Sake with an i


“Saki was my baby boy.”  Tina smiles and lets out a little chuckle. “He was like pig pen, he shed 24/7.”

Saki was a handsome brown eyed Shiba Inu.  This small, agile hunting dog originated in Japan.  Even though the life span is typically 13-15 years old, Saki was going strong at age 16 1/2.  A month ago, my very good friend Christina said goodbye to Saki, her daughter Jessica and Jason by her side.   Opening up emotionally is not Tina’s secret skill but she generously agreed to be my first interview on the subject of loss.

DDM: Is that Sake with an e?

TINA: No, with an i.

DDM: Why an i?

TINA: Because I had a ten year old girl who wanted to make a heart over the i.

DDM: How would you describe Saki?

TINA: Saki was a person.  He was a member of the family.  (Tina takes a deep breath).  Saki has a piece of my heart.  Jessica (her daughter) always says, “he’s your favorite child.”

DDM: Is the love of a pet different than love of a person?

TINA: Look, Jessica loves me no matter what, she has to.  We get angry and we fight.  A dog doesn’t get angry, they love you no matter what.

At this moment the phone rings, Tina’s mother is on the other end proclaiming her research findings on the purchase of a new TV.  Tina does not have an opportunity to inject a syllable.   The conversation lasts a few minutes, Tina hangs up the phone and sighs.

TINA: Saki never bothered me like that!  Again a pronounced smile glides across her face and she let’s out a chuckle.  He would let me sleep and just sit by the edge of the bed and stare at me breathing in my breathe until I woke up.  (tears begin to well in her eyes)

DDM: Describe people’s sensitivity to your loss.

TINA: I don’t think people get it.  For me, I don’t like to talk about it.  I went to see a friend and even after telling her about it, moments later she wanted me to direct my attention to puppies on the TV.  “Look at the puppies” she insisted and I just kept saying no.   My cousin also had a similar reaction.  She is attached to her dog and soon after my loss she still had a hard time understanding why I didn’t want to pet Clancy.  That aggravates me.

DDM: Do you think he can be replaced?

TINA: (without hesitation) NO.

DDM: How to you find each other?

TINA: We had seen a million Shibas, but it was him.  He immediately picked out Jessica.  Jess and her father would go to see puppies, it was their thing.  Well, the went to one shop and there were Shibas on the floor with a baby gate blocking them.  Saki kept jumping out and finding Jessica.  They would put him back and he would just get out again and find her.  That night, she kept talking about the dog, “but Daddy, please”.   So the next day we all went and sure enough he picked Jess again.  When you picked him up he put one paw on either shoulder and snuggled close to your neck. I know he picked Jessica but he really picked all of us. When he was little he would hug you.

DDM: What is your favorite memory of Saki?

TINA: Just sitting out back with him or playing ball or walking.  We had a crickety convertible and he would love to drive with the top down, standing on the back seat with his head out the back…He was 16 1/2, we were lucky.  He would jump in bed and cuddle.


DDM: Describe the relationship between Saki and your daughter.

TINA: When I think of memories of Jess, Saki is always there.  For her, every memory is tied to him.  Jess and Saki were like siblings, at night when I would say it is time for bed, they would both run to the bed to fight over the better position.  Saki usually ended up squashed against the wall.  Her face lights up and she giggles.  He was like her little brother.    When I was 15 or 16, I went to a psychic and she told me you’re gonna have a girl and a boy.  Saki was my boy.

DDM: Are there objects/things that belonged to Saki and is it difficult or soothing to look at them?

TINA: His favorite toy was a pink stuffed puppy.  When I see it, it makes me very sad.  Jessica has his harness.  At this point the words are halted in her throat.  She chokes. She has his leash.  For me, his bed was too much, I couldn’t look at it but his blanket is there folded.  It makes me feel better.  Like my grandmother’s necklace (she touches her hand to the gold chain around her neck), it reminds me of them, makes me feel like I have a piece of them.

DDM: Use a sentence or metaphor to describe Saki to a stranger?

TINA: Cotton Candy and Ice Cream! It was like having a second child only, never angry, never disappointed, easy to love.

DDM: Thank you Tina!


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