On October 17, 2020, while standing alone outside of the Ryan Veterinary Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania, I received the news that our time together would be unexpectedly cut short. The diagnosis was metastasized oral melanoma and they gave you a month to live. Dr. Tai erroneously and insensitively said that if we were “in it to win it” then we would take you through a painful process of surgery, recovery, mouth disfiguration, multiple radiation sessions, all in the hope of prolonging your life a couple of months. In my mind, that would make you a sick dog for the rest of your life. You deserved better than that.
Through our tears, our whole family decided that together we would live life to the fullest over the next month and conquer your bucket list. So began our frequent trips to doggie beach, longer walks in the woods (letting you lead the way), multiple nights out for ice cream, and giving you anything that you wanted at the dinner table. Fortunately for all of us, we got to repeat this bucket list over and over during the next 12 months. We showered you with our love because to us, you were love.
Over the first ten years of your life, you defined love in our family. You entered our lives during Thanksgiving weekend 2010, after the boys finished one of many weekends at a basketball tournament. They were both in middle school, dad was beginning his journey running nonprofit organizations, and I was at a career crossroads. You were my constant companion. You were the true representation of my puppy brain as I was learning to meditate. You went with us wherever we were, we started to plan “Raffi-cations”, and our world revolved around you. You were the center of our orbit.
You came with me to drop off and pick up the boys at school and everyone draped themselves all over you. Over the years, you have been nicknamed, King Raffi, Princess Raffi, Rafaela, Waffles. Danny wrote a short story about your tail (“Fred”). You personified all that is good in this world. Your fear of fireworks rerouted our July 4th plans for the last decade and your fear of thunder had me racing home with every storm.
We danced. Oh, how we danced. You got three degrees and you were a certified therapy dog. Everyone said, “He is so regal!”. College students lined up to pet you. You brought me such joy and I wanted to share that joy with others who might need it. We all had our own voice to communicate with you. All the girlfriends loved you. I don’t know what we would have ever talked about because we always talked about you.
You were the definition of home that kept the boys close to the nest. Those eyes. That frump. Every one of us considered you our best friend. You lit up every room that you entered. Because of you, we opened our hearts and our home to Rosie. Then to Reece. We became that family. You were the only dog Rosie ever respected. You were Reece’s hero. In the end, he took care of you. He, and we, wanted you to live forever. Instead, we said goodbye. Maybe it was too soon, but we didn’t want you to suffer. We loved you too much. I’m not sure if the tears will ever stop. It hurts so much because we loved you so hard with everything we had. The world was a better place because you were in it. You left it all in our hearts.
I miss you terribly.
You are forever the heart of our family.
I love you Raffi