Thanks to everyone who left a message regarding Lulu, on twitter, instagram, facebook, and here on this blog.  Over a thousand well-wishes received.  Thanks so much.  It’s nice to see my gal was so well-loved.

On the other hand, at times like these, it’s hard not to second-guess, decisions made and not made.  So it was with my previous pugs and, despite the suddenness of her passing, so it is with Lulu.


I often refer to Maximus as the BEST dog.  And he really was.  Although stubborn in his refusal to go for lengthy walks and possessed of an affinity for food that often lead him into trouble (he once ate an entire take-out container of curry fussili he “rescued” from the garbage while we were out), you couldn’t ask for a sweeter, gentler, friendlier, laid-back pug.  When we would return home from trips and swing by our dogsitter’s place to pick him up, we’d invariably find him, sitting side by side with the house cat, sunning on the back porch.  He was wonderfully patient with kids, playful with other dogs, and loved nothing more than climbing into a stranger’s lap.


After Max received his cancer diagnosis, we tried everything we could to help him, but it was clear that he was fighting a losing battle.  He lost weight, his previously prodigious appetite waned, and he looked generally unwell.  It’s always a struggle to choose when to let go but I recall the moment Maximus followed me out to the backyard and then dropped onto his belly, looking up at me with plaintive, weary eyes.  I decided it was time.


In Max’s case, it wasn’t the timing of the decision that troubles me to this day but the fact that he was trembling when we brought him in to the vet.  It’s something he often did when visiting the vet, out of fear a borne from previous trips.  But this time, I thought, he had good reason to fear because I was bringing him there to die.  In the end, he went peacefully, but the fact that he passed away, fearful, still haunts me.


I like to say that Jelly was my longest relationship at 16.4 years.  She was my first pug and the opposite of Maximus.  Whereas Max was easy-going and affable, Jelly was impatient and demanding, free with her barks and bossy attitude.  At doggy daycare, they nicknamed her The Ref because of her penchant for jumping in whenever two other dogs started mixing it up.  In some ways, she reminds me of Suji.  They’re so much alike in many ways that I think that if the two had been alive at the same time, they would have downright hated each other.


Jelly suffered from a host of ailments in her later years, everything from hip dysplasia to spinal issues, but, in the end, it was a string of infections that ravaged her kidneys that proved too much for her little body to handle.  I remember seeing her go downhill and deciding the time was right, only to have her bounce back for several weeks.  The next time, I waited, and when it was clear she wasn’t getting any better and she started crying through the night, we brought her in.  She too went peacefully, but I’m still reminded of how bewildered she looked in her favorite pink bed as the vet techs fussed around her.


Bubba was originally intended to be a present for my ex’s brother but, after falling in love with the little guy, I decided to keep him and we got her brother a toaster oven instead.  I definitely got the better deal.  Bubba was neurotic, fearful of everything from skateboards and bikes to other dogs and parking lot entrances.  Sure, he was my dog in the beginning but, after Akemi moved in, he became her’s.  She doted on him and he became so attached that he would never leave her side.  When she would go out, he would cry himself hoarse.  I’d often come home from work to find the two of them sitting together – her working, him contentedly snoozing.


Bubba was incredibly healthy until almost the very end.  He developed a cough and, what at first we assumed to be pneumonia, turned out to be cancer.  I was working on Dark Matter’s third season at the time, away from home for much of the day, so I left Akemi to monitor his condition.  She knew him better than anyone and she would know when it was time.  And she let me know, texting me while I was on set, shooting one of our latest nights.  In Bubba’s case, he was clearly having trouble breathing, so there was no second-guessing the timing of the decision.  But the night did offer one of the saddest photos I’ve ever taken of Akemi saying goodbye to her favorite boy.


Lulu was different.  She could be aloof yet loving, obstinate yet playful, patient yet extremely determined.   Although scrappy in her early years, she grew disinterested in other dogs outside of her immediate pack family, preferring instead the company of people, guys in particular.  She was a bit of a flirt, at times capricious with her affections, but a tough cookie who always backed her pack-mates and proved a great companion to Suji, especially when she was first settling in.


Lulu was also different in that, unlike the pugs, her passing was sudden.  She’d developed a cough that we’d been treating with antibiotics and her condition seemed to improve in that regard.  Still, it was clear she was having trouble breathing (an issue she’d struggled with through most of her life), so we’d purchased a bronchodilator for her.  It was the first thing we used as we, at first, assumed she was struggling for breath, but when her pupils started flicking rapidly from side to side, I knew it was something far worse.  We whisked her up and rushed her to our bet, only two blocks away, but were too late to save her.


