Many question the wisdom of adopting a senior dog given the limited time you have with them.

In Suji’s case, we were blessed to have her for almost seven years.

She came to us via the Pacific Pug Rescue when she was almost twelve, wheelchair-bound, cantankerous and, surprisingly, not very affectionate for a pug.  She didn’t mind Akemi, didn’t like other dogs, and certainly didn’t like me who she tried her best to avoid those first couple of days.  Akemi wanted to give her a new name to symbolize her fresh start while I insisted that it was madness to rename a dog heading into their twelfth year of life, so we compromised.  And Suzy became Suji (short for Sujiko, Japanese for salmon roe).

And so, Sujiko started her new life with us.  Due to her condition, her back legs didn’t work so well so she relied on a wheelchair.  But she was a determined girl so we decided to test her, exercising her regularly, eventually walking her with a towel to help support her hindquarters – first a few steps, then the length of a street, eventually an entire block.  We brought her to therapy (hydro, laser, massage), and, slowly but surely, she regained the use of her back legs.  She started walking again.  A little wobbly, but she still walked – and we were able to put her wheelchair in storage.

Also due to her condition, she wasn’t able to pee on her own so we learned to express her bladder, first Akemi crouching down with her as the vet videos taught, later me with a standing off-the-hip motion that would worked far better.  She was also an oblivious pooper, dropping the occasional nugget until I learned to help her in that respect as well, earning myself the nickname Poop Whisperer.

Suji settled in quickly and grew to tolerate the other dogs in the house, fellow pug Bubba and frenchie Lulu.  She actually formed a bit of a bond with laid-back Lulu and, after Lulu’s sudden passing, spent days wandering the apartment looking for her.

Unlike most dogs, Suji didn’t mind being dressed up and she seemed to love the camera, so Akemi had no trouble starting a dedicated instagram page for her, a page that, at last check, had over 52k followers, over 10k more followers than I do despite my 400 hours of produced television including Stargate and Dark Matter.

Like a lot of celebrities, Suji would occasionally get recognized when she was out in public – on the street, in the park, once by a retail worker at Lululemon in Vancouver who rushed out of the store to meet her.  And, like a lot of celebrities, Suji was indifferent, grudgingly posing for pictures or suffering unsolicited pats.

Eventually, she lost the use of her legs again but this time, no amount of therapy would help her regain mobility and she was back in her old wheelchair for a time.  But eventually the neurological condition she suffered from made even that impossible so we switched to a doggy stroller and she would enjoy the outings, the feel of the rolling wheels underneath her, the sun on her face, being inaccessible to other dogs.

In her later years, Suji seemed to give in to her natural pugly instincts  and actually enjoyed being cuddled, usually on Akemi’s lap or when I would carry her in my arms like a baby.  That was when she was the most comfortable.  And, really, so long as we were near, she was fine.  Of course as she got older and her hearing went and her eyesight failed, “near”, became increasingly Suji subjective.  She preferred it when I sat on the couch beside her and worked or if she could rest her chin on my reassuring foot while I was at my stand-up desk.  The last time we went away (to Japan), she was still mobile and had Lulu to keep her company, so she stayed with a friend.  When we picked her up following our two week trip, she absolutely let us have it, barking her outrage in the backseat of the car the entire drive home.  But since Lulu’s passing, and Suji’s high-maintenance needs, we shelved our travel plans indefinitely.

Suji turned 18 this past May and, all things considered, we thought she was doing pretty well for a girl her age and were hopeful she’d hit 19 at least.  But her conditioned worsened.  The vets suspect her neurological condition was slowly working its way up her body, robbing her of the ability to walk, then making the most mundane of things difficult – holding her head up, chewing and swallowing, breathing.  We switched to softer food, smaller bites, and then hand-feeding.  We tried propping her up so she’d have an easier time of it.  Despite our best efforts, she struggled, occasionally choking.  I had to perform the doggy Heimlich on her on three separate occasions over the past month.

