Eli

14 June 2009–10 July 2021

As I write this, Eli, Elias, Mr. Hambone, Yellow, or Master Elias Shigeru of Devonshire and West Palm Beach, is lying next to me, quietly snoring in the Friday evening heat. I’m gently rubbing his ears with my foot, the sensation of his soft fur against my skin a familiar comfort. But by the time I share or post this, our sweet, sweet Elibee will have crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

We brought Eli home as a chubby, adorable 7-week-old puppy in August of 2009. From the very beginning he was a handful, but in the most joyful, playful way. A cute yellow furry package of seemingly inexhaustible energy, always begging to play and have fun. In the beginning his older brother Devon wanted nothing to do with him, but eventually they became best pals, walking all around the neighborhood and running free in the then-empty office parking lots of North San Jose.

We moved to our current home as Eli was in peak adolescence. He was a skinny, gangly creature that was all-play, all-love. He took full advantage of the fact that our new home had a big backyard, running around and chasing balls for hours on end. Run and jump, run and jump, run and jump. He was unstoppable.

Once, a new set of neighbors moved in next-door, and when Eli heard (or smelled) the new neighbors’ dog, he ran into the fence so fast that he knocked a couple of boards down and went through it. He gave me such a fright, and I was so relieved that the neighbor’s much-larger dog was friendly. Bill and I didn’t know what to say. “Hi, we’re your neighbors. Sorry about our dog. Would you like some wine?”

It was a running joke in our home that Eli was going to turn into a calm labrador “soon, maybe next year”. For the longest time, “next year” never came. He kept throwing himself into bodies of water during walks. Maintained his high-intensity style when playing with other dogs. Never stopped jumping up on people to say hello and give kisses. He stayed goofy, athletic, and extremely energetic year in and year out, even as Devon slowed down from old age and as youngest brother Rigby came into our lives.

One day between Christmas and New Year’s Eve in 2018, Eli suddenly lost all motion in his hind legs. It came with absolutely no warning. We were scared and confused, and Eli was morose. Knowing that Eli went overnight from being energetic and athletic to immobile and depressed, we thought seriously whether it was time to say goodbye. But he surprised us. One day he stood up on his own and started walking, albeit clumsily, slowly, and extremely unsteadily. We took that as a sign that he wanted to keep on truckin’.

And keep on truckin’ he did. We had him seen by a canine neurologist, who told us that he had spinal problems, and that surgery was not recommended. All we could do was help him move, manage his pain, and ensure that he did not make his problems worse by overexertion. We spent weeks having to use a sling to help him walk outside just to do business, but over time he learned to move without assistance. The neurologist told us that Eli might lose all hind leg control in a year or less. The fact that I am writing this two-and-a-half years later is a testament to his spunk and zest for life.

The spinal injury plus arthritis slowed him down, and at last turned him into the calm lab that we joked about. “You’re finally the lab I always imagined having,” said Bill. Mr. Hambone learned to adjust to his condition. He stopped expecting hours-long ball-chasing sessions and switched to demanding walks. He was always a sweet, loving dog, but he became even more of a lapdog, a gentle snugglepup. And during these walks, when he is clearly at his happiest, he would pause his near-constant sniffing to look at his human, with a big smile and eyes full of love and affection.

Recently we noticed that he was being very ginger with his food, and we brought him to the vet who told us that he really needed dental work. We scheduled it a few weeks out, but several days before the dental work we noticed swelling in his lip and gums. We thought it was an abscess. Today the vet gave us the terrible news. The swelling was oral cancer that was growing very rapidly, and that it was time to consider saying goodbye. Baby Yellow is on heavy-duty pain management now, and doesn’t have much time.

And so here I am, lying beside my beautiful, sweet Elibee, watching him sleep and thinking about how much we will miss him when he’s gone. I look at him and try to think of how best to do right by him. How long should we wait? How long is too long?

Dearest Elias… know that we love you very, very much. We promise to help you cross the Rainbow Bridge when it’s right *for you*. As much as we hate to lose you, we would rather go through the pain of saying goodbye so soon than force you to suffer needlessly for too long. Thank you for 12 wonderful, joyful, stressful, frustrating, exhausting, happy, loving, rewarding, amazing years. Thank you for all the snuggles and kisses and licks and barks and leash tugs that you’ve given us. Thank you for showing us a beautiful example of resilience and determination. Thank you for helping me in more ways than you will ever know. Thank you for everything. Say hello to your brother Devon, and please visit us in our dreams.

Run free, baby, until the universe reunites us. All my love.