All signs point to a stroke and, as others have suggested, it was fairly quick and perhaps preferable to the suffering from an extended illness.  But I still can’t help but wonder IF we’d gotten to the vet sooner, IF we would have taken her to the vet immediately upon our arrival from Montreal for a check-up, IF it would have made a difference.


Lulu’s passing brings to an end that old gang of mine.  And one of my best memories I have of them was at bedtime, how they would all sleep on my side of the bed – Bubba tucked up against my left side, Lulu right up against my right, Maximus down by my feet, and Jelly on the pillow beside me.  It was tight, not always exactly comfortable, but they were great times.

31 thoughts on “January 1, 2020: Goodbyes!

  1. So sorry to hear about your loss. Thanks for sharing your heart with us. Here’s hoping it heals up soon. Take care.

  2. Dear, sweet Lulu. It’s a testament to how lovable she was that she has touched the hearts of literally thousands. She will live on in all our hearts.

    I think every one of us has experienced the what-if, whether if we did something different, or differently, would it have affected the outcome? But for as many times and about as many lives as that thought has been had, it has never changed a thing. Lulu and all the rest of the gang were blessed by having you and Akemi as their parents, and I’m sure they knew it.

    I’ve read that grief is not something you get over, it’s something you just adapt to and integrate into life going forward and I think that’s very true. One thing I have realized though is that over time, the worst of the sadness begins to fade and what is left, like the roughness being cut from a diamond, is the beauty and joy of the love we shared for the ones we’ve lost.

  3. Joe, What a touching tribute to your dogs. We had Kirby for almost 17 years, he had a great life, but it still wasn’t enough. They give so much to us, and their flame burns too quickly.

  4. I’m so sorry Joe and Akemi!

    My cat, Bella, died from cancer several years ago on New Year’s Eve and I think about that day every year. The “Was it the right time?”, “Did we do the right thing?”, “What if . . .?” questions still go through my mind. But, ultimately, you have to trust in your decisions and actions. You’ve always done what is best for your pets. Hell, you’ve gone above and beyond. In a way, I’m glad Lulu went quickly. It’s how I would want to go!

  5. To everything there is a season. You’ve shared your love and care with so many. Thanks for sharing your furbaby memories. I am sorry it was a surprising end, but perhaps it was quick and less painful. My thought with you and Akemi & Suji during this time. How is suji handling the change?

  6. I’m so sorry, Joe. Lulu will be missed by all who knew her.

    I remember fondly one visit where Lulu climbed on to my lap, and then on to my chest so that she could stare into my eyes. She held that stare for about a minute, apparently taking a measure of me as a visitor to your household. She then snorted/harrumphed loudly and settled back in to my lap to be petted. It seemed that I had met her (maybe tacit?) approval? She was a favorite of mine ever since then. She was truly a wonderful gal.

  7. I don’t think I could have said it any better than GForce did. I am so sorry this is the first I am finding this out. Busy holiday pet sitting and today, well, I was up all night with my stupid neighbors thinking it was okay to blast fireworks all night and keep me awake which the police reminded us they have no time to mess with because it isn’t against the law. So I slept a good portion of the day away and tomorrow I have a new set of pet sitting to do.

    Just for info, there are specialized vets who will come to YOUR home and put your pet to sleep for you. I’m sure if they are here they have to be in Canada and cities will be your best place to find them. My client’s cat was in that stage where she looked like “this was it” but then would rally. I thought my client was just at the hospital and sleeping there because she was on-call; apparently on that last day when I was desperately trying to reach her (as was her daughter at this point), she was flying back from a medical convention in another part of the country. So here was a medical professional, Joe, who deals with people dying every day, still was having trouble letting her beloved pet of 18 years go, so don’t be too hard on yourself. I didn’t realize the cat was that old; I had only been taking care of her since late 2012. Her daughter had to go to attend a dinner honoring her for something really important and couldn’t stay at the house and asked me if I could go back over and stay with her until she could get back from the airport (which would be like 1-1/2 to 2 hours) which I was very happy to do for her. In the meantime she asked me to call an in-home end-of-life vet if I knew of any and see if they could come that evening. One of my other clients had used a service in the area when her dog with cancer was dying; she had moved but I reached out to her and she gave me the name. I called my vet’s office to see if they knew of anyone and they gave me the same name. I got to her house and I comforted her daughter. When she was ready, she gave her to me. I told her to pull over and not to drive if she felt a wave of emotion coming. Fortunately she had a friend with her.