Ultimately, breathing became an issue so we would lie her with her chest and head propped up, or we would carry her around, again like a baby, to keep her airway clear.  But, in the end, even those measures were fleeting and she would suffer scary respiratory attacks where her tongue would turn purple.  So we made the decision.  The plan was to take her out for burgers and coconut ice cream (to accompany the seasoned chicken Akemi had been making for her, her absolute favorite) and arrange a visit for an in-home euthanasia today.  But late yesterday afternoon, she took a turn for the worse – gasping for breath, tongue purpling – so we called our vet and brought her in.

Our vet, and the team at then Queen West Animal Clinic (connected to the Four Paws Rehab center we would take Suji to for her hydro and laser therapy) were amazing and incredibly reassuring.  I held Suji in my lap as she drifted off to sleep for the last time.

My biggest regret is that she never got that coconut ice cream.

Now, the house feels quiet and empty.  Unusually so.  For the first time in almost 25 years, I’m without a dog.  And I don’t like it.

For now, Akemi and I will mourn our girl and focus on other things, maybe finally take that long overdue trip back to Japan.

And when we come back, we’ll look into adopting another dog or two, preferably seniors.  Because in spite of the limited time you have with them, what may feel like few years to you is a second lifetime to them, one filled with hope and love and fun and affection and sleeping on a huge bed and getting to paint with little sponges on their paws and eating barbecue duck from T&T.

I’ll miss my girl.

I leave you with a few of my favorite Suji videos…

54 thoughts on “September 20, 2023: Suji

  1. You are best parents a dog could have. So much care and love. Suji had the best life a little pug could possibly have. Losing a family member is the hardest. ❤

  2. I am beyond sorry to hear the news of dear sweet Suji. Even when as a pet parent you know the day is coming, it is never any easier. Please know that you and Akemi went above and beyond for Miss Suji and certainly just in adopting her, gave her years of love and joy that she may not have had otherwise. As a fellow animal lover and rescuer of the forgotten and left behind, I commend and thank you both for adopting a senior pet. And I hope that your memories of her will offer you comfort in the wake of her passing. I will be saddened at not seeing her sweet little face in updates and posts but I thank you for sharing her journey with all of us. Big hugs to you and Akemi 🫂

  3. I’m so so sorry Joe and Akemi. I know that words can’t help xxxx but big big hugs for you both xxx

  4. Dear Akemi and Joe

    I write this with tears in my eyes, not figurative, but real and saying sorry to someone that one does not know seems some how insincere, a generalisum that one uses but let me assure you both, dear Akemi and Joe, that I genuinely mean it when I say that I am so sorry that your little girl is no longer with you. Through your social media and blog posts you allowed your followers to share the little snapshots of the joy that Suji brought into your lives and as an onlooker I feel it was a privilege to behold as the love and devotion that you both had for Suji was clear to see. She could not have asked to be more loved and cared for.

    I have been where you are now several times with my own previous dogs and while each of us handle things differently, none more so than grief, everyone understands the feeling of losing a member of the family as that is exactly what dogs are. When Suji took her final nap she did so knowing that she was loved and there is no price that can be placed upon that.

    With love and best wishes

    Kenneth

  5. Joe and Akemi, I am so sorry. This was a sad read but at the same time funny, amusing, and definitely uplifting. Suji could not have asked for better parents.

    It was a pleasure following along over the past 6 years. Sixteen years ago I came here for Stargate Atlantis and stayed for your dogs, family, travel, and food posts. And you too of course!

    You and Akemi are amazing “dog whisperers”. How lucky your next one will be. Go to Japan. Enjoy. Then come back and get us another dog!

    RIP JellyMaxBubLuSuj

  6. I’m thankful there are people like you and Akemi who will take in senior dogs. It is a blessing to them to enjoy their twilight years. I’ve never taken in a rescued senior dog or cat (or ferret) but almost all my pets have lived with us until they passed away. It is very difficult. Good memories but difficult to lose them.

