The longest goodbye

When I was 9 my family moved from Hong Kong to Japan. I wasn’t particularly upset about moving to a new country other than two wholly devastating events. I had to bid farewell to both my best friend and my dog. My parents decided that leaving him behind would be the best thing, considering that Tokyo was a concrete jungle bereft of green parks and places for a long-eared basset hound to run free.
I can still recall the tears. My friend I could talk to on the phone, perhaps even see again but my dog, keeper of my secrets, lover of my bed? No. It was goodbye forever.

Now as we embark upon the Great Departure from Trinidad I look at my two daughters, 9 and 12 and see history repeating itself.
We have a gorgeous dog; brown eyed, long in the ear, soft to the touch. We brought her with us from Canada and wept as we watched her endure the 4 months wait in Montreal, the long flight and the 1 month in quarantine before she finally arrived. She is named Zola and we call her our bear. We spend many a moment staring at her in awe. She is sweetness incarnate.

Yet we have decided to leave our beloved dog behind. She will not be joining us in Africa. This decision is based upon many factors, mainly practicality and the quality of life for our dog. The logistics of shipping a dog from Trinidad to Kampala are horrific, but can be overcome despite expense, time, and discomfort for the dog. But once in Uganda we have no idea if our apartment allows dogs, who would watch her when we leave to travel and explore, nor how she could endure the 6 month quarantine that would be demanded of her when we leave and try to bring her back. It goes without saying that the nomadic lifestyle we have unwittingly adopted is wholly unsuited to dog ownership. It is hard enough to drag a whole family across two continents, let alone an innocent and sweet unwilling pet.

Practicalities and rational thought aside, this whole affair is breaking my heart. 31 years after the fact I am reliving the terrible farewell I bid to the first dog I loved. Here I am doing it again. I cannot say the words out loud “she is just a dog”. She is not “just” anything. I have raised her from a pup, cleaned up all of her bodily secretions, trained her, loved her, and slept with her. The bond between her and the family is one that travels deep.

We are all silently dealing with this in our own way. We awake sad and slightly shocked; we look at her, touch her and stare into her eyes as if for the last time. The next 4 weeks will be the longest goodbye.
Last night she slept beside my youngest, curled beside her head like a pillow. At night she likes to visit us, one by one in our beds, a quick check to ensure her pack is in place.

Will her heart break like ours?




Filed under Family Stuff, I love dogs

7 responses to “The longest goodbye

  1. I could understand how much your hearts must be breaking by this decision. I know if you find her a good home for here where they would love her even a quarter as much as you do then she would be loved more than any other dog in the world.

  2. tamale

    Oh no…if I had to leave such a beauty behind I would be miserable too. I hope you find her a good home -it would make leaving her just a little bit easier to bear. Just a little bit.

  3. maven

    Hi, i did a scan read of your long goodbye..i was just introduced to your blog from a NYer mag article.

    what do you plan to do with Zola? I might take her if all the steps in the process goes well…i have been thinking about getting a dog, and hadnt acted on it…was thinking of a big bad protective dog; but i was really waiting for serendipity and the rightness of things…?

    write me on personal email

    PS> you are living my old life of a world expat…I have lived and worked throughout Africa

  4. SK

    That was a deeply emotional article you wrote about your beautiful dog. Have you found her a home yet?

  5. did you get her a home yet?

  6. 3limes

    She has a home. Thanks for all your concern. She is going to be with someone who she knows and loves very well. Still-going to be a tough day when we have to say goodbye. Might need another post on this one!

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