    The place was able to come and gave me an approximate time. I held the cat until the woman got home and filled her in on what I found out and what I decided. She wanted to hold Chloe and she did that and I got her things she needed so she had everything within hands reach and talked to her for a bit. About 20 minutes before they were to arrive, I told her if she didn’t need anything else I was going to leave (and would leave the door unlocked so she could just yell for them to come in). She had chargers (because her phone was almost dead), some water to drink, etc.

    It was very difficult for ME to leave. Once in the car, I had my breakdown; I didn’t want my client to see my distress at the time. I waited until I felt I could leave safely.

    Later she told me how wonderful this group was and that Chloe passed peacefully in her arms. It’s always a good thing to ask around before you need to use the services versus what happened with my client. We already plan to do it this way when it’s Boomer’s time. I know in Lulu’s case going somewhere because of what you thought was an acute situation was the proper course of action. What you are describing sounds very similar to how my Sam died. I knew something was off with him that day. I called the vet and made an appointment to bring him directly after I picked Patrick up from school. About 45 minutes before I was supposed to be at the school, Sam walked into the bedroom and I heard a thump. When I went in there, it looked like he was seizing. I called the vet’s office and asked them what I was supposed to do–I didn’t know how to help a dog’s seizure at the time. They were trying to tell me that it wasn’t a seizure; that is sometimes how a dog dies. They did tell me to put a towel under his back in because he would pee and poop which is also part of the process. I still had to go pick up PATRICK. OMG it was just awful driving over there with my dog having died halfway under my bed. I asked Jeff to find a way home from downtown Houston where he was working at the time. My neighbor helped me get him on a sheet to cover him up but eventually we brought him to the vet so he could be cremated. (This was a time before these places would pick them up at their actual residences). So we’ve had 2 of our dogs die at home from whatever was going on with them (our second dog Buddy had cardiomyopathy and his meds were costing us a fortune but we still weren’t wrapping our heads around the notion that he was dying and the meds were just prolonging his life until WE could accept it. I vowed to do better with Maddie. Maddie apparently had cancer and we didn’t know until she could no longer hide it from us. We found out on Monday; we put her to sleep by Wednesday because she was suffering so much. And now we have Boomer. Jeff and I have already decided that when it is time we’d like to have him put to sleep here at the house. And it makes me cry thinking about that inevitable day.

    I know all the pet lovers on this blog know the pain you are feeling. I’m sorry you and Akemi are having to go through this, but at least you are going through this together and can be supportive of each other.

  8. We don’t take the pets to the vet, we bring the vet to the home, regardless it always, always feels like betrayal. I’m so sorry. If we are good people in this life, I always feel we’ll be reincarnated as dogs.
    So sorry for your and Akemi’s loss.

  9. All I know is you gave each of your dogs the best life they could have ever asked for. You learn with each dog. That means all your future dog’s lives will be even better. Stop second guessing. I’m sure Jelly, Max, Bubba, and Lulu were right where they wanted to be. With you.

  10. So many people have told me how good it was that my Daisy died suddenly in my arms at home. At least I wasn’t stuffing her into a cage to go somewhere she hated. I wish I had done it sooner… alleviated her suffering. In actuality, there are no what ifs. I did the best I could and that’s just how it went.

    12.5 years, though not nearly enough for us, is considered to be full life expectancy for most small breeds like Lulu. There are exceptions both ways, but those things have more to do with genetics than the quality of our devoted care. As sad as I am for you, Akemi, and Suji, it was just dear, sweet Lulu’s time. Nothing would have changed that. Our pets, like us, get old, their bodies become frail, and then they become a cherished memory. I’ve been lurking in the background since you started blogging on WordPress, so I remember the others. They each lived wonderful lives in your care. You loved them completely and did the best you knew how.

    No what ifs. No regrets. You only end up making yourself miserable and it doesn’t matter. Each pet is unique. You do the best for them on an individual basis. Each has made you better for having known them. And in the end, they leave you wanting more.

    I shall continue to send healing thoughts your way as you go through the difficult work of grieving. Although you made me cry again, I appreciate your openness. We pet people need to know that we are not alone in the difficult times and that we share the same emotional struggles. Hug one another, cry if you want to, and give Suji an extra kiss.

