Til death do friends part

Illustration by Casey Kleeb

It’s hard to let someone go, especially when he or she has surrounded you for several years. But when you see it coming ahead of time, when you see the light at the end of your loved one’s tunnel and feel the rush of time and mortality, it can be even more difficult.

And if you’re far from home, it can be hard to justify being anywhere but with them.

The decision isn’t any easier if that loved one is a pet.

Indie singer Fiona Apple has postponed her entire South America tour so she can stay at home with her 14-year-old dog, Janet. The dog has had a tumor growing on her chest for the past three years and her heath is suddenly beginning to deteriorate at a swift rate. Janet is a rescue dog who was used in dogfights to bolster the confidence of the contenders. According to Apple, she has also been the singer’s closest companion for all of her adult life.

Apple penned a four-page letter to her South American fans explaining the situation and asking for their blessing for her choice.

Stop and think about this level of devotion and dedication for a moment.

Apple is postponing an entire tour indefinitely, just so she can be there for her dog in her final moments, “singing her to sleep,” the online letter reads.

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How many of us have had to make the same decision regarding a human loved one but chose the other option instead?

I did once, and I regret it. My paternal grandfather had just been placed in a nursing home when doctors discovered he had cancer. Two months later, I flew thousands of miles to go to college, thinking that if I changed my plans, I’d lose everything I’d worked for.

I never saw him again, and I didn’t have the money to go back to say goodbye at his funeral either.

My maternal grandfather followed him in death less than a month later. While his death was unexpected, the timing made it all the more painful. I still didn’t have the means to go and say goodbye.

I do not regret my decision to come to Alaska for college. So much good has come of it—so much love, friendship and opportunity. But I will always regret not being there in the final days and moments of not one, but two people that I still hold so dear to me. Knowing that I may never see one of them again, I chose to proceed with my plans and ended up losing both.

These lessons are painful, but they taught me that there are more important things than starting and finishing college “on time”, things that are far more important than making and saving money. And those things are the people that you love, even if those “people” are actually pets.

Apple has the right idea. She plans on being there for someone she considers her best friend until that friend’s final breath is drawn. She even says in her letter that she doesn’t want to be the “woman who chooses her career over love and friendship.”

If you have any friends or family that are ill or creeping on in years, make an effort to connect with them before you lose your chance. If you know the end is near, try to go to them. If you can’t get to them, call them. Let them know how much you care because life is short. Regret and what-ifs hurt worse than you’ll ever want to know.