A letter to a departing companion

Fiona Apple has postponed her South America tour to be with her ailing pitbull Janet. She writes a heart-wrenching, wonderful letter which will feel familiar to anyone who has ever loved and lost a pet or even a person. If you feel like reading something sad and beautiful, is here. A taste:

I know that she’s not sad about aging or dying. Animals have a survival instinct, but a sense of mortality and vanity, they do not. That’s why they are so much more present than people.
But I know that she is coming close to point where she will stop being a dog, and instead, be part of everything. She’ll be in the wind, and in the soil, and the snow, and in me, wherever I go.
I just can’t leave her now, please understand.
If I go away again, I’m afraid she’ll die and I won’t have the honor of singing her to sleep, of escorting her out.
Sometimes it takes me 20 minutes to pick which socks to wear to bed.
But this decision is instant.
These are the choices we make, which define us.
I will not be the woman who puts her career ahead of love and friendship.
I am the woman who stays home and bakes Tilapia for my dearest, oldest friend.
And helps her be comfortable, and comforted, and safe, and important.
Many of us these days, we dread the death of a loved one. It is the ugly truth of Life, that keeps us feeling terrified and alone.
I wish we could also appreciate the time that lies right beside the end of time.
I know that I will feel the most overwhelming knowledge of her, and of her life and of my love for her, in the last moments.
I need to do my damnedest to be there for that.
Because it will be the most beautiful, the most intense, the most enriching experience of life I’ve ever known.
When she dies.
So I am staying home, and I am listening to her snore and wheeze, and reveling in the swampiest, most awful breath that ever emanated from an angel.
And I am asking for your blessing.

9 comments for “A letter to a departing companion

  1. November 21, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    Poor Janet. I quite like pitbulls, but nothing will ever replace my best friend Tasman, the border collie. One day I may have to leave him again (he is not actually my dog, even if I walk him 3 hours a day) and I don’t know how I will manage it, because he needs his walks. But you’re wrong about vanity. Tasman is hilariously vain, the way he poses with his stunning fluffy tail high in the air, one front paw carefully placed in ballet position #1 before the other.

  2. TrishB
    November 21, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    That’s a beautiful piece. My pup has been leaving me for almost three years now, so she gets all the extras that I have.

  3. November 21, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    I read that with our younger girl curled up against me. My partner’s friend had to say goodbye to her fluffy sweetheart this morning – lymphoma. I’m a bit teary-eyed over here.

    • November 25, 2012 at 3:26 pm

      Oh, no. That’s what my 16 year old kitty probably has. I’ve been watching her for the past week, trying to figure out when it’s time to call the vet. (In the meantime, of course, I am spoiling her rotten. Doesn’t hurt that this is the one time of year there are likely to be turkey livers in our mostly vegetarian household.)

  4. LM
    November 21, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    All that she said and then some. I couldn’t tell you date and year of the deaths of any relatives. My dog; oh that burned. I mean physically vurned. And ached. And has somewhat dulled after many months, until I accidentally call him inside along with his remaining pack-mates because it’s still second nature. Then it’s all back. I cried during the freaking PREVIEW for Frankenweenie because if it were possible, I’d do the same damn thing.

    • Partial Human
      November 24, 2012 at 2:42 pm

      This. No human death has ever affected me in. the way my dog’s death death. No human death ever totally eviscerated me, made me feel like my skin had been flayed off, made me howl uncontrollably at the slightest memory.

      It’s ten years on and I still see her from the corner of my eye, or hear her tail thumping against things. I still love her, and grieve her like no other. Dogs are the only beings who never inflict harm, gossip, lie, betray, steal (other than food or socks!), or bully. They are four-legged love.

  5. xxodettexx
    November 22, 2012 at 5:38 am

    the whole thing is beautiful and reminded me of when i said goodbye to my fur-son. he had stomach and liver cancer but i was with him almost every second of the last 3 months of his life. i was even allowed to bring him to work by my wonderfully empathetic bosses.

  6. khw
    November 22, 2012 at 9:07 am

    I lost my Old Girl to cancer a couple of years ago. She’d been abused by some (fill in space with the curse words of your choice) and had been living on the street.

    As a boxer, she should have been around 30 kilos and weighed only 14, her back leg was so rotten that the vet wanted to cut it off immediately (and didn’t simply due to fact that Milagros was so underweight she wouldn’t have survived). She came through it all; Painful cleaning of wounds and adapting to strangers.

    She was a fiercely loyal dog who was wonderfully sweet to any and all who visited us. Her happiness taught me how to let many things go.

  7. Circe
    November 23, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Beautiful. So very moving. Nonhuman animal companions help us to be better human animals.

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