  7. My condolences to you both. Suji’s adventures have always been so enjoyable to follow, as she’s such a special little pup! I’ll never forget her squishy little face!

  8. Thank you again for sharing Suji with us over the years. All I can do today is cry with you as I have a 17 year old rescue pug ( Maggie) that I will have to let go soon.
    Little Suji brightened my days after the loss of my last rescue, Emma Toochie. I loved seeing her precious little face everyday and she made me realize that I had to have another pug. I actually have 3 now….Maggie 17, Monkey 6, Abigail ( a.k.a. Ass-agail) 5.
    My favorite videos of you and Suji are where you are dancing around with her, and the one where she wants on the couch but pooped on the last clean blanket.
    Thank you for all the smiles you 3 have given me. The loss is tremendous and I’m so sorry for your grief. Please leave her page up for all of us that love her…and whose lives she left her little pawprints on.
    Love and prayers to you and Akemi.💔

  9. sniff sniff, sorry for your loss 😥 You guys were great pet parents. As a pet parent of many, I sympathize. They are all special and missed when they leave us. xxoo

  10. My deepest condolences to both of you. I’m so very sorry for your loss. I cannot say enough about how I came to love this precious baby, showing pictures of her that I was often asked if that was my baby. I always looked forward to seeing her, and Suji Sunday was a thing in our house, and always will be. Adopting an elder to love, and give a wonderful life to is a very precious gift. No doubts at all she thrived, loved, and lived. She will never be forgotten, but she will definitely be missed. She was a sweet, strong, bad ass, lady.
    Our love, and sympathy to you and your family. ❤

  11. You have brought a tear to my eye. After so many Suji Sundays I will miss her cute Pug face. My condolences. I can empathize having lost my little Hallie a few years ago. I still miss her.

  12. I am so glad you got to spend such a long time with Suji. You were both so lucky to have each other.

  13. Oh Joe. 🙁 I know your and Akemi’s hearts are sad now. What wonderful doggie parents you are. It is admirable to adopt seniors who need that second chance at love and safety and a home to live out their elder years in.
    Take this time to travel and let your hearts say good bye. Then the hunt can begin again. Whomever you find. They will be very lucky as you guys are the best.

  14. Such an inspiring story and life. Thank you and Akemi for sharing Suji with us.. RIP Suji.. 💕🐾🌈

  15. Such an inspiring story and life. Thank you and Akemi for sharing Suji with us.. RIP Suji.. 💕🐾🌈

  16. Oh Joe…
    A super, wonderful tribute, for an amazing (and so very lucky to have met you both!) character. You and Akemi are THE most amazing ‘parents’. What an incredible second lifetime you gifted to sweet Suji!

    And she so obviously loved you both so much too!

    All my love to you both
    🐾💕🐾

    Thank you, Joe, for sharing her life with us too, via Suji Sundays. A highlight of the week for me, for sure! 😊👍

  17. What a wonderful tribute to a special girl.

    My husband and I have always had a special place in our heart for Suji. She reminded us of our senior rescue Daisy who had a very similar personality.

    Thank you for sharing your cherished girl with us. I hope that your good memories will comfort you during this difficult time.

  18. Read this today while standing in the grocery store and started tearing up. Very sad that it was an unexpected more urgent situation than planned but she was loved by people around the workd and most of all you and Akemi. You and akemi took such good care of her she was so lucky to have a second lease on life ❤️

  19. So sorry for your loss. I found Suji from your posts on Reddit and she immediately reminded us of our former pug Ella. We could see the same fierce, sassy attitude in her eyes, regardless of how her body was. Ella succumbed at age 12 to DM so we know how much you loved Suji with the mobility issues and bladder expression. Bless you for giving a senior pug a chance!

  20. Ah, dammit, Joe. Hugs to you & Akemi.
    (and yes, I’m actually crying right now)

    It certainly does feel freaking weird to be critterless. When the time is right for you, there’ll be another aging pup (or more) gracing your lives with his/her incredible fursonality. Thank you both for taking in & loving those beautiful dogs when others can’t… or won’t.

