Nerd in Transistion: Tomorrow Kenai is Going to the Vet

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Nerd in Transistion: Tomorrow Kenai is Going to the Vet


a blogumn by Kelly Kaboom Lett

Thanksgiving Eve & Day, 2009
Marquette,  MI

kellyandkenaiFor the first time in almost ten years I am home for Thanksgiving. This is a noteworthy event. Since moving from the security of my parents home in Michigan to New York and then onto LA, I have always come back for Christmas, but never the great feast.

Though the most familial of all holidays, it just never seemed important enough to return for. Typically I fly into Michigan for a little ho-ho-ho, ankle deep snow, pretty packages, glutenous meals, fights with my Mother and gorgeous candle-lit services.

As soon as it’s all done I climb on a big ‘ol jet airliner and get carried far away. This may sound bad, but truthfully I love my family fiercely. It is this fierce devotion that has me back after such an absence. Still being a struggling artist there can only be one flight across country and it had to happen now.

My oldest cousin is fighting stage 4 lung cancer, she’s all of 42. A non-smoking, marathon runner with two teenagers and a loving husband; this wasn’t suppose to happen to her. It wasn’t suppose to happen to us. We’re a strong, healthy, stubborn crew; a real bunch of tough cookies. So how did a young leader in the family come to fight for her life? Without an answer we have swooped into the U.P. eager to love her before it’s too late.

To go along with this is a rapidly aging dog who’s own health is in decline. This isn’t just any dog, she is the essence of the term, man’s best friend. Shortly before I turned 18 I paid $50 for the pick of the litter of Chow/Pit mixes. A roly-poly ball of black and white fur with more spirit then her puppy belly could hold, I fell in love immediately. As she grew it was evident that she was not a Chow/Pit mix, but it didn’t matter, she was everybody’s favorite. I named her Kenai after a bald eagle at the zoo. Kenai quickly proved her intelligence by learning commands I never taught, her devotion by pushing through two torn ACL’s each requiring surgery, her love by being ever present and her gentleness by becoming a therapy dog traveling to hospitals and rest homes. Over the years my father often commented on his love for this exceptional creature; he often finished by saying how difficult it would be to let her go. Now that time has come.

This Thanksgiving morning as I sipped a mimosa in my Aunt’s kitchen he turned to me and said, “Well are we all in agreement that tomorrow Kenai is going into the vet?”

The room got quiet as I paused, looking at him hard. I turned my gaze out the window to the crashing waves of Lake Superior. A fierce wind blew slapping cold rain against the glass, yet all I saw was my dog’s life flash before my eyes. Did you know that could happen? I didn’t. In time I turned back to look into my father’s now red rimmed eyes, “Yeah.” I said softly and nodded.

We settled on burying her in the dune. Excusing myself I went downstairs to pet her as she lay on the bed she hadn’t moved from all day. With tears flowing I told her she had been a very good girl and it was OK to go now, we had all said goodbye and she is going to rest in her favorite place forever. If only it were that easy. The dog’s a fighter, unfortunately this is a battle she can’t win.

Dinner would commence at 5pm, later than usual so my cousin could rest from her most recent chemo treatment. When they all arrived I was shocked by how good she looked. In my mind I had created this hairless waif bravely fighting through her last days while vomiting up sips of water. To look at her there is no evidence that anything is wrong. She cracked jokes, told stories, ate second helpings and scratched her daughters back as her son gave us a little guitar recital. There was no talk of cancer today. Instead we all enjoyed an amazing meal. I’m not kidding everything was made from scratch and absolutely perfect. I’ve never experienced anything like it. No coarse words were spoken, no teardrops fell; laughter richer than the aroma of roast turkey filled the air. While I wish we had all come together for reasons other then terminal illness I am so glad we did.

This day I am thankful to be sitting at the same table as my sister. I am thankful to share the same strong genes keeping my cousin going. I am thankful for parents determined to keep us together. I am thankful for the softness of thick black and white fur. I am thankful for the transitions that bring us together, test our resolve and strengthen our bonds. I pray that God blesses you as he has me.

**At 9:26am on November 27 Kenai was laid to rest on the banks of the mighty Lake Superior as a bitter wind blew and my father sobbed.