All Dogs Go To Heaven.

I knew I’d have to write this some day, I just didn’t expect it to be now, and so suddenly. I’m not ready.

My sweet, beloved Blackjack crossed the Rainbow Bridge two weeks ago, on March 7 2021, three weeks after his 9th birthday. I haven’t written about it until now because I’m still processing, and I’m still hurting beyond words. Tonka, too. Tonka just paces and cries and checks all the rooms in the house and the yard looking for his buddy, every day, and when he can’t find him, he lays under the tree in what was their favorite spot. For hours. I don’t know how to explain to him that his best pal is never coming home again. It was too sudden for all of us. Too sudden, too unexpected, and that period is just a blur of emotions, even now. That Saturday morning, Blackjack was hurt, and less than 24 hours later, he was gone. It was undoubtedly the worst 24-hour period in my entire life – the unknown, then the known, then the hard decisions. No one should have to go through that. Especially completely alone. At least Blackjack wasn’t alone. He had me, and I did the best I could under the circumstances. As for me – well, I’m sure you know the answer to that question. It is what it always is. At least the Universe is consistent.

But this isn’t about me and my hurt. This is about Blackjack. There’s so much I could say about BJ; so many memories. He was my best friend, my loyal companion, and my longest relationship of any sort. The 9 years we spent together were more than I deserved. I have so much regret for the things we never did together, and now, will never do together. So many times, I said, “Well, maybe next week/month/year/whatever.” I will regret that for the rest of my life. He deserved better than that. He deserved better than me. But I did my best. He was never cold, he was never hungry. Too many times I wasn’t here with him, though. Off on some adventure or whatever. I learned that lesson too late. Gone is gone, and it’s absolutely permanent and forever and irrevocable. The days we missed being together will never, ever be re-lived, for either one of us. I’m sorry, pup – I’m sorry for the times I wasn’t there for you. I’m sorry I don’t have more photos of us, especially over the past couple of years. I’m especially sorry I don’t have at least one picture of us together on your last day. I’m sorry I couldn’t ride in the back of the Jeep to comfort you on any of the trips to the vet, especially the last one. I did the best I could. I’ll have to live with my failings the rest of my life, and I’ll always be sorry I wasn’t able to do more for you that terrible weekend.

I will keep that final promise I made to you, and I will take care of your pal Tonka for the rest of his life (or mine). He’s so sad, and he misses you so very much. So do I. My life was better because you were a part of it. You were loyal, faithful, unconditionally loving. You always had a smile and a wag for me, you always knew when I was sad, and you took better care of me than I did you, and you asked for so little in return. I will take you on whatever adventures I go on in the future; there will always be a part of you with me, wherever I go. I have your collar in the Jeep, so any time I’m out driving, you’ll be with me. I’ll carry it when I’m hiking, on the motorbike, everywhere I go for the rest of my days.

In the end, it was just me and you, exactly like it always was, and like I always knew it would be. I’m glad we were together in your last moments. I hope you weren’t frightened. Although the memory of you and I laying on that concrete floor alone is going to be with me for a very long time, I will try to remember better times; running, playing, tasty treats, puppy kisses, singing the song of your people. I hope I comforted you in your final moments, as you did me. But for now, I don’t know what I’m going to do without you. I am completely crushed, and sad, and alone. A huge part of me died when you did, and nothing will ever fill that space. I’m really struggling, pup. I hope that wherever you are, you can hear me when I talk to you, because I do. Often.

I will miss you and think about you every day. I promise. You were loved.

Goodbye, Blackjack. Be a good boy. I hope I get to see you again someday.

I have set up a memorial Instagram for BJ, so he’ll hopefully be remembered, even after I’m gone. Please stop by and say “hi” to him: https://instagram.com/blackjack_the_malamute. Thank you so much to those of you who’ve reached out to Tonka and I during the past couple of weeks. And if you have a pupper of your own, give him an extra pat from the two of us.

Addendum: Blackjack is home now, where he belongs. We took what was most likely our final car ride together, and it was somehow cathartic – that is, our life together ended exactly as it began, with just the two of us, riding in a car. When BJ came to me as a pup, he was lost in transit, and just like then, a similar situation occurred now, which has strained the limits of my emotional well-being. As if his death wasn’t enough, it couldn’t end peacefully for either of us. The details don’t really matter now, because he’s home, but it’s been a very, very trying week. Anyway, our last ride together was profoundly sad – unlike the first trip – and it took everything I had to actually go through with it. It had to be done, though – I wasn’t going to leave him where he was for a minute longer than necessary, especially since circumstances had him away from me for too long. I owed him that much; to be strong for him. But it was tough, going back to the vet alone, knowing what was waiting for me there. Hopefully now, with some closure, this sadness will start to fade, at least a little. The past two and a half weeks have just been a big blur of sadness and loneliness, but he needed me to make things right, and I’m all he had to see it through. I guess he’s all I had, as well. Now, it’s just Tonka and I, and that will have to be enough. I miss you, pupper, and I’m glad you’re home. I hope I did right by you. I hope I lived up to the commitment I made. I did the best I could.

“Grief is just love with no place to go.”