Lately as I watch Piri grow older and face all sorts of medical issues, I have been feeling and thinking a lot of different things. One night I thought about our childhood cocker spaniel Bobby. All of the sudden I felt so guilty.
Well, no. Every time I think about him I always felt guilty. But right now I was feeling guilty over the fact that I was pouring so much thought and love and worry for my current dog, which obviously would make sense, and while I try not to think about the moment when I would have to say my good-byes, I did. And then I got sad thinking how my life will eventually go on. I will forget the hurt. I will continue to laugh and smile. Another dog may come into my life.
That's what happened with Bobby.
His death was so heartbreaking and I cried for days on end. But then high school graduation happened, college happened, my first boyfriend happened, my first break up happened, I got my first job, my first apartment, I fell in love for the first time, I got married. And somewhere inbewteen Piri came into my life.
Our family got Bobby just a few months after we immigrated to the US. He was a store bought puppy. This was all before we knew how bad buying store front