When I was just a little baby, my parents went out and got the family a dog. The way that my mom explains it is that this little puppy won them over when she decided to pee right on my mom. She was perfect. And she was, for the most part. She was a Japanese Akita, and she was mostly black, with a white diamond-shaped patch on her chest. Her name was Mika.
We grew up together. In a way, I think it was clear that she was my dad’s dog—they usually are. But in another way, she was mine. They got Mika when both she and I were only a couple months old, and we had her for the first thirteen years of my life. She was such a sweet dog.
At least, to us humans. We would sometimes find dead opossums and squirrels near her makeshift dog house (which was also our open-mouthed shed). And every once in a while, she’d take trips around town with our other Akita, Damian. My parents took him home almost three years after we got Mika—not too long after my sister, Brianna, was born.
Mika and Damian were partners in crime, but it was clear to us who the mastermind was. Damian had a couple loose screws.
But besides running away and the occasional opossum, Mika was a top notch dog. She was just so sweet and loyal and obedient; she was my favorite thing in the world. She’s definitely the reason I’m such a dog person.
Throughout my entire childhood, I never once thought about losing her. For as long as I could remember, she’d never been sick, and when she’d run away, she’d always come home. So when I found her in the wooded area behind my house when I was thirteen, I panicked.
I remember it very clearly. It was the weekend after my birthday, and I wasn’t feeling so great about myself, so I went outside to talk to Mika. Being the quiet kid I was, I always talked to my dog about everything; I knew she couldn’t answer, but I found some sort of solace in talking to her.
She wasn’t in or near her dog house, and the gate between my backyard and the wooded area was slightly opened. I walked through, calling for her, until I heard her whimper. I found her standing on the other side of a fence, frozen in one spot. I went to her, and tried to move her, but I couldn’t. She wouldn’t budge on her own.
And I freaked.
I started yelling at her to move, but she wouldn’t. She just stared at me, breathing heavily. I had no idea what was wrong with her.
So, naturally, I got my dad.
When I brought him to Mika, he immediately knew that something was up. He decided that he was going to carry her to the truck, and take her to the animal hospital, a five minute drive away from home. I was nervous and couldn’t sit at home and just wait, so I hopped in the car with him. The entire time was really difficult because Mika’s quick, shallow breathing didn’t show any signs of stopping. I was lucky that I didn’t break down right there and then.
I still didn’t think that this was the end of her life when dad carried her into the hospital, and I still didn’t think it when we took her to the back. I just thought that something could be fixed, and then we could go home.
But then the vet gave us really bad news. She had something he called bloat, and her stomach was twisted, and everything she was taking in, nothing would come out. His solutions were either surgery or euthanasia.
The surgery was thousands of dollars—money my parents didn’t have to throw around. And euthanizing Mika was much less than the surgery, and she was thirteen, so the vet didn’t see a reason to keep her going, if she was only going to live [maybe] a year longer. So my dad made the decision to put her down.
Before the doctor went to get the juice, he asked us if we wanted to be in the room. My dad, who was one to never really show emotion, didn’t’ want to stay to watch. I, on the other hand, was a thirteen year old girl who was going to lose her best friend—I wasn’t about to leave her in the room alone with the doctor. So I asked to stay, and my dad wasn’t going to leave me in the room.
So we stayed for her last moments. It wasn’t my first time with death, but Mika was such a big part of my life. I held her paw and pet her head, and I even managed to not cry, until the doctor left the room.
That was the only time I had ever seen my dad cry. My dad, who led me to think that men didn’t cry, cried a lot. He was able to manage himself before going home, but I couldn’t. I cried the whole way home, and let Dad tell Mom and my siblings.
And as for me, I went straight upstairs to my room, put on my first home movie, and watched the first five minutes on a loop, where a puppy version of Mika ran around the front lawn, until I fell asleep.
I still wonder, sometimes, if she found either Nan or Opa, on the other side. And I wonder if dogs watch over people from the other side. If they did, I would think that she’d watch over me. We spent my entire childhood, and her entire life, together. I loved her when she was here, and I still do, now that she’s not.
I always thought she’d make a good guard dog.
Prompt: Have you ever had the rotten experience of having to put a pet down? Tell us about it.