It is with great sadness that I report that our beloved dog, Kobe, passed away this morning.
We've known this day was coming, ever since her cancer diagnosis back in March. At the time, her oncologist told us she probably had about a month or two to live, and we decided to love her as much as possible during her remaining time.
I'm glad to report that Kobe far exceeded her doctors' estimates; it's been nearly 6 months since her diagnosis, and until Wednesday night (roughly 36 hours ago) she showed no signs of illness. In fact, our calendar on the refrigerator has "dog food" listed on the Saturday shopping list; she'd just finished one of those 50-pound bags of kibble from Costco, and I was planning on buying another one for her this weekend.
We're also fortunate in knowing that we did all we could. When she struggled to walk yesterday morning, I carried her to the car, and we rushed her to the Adobe Animal Hospital in Palo Alto. They came highly recommended by both her regular vet and our neighbor who has been raising dogs in Palo Alto for decades. They did not disappoint--everyone on staff was kind, compassionate, and efficient. They did all they could, but even a great animal hospital can't cure incurable cancer.
At first, there was some possibility that the symptoms (high fever, weakness) were from a non-cancer-related infection. When we took Jason and Marissa to visit her last night, there was still a chance she might recover, but we made sure they had a chance to say goodbye, just in case. She was weak, but was able to go outside for a walk and to enjoy being petted by the kids.
As it turned out, that was a good decision. The antibiotic treatment failed to impact the illness, and she grew weaker and weaker. When the doctor called this morning, it was to tell us that there was nothing more they could do.
It doesn't matter how long you have to prepare, or that it's expected--the death of a loved one smashes through all the emotional defenses and rationalizations we erect to protect ourselves. No reason or willpower can prevent you from feeling the loss, and that was true for me as well.
I actually decided to go into my office afterwards; I wanted to be around other human beings, and not alone in a house where, for over a decade, anytime I was working from home, Kobe was there to keep me company. My plan is to write this essay to express the many feelings swirling around in my head.
I've avoided writing updates about Kobe's condition, causing many people who met with me in the past few months to ask about her. When faced with something like death, I found I grew superstitious, regardless of my pose as a man of reason. Hopefully, my friends at the Singularity Institute don't disown me for my lapse! I didn't want to "jinx" the good luck we'd had.
When the doctor first gave me Kobe's prognosis, I was worried that she wouldn't make it to Marissa's birthday in May, when my parents and sister could come up and see her. Since Kobe's birthday is in November (we don't know the exact date, since we got her from the pound, but she was 4 months old when we got her in March of 2001), I told the kids we'd celebrate her 11 1/2 birthday with a special cake (made with bacon):
This turned out to be a good decision.
Fortunately for us, Kobe's good health continued through the entire summer. Not only did she enjoy the kids' birthdays, she also joined us on a trip to Los Angeles to meet my family (and stayed with them while the rest of us visited Puerto Rico and Orlando). My parents spoiled her relentlessly, which honestly, all of us have been doing for the past 5 months.
In the end, I'm incredibly grateful to the folks at Banfield Pet Hospital, Kobe's regular vet. We had purchased a wellness plan which included regular checkups; it was one of these checkups that found the cancer. And while it was untreatable, I'm glad we had the past 5 1/2 months to really appreciate Kobe.
The first thing we did was spoil her like crazy. Table scraps, previously limited, were made unlimited. We started buying wet premium dog food in individual pouches to supplement her previous diet of 50-pound Costco kibble. I took her to the dog park all the time, whereas we hadn't taken her for years. I also took her to a nearby school's playground every weekend, sometimes twice, so she could romp off leash. She had enjoyed just such a romp last Sunday. Alisha sometimes pointed out that I was taking insanely long walks (sometimes as much as 45 minutes) but I wanted to cram in as much enjoyment into Kobe's life as possible.
I also made sure that we let the other people who cared for her get a chance to see her and make a few more good memories. I especially want to single out Richard Yen of Saban Capital. Richard actually came with Alisha and I when we went to pick out a puppy. Since Richard was enjoying life pre-business school, and had stopped working, he agreed to help watch the new puppy during the day, when Alisha and I were at work.
We went together to the Santa Clara County Animal Shelter. We expected to get a smaller dog, and had even brought a cardboard box along (not realizing that you can't just take a dog home from the pound right away). When we got there, Kobe stood out right away. As soon as we entered, she came running over, jumping up and down as if to say, "Pick me! Pick me!"
I was smitten. Alisha took more convincing, but Kobe took care of that. When we went outside to meet Kobe and decide if we wanted to take her, Kobe came running out and went straight to Alisha, rubbing up against her in an ecstasy of cuteness. Alisha didn't stand a chance.
Richard came to our house nearly every day to watch over Kobe when she was a puppy, and she certainly developed a potent fondness for him. When Richard found out about Kobe's illness, he drove down from San Francisco twice to visit with her, and helped me take a number of great photos and videos.
Here's the photo I still use as the background on my laptop:
And here's a photo of Kobe with her beloved Uncle Richard:
I also made a concerted effort to take photos and videos of Kobe. Early on, before my foot problems forced me to use a cane, I took videos of all the standard routes Kobe I enjoyed walking, including the off-leash romps at the nearby elementary school. I also took video of Kobe playing with other dogs at the dog park.
Ironically enough, I had just ordered both a canvas print of Kobe, and a photobook of favorite pictures. Kobe's canvas print arrived yesterday, of this picture:
It's almost certain that any pet you get will die before you (and you probably wouldn't like the alternative). My goal was to store up enough great memories to last a lifetime.
The hardest things are the ones that are almost impossible to record. Kobe has been a part of our lives since 2001. We chose our current house in part because it has a big backyard (which she used to the utmost!). Almost anything we do at home conjures up memories.
Simply opening the front door evokes Kobe rushing to the door to greet us. For years, she's slept in the shower of our guest bedroom--I think she liked the coolness of the surface. So when we got home with the kids (or when I got home by myself on rarer occasions), Kobe would come trotting out from the guest bedroom, down the length of the main hallway of the house, her nails clicking on the hardwood floor in time to her distinctive prance, concluding with a thud as she placed her paws on the door and stretched.
At night, while lying in bed, I could hear her click-clacking down the hallway to check on the kids, before returning to her preferred sleeping spot on the sofa, which she would lie down in with a satisfied grunt.
Even harder to preserve are the scents and feel. Kobe's fur had a distinctive smell--not doggy (since she hated getting wet)--but reminiscent of Nacho Cheese Doritos when she had gone too long between baths.
Petting her provided a host of different textures, from the smooth fur on the top of her head, the whiskers while scratching her cheeks, and the incredible softness of her ears, especially the two tiny flaps towards the back of her ears which were the softest of all. You could also scratch the coarse fur of her underside, or the smooth, short fur on her belly. And she was always shedding--you could pluck fur by the fingerful, and when I bathed her at Country Pet Wash, I measured the fur I removed by a unit I called the "mouseful." Sadly, we had just earned a free wash at Country Pet Wash, which we'll never be able to redeem together.
We will probably get another dog someday. The kids love pets, and since Alisha will be working from home a lot when her office moves to San Francisco, it won't be fair to make her stay home alone.
But no dog will ever replace Kobe in my heart. Goodbye, my much-loved little girl.