  11. Oh, Joe. I’m still upset about Lulu. Can’t possibly know how you and Akemi must feel.

    My cat, Roxy, died within 10 minutes of me calling the vet to let him know I was bringing her in NOW before the clinic opened. She passed just as he pulled up beside us in his vehicle. She had hidden nearly all of her symptoms until that morning, so none of us knew just how sick she actually was. She had cancer but once she started showing major symptoms there was absolutely nothing that could have been done for her. Until that moment I didn’t realize just how dire the situation was.

    We all torment ourselves with the “did I do enough?” question because it such a huge decision for which to take responsibility. Knowing that doesn’t make it easier. All of which is just to say I understand, and again how very sorry I am for your loss, and that I hope you both find some peace knowing you gave wee Lulu her best possible life and that she loved you for it.

  12. I’m still tearing up about the loss of Lulu. And seeing them all together just makes the loss even harder. I can’t help but believe that “if” was not your burden to bear, “If” was not a choice sweet Lulu was given. Hugs to you, Akemi and Suji.

  13. What a sad thing to lose a beloved pet… been there as well 😣😣😢 I feel your pain!!!

  14. Joe, I am so sorry to hear about Lulu. I loved all of your pack from afar, but I held a special place for Lulu as I remember when you brought her home. I thank you for sharing them with us. I am an insufferable dog lover, and just can’t help myself. In person, on social media, it doesn’t matter. Although I’m finding as time goes on, and those I feel close to pass, I grieve along with the families as if I’d actually known them. Hang in there, my friends. You truly gave every one of your crew the best possible lives they could have.

  15. Such a beautiful tribute and you’ve definitely tapped into all of our memories of beloved fur babies. Very touching posts from everyone. I wish all the homeless pets were this lucky.

    As for what if’s, I’ve known of animal hospital resident pets who at strokes in the clinic and not make it. Realistically, I’m not sure what more you could have done. Lulu had a wonderful life. You both, treated her with love.

    How is Suji handling this? It doesn’t sound like she’s good with change.

  16. Hi Joseph, I’m so sorry for your loss. Reading through this post, I can identify so much with what you’ve written here.

    In October 2019 my wife’s grandma suffered a stroke. Before it happened, she’d been hospitalised after getting a bump on the head that resulted in a bleed on the brain. She was on so many tablets to control her arthritis, blood pressure, heartbeat, the works, and they’d had to cut all her meds right back in an attempt to let her brain heal. Headstrong and feisty as she was, she told the hospital staff that she had a live-in carer so they would let her go home. She didn’t. She had care workers visiting, but they came late morning and early evening. The rest of the time she relied on being just around the corner and in easy reach of her family on telephone.

    The day she came home, I was called to retune her TV. I’m kind of the appointed “tech” guy in the family. I should have realised when she was struggling to understand how to use her remote controls that something was wrong, but I thought she was just tired, she’d had a scare, a good rest would see her right, after all she’s been in similar states before. That night she had the stroke that would eventually lead to her death, three weeks later, unable to swallow and dead on the right side of her brain so her memories and lucidity became very muddled. If I’d realised at that point, if I’d have stayed longer rather than rushing home because it was WAY past my daughter’s bedtime and I was parenting alone that night because my wife was out getting her grandma some shopping and doing errands… The truth is even if I HAD realised and called an ambulance, she’d have had the stroke anyway. With the bleed on the brain she already had, it’s doubtful medics would have been able to have lessened the effects. But still.

    The week before Christmas, we adopted a cat. His name’s Alfie, he’s 8, and he’d lived all his life with an old lady but she passed away about a month after my wife’s grandma did. He’s lovely, a real gentleman, and people keep telling me how similar he is on looks and in temperament to my friend George who we had to euthanise in 2016. I’ve been really struggling with this. We called the vets out to our home when it was apparent George was really unwell. He soiled the carpet in our daughter’s bedroom, something he would NEVER do and given his amazing affinity for our daughter, the last room he would do it in even if he would mess in the house.

    I sat with him on my knee while we waited for the vets. My wife and daughter were downstairs. Lola was barely two and my wife couldn’t bear to be the one to say the final goodbye. So he was slumped, weak, on my knee, his once mighty rumble of a purr a shadow of what it would be. But as soon as the vets arrived, he completely freaked out and all my attempts to try and calm him (as tears spilled uncontrollably) were failing miserably. In the end they had to give him a sedative and wait for it to take effect before taking him away to ease him from this world. We had 12 years with him, we got him as a rescue cat when he was, we think, two or three. He suffered with arthritis from when he was about six and was on meds to try and help it, but those meds weren’t good for his heart. But still, he was a loving friend (albeit a bit grumpy and with some very, shall we say bachelor-esque habits) and when we had our daughter and bought her home, he circled around her in her car seat we bought her home from the hospital in before bowing down in front of her and making a chirruping sound that he’d never made before, nor ever made since. After that he was extremely protective of her and incredibly tolerant of her, never complaining when she pulled his fur, his tail, his whiskers. The only time he ever reacted, one time she must have REALLY hurt him, I was on the opposite side and he turned around and bit ME so as not to hurt Lola. I’m convinced now he’s her guardian angel (not least because she’s taken to sitting in the window, being really fussy about food, wanting OUR food but not her own even though we’re having the exact same thing and about a hundred other things she can only have learned from George) but I’m still haunted by that feeling that I let him down at the end, even though all we wanted was to make sure he didn’t suffer.

    They’re hard things to live with. It’s taking me some doing accepting that Alfie is not trying to replace George (George is irreplacable). They’re similar, but Alfie is his own person (as are all cats, dogs, all life forms when you take the time to get to know them) and he just wants to know he’s safe. All we can do is try and take care of all the people we love, be they human, feline or whatever else, and make the most of the time we get to be with them. Remember but don’t dwell.

    I hope your pain eases soon.

  17. Thank you for sharing this. I know others have and will say it, and even though it won’t stop you form wondering, there’s no point in the “ifs” – two blocks is incredibly close and you and Akemi are probably the best dog-parents I’ve ever been digitally acquainted with.

    I’ve been lurking on the blog a long time – seeing pictures of Lulu so small and the pugs again has been like seeing old friends. My heart goes out to you, Akemi and Suji.

  18. I am so sorry to hear about the sudden passing of Lulu. Those whatifs are always so hard but she had a wonderful life and was so loved. I don’t know what it is about the holidays but our cat Flash was struggling with his health and another friend’s pupper was in the same boat. We all only do our best for our fur family and in the end we have to accept that. My condolences to you and Akemi.

  19. Joseph,

    I couldn’t bring myself to read this entry until just now. I know I stated my condolences on Twitter, but seriously, I’m so sorry about this. She was adorable.

    That picture of Akemi is absolutely devastating. I know all about the pain and sadness and joy of dogs. It’s the cruel part of having pets. Such intense love, but for such a short time.

    I hope you are able to get past the worst of the hurting quickly.

    Please give Suji a cuddle for me. 💔

    Michael Duvic

  20. “waaaa, sniffle, balling” so sorry for your loss. Your description of your pals was wonderful. I feel ya.

  21. Dear Joe, I’m so very sorry to hear about Lulu. The “what ifs” are so hard. I’m not sure they ever completely disappear, especially in those melancholy little moments that sometimes sneak in when you’re remembering precious fur babies who depended on you to do the right thing. In May, we lost our sweet border collie Ritter to nasal cancer, agonizing over the last few months as we kept second-guessing whether it was “the right time.” Ritter was our happy-go-lucky guy, still loping (albeit slowly) after his beloved frisbee the day before he died. In the end, he let us know and we made the heartbreaking decision with much love. I guess it’s the price we pay for all the joy and happiness they bring into our lives. Sending warm hugs and hoping you and Akemi soon find more peace than pain whenever you think of sweet Lulu.

  22. So sorry to hear Joe.

    Losing Jack and Ralph within a few months of each other felt like I’d dreamed of their lives with me. Only their toys around to remind me they were real.
    Now with two new animals in the house, it feels like a completely different home. I miss their big grins every day and it haunts me that I had to sedate Jack before being euthanized. He hadn’t eaten for 5 days and was in pain but hadn’t given me that look and wanted to go for walks despite not being able to walk properly, so I still feel a pang when thinking about that choice.
    It’s never easy.

    Long distance hugs from a burning Australia.

    1. Hi Narelle – Yes, that’s exactly what it feels like every time you lose one.
      Stay safe!

  23. I’m so sorry about LuLu. I’ve been absent from the online media so I missed when it happened. It’s just so damn hard and second guessing is always an issue it seems but you guys are fantastic dog parents and would have moved a mountain if you’d known in time. Hugs to you, Akemi and Suji xx

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