    Suji, & all your other dogs, was incredibly lucky to find a loving home with you. Thank you. 💕

  21. Thank you for sharing. My mom’s dog Toby is 14 and still demands I sit on the couch to pet him. Best luck on your next dog and happy travels.

  22. I’m so sorry for your loss. I really enjoyed all the suji images on Instagram, they really brighten my days during tough times. Thanks again for sharing all the memories.

  23. I don’t comment much (=at all) but I’ve read this blog since before you met Akemi (I remember the first meet in Japan) and the days of the pack of Jelly, Max, Bubba, and Lulu, and then the wonderful Suji. It’s been a privilege to see how much you love your family, those with two and four legs, and you’ve made me a better and more thoughtful dog mom. Our hearts are with you and Akemi.

  24. Oh Joe. I am do sorry for your loss. We lost our Baby Joey in February and miss him terribly. You and Akemi were such wonderful mom and dad to Suji.

  25. She inspired so many smiles, joy, and heart warming giggles over the years.
    And the deep bond of love the three of you shared together
    always shined through in every photo and video.

    Thank you so much for sharing her
    and your journey with her with us. xo

    Warmest hugs and much love to you and Akemi.

  26. Akemi and Joe, I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m glad that Suji was so fortunate to have you as her parents. May she rest in peace.

  27. I’m so sorry Joe! You definitely did give her a second life. 6 years more than she would have had. She was definitely one of a kind!

    Hugs to you and Akemi.

  28. That was beautiful! I’m crying because you’ve captured a lot of my feelings when I lose a fur baby. Very sorry you’re both going through this. I know you expected it but it’s still a gut punch. Suji had such an interesting personality. Thanks for sharing her with all of us. From barn gal to big city diva. Who could ask for more?

  29. Once again, my sincerest condolences to you on Sujiko’s passing. She had a
    Wonderful life with you both , and
    Rewatching these videos was telling of your love for Suji !🙏🐾🩷🤗 Blessings for you.

  30. Thank you for all the smiles Suji. Your little adorable face popping up in my internet feed was always the most welcomed reminder of all the good still out there.

  31. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ Beautiful post…. lots of love and support. Take your time.

    I felt a bit helpless so I made a donation to Pacific Pug Rescue in Suji’s honour.

    xoxo Chev

  32. Dear Joe and Akemi, I’m so sorry to hear about Suji. I know your hearts are heavy now, but thank you for sharing her with us over the years. How wonderful that her golden years were spent in a home with so much love and affection. RIP Suji.

  33. Thank you so much for sharing Suji (and the others) with us over the years. Your sweet fur babies have added so much joy to our lives, too. I’ll watch Suji’s videos when I am cried out and can see them. For now, please accept my heartfelt thanks and condolences. You and Akemi gave Suji a far better life than she ever could have dreamed possible. I am so sorry for your loss. May you be comforted by memories of her happiness.

  34. What a beautiful eulogy to Suji, Joe. So sorry for you and Akemi. You knew this was coming, but that doesn’t make it any easier! I have never known you to be without a dog, so I’m sure you will have another in due time, and that one will be very lucky, too!
    Good wishes to you both.
    Dorothy

  35. So sorry for your loss and that Suji didn’t get the chance for her ice cream. I have long admired you and Akemi for always going that extra mile to meet her needs and make her happy. Thank you for sharing her with us.

  36. I’m so glad Suji got to leave that drafty barn to be adopted by such great pug parents, I truly have no sense of time because it seems like it was yesterday we were reading about Suji’s first hydrotherapy. No one could wear a flower hat like Miss Suji, and I love that she did not suffer the advances of other foolish pets and their rude sniffing.

    Sending hugs to Joe and Akemi, safe travels to Japan? And to Las Vegas for that fine dining extravaganza? I met a couple last year that drives pets across states to get to new homes on their weekends and thought of Suji’s journey, so hugs also to the kind folks who helped Suji get from that cold barn to her forever home.

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