-Soo. She doesn’t speak my language, but her smartness makes her understand the words “no”, “sit” and alike through my tone of voice and body language. Just like a loyal friend, when I try to communicate with her she gives me eye contact, making me think she’s a genius.
The most memorable moment I had with my dog was when I was having a mental breakdown. What’s amazing about her was she’s the first one to notice among others. When I felt wanting to attach myself to the bed for as long as I thought, she was there, offering her free cuddling service. She certainly boosted my serotonin and dopamine.
Ji-soo, for me, is more than a dog- she’s my family. She came into one of the lowest moments of my life but her affection reciprocated the grief in me and fixed the broken pieces of my heart. Sometimes, I wonder, can Ji-soo be my grandmother, an angel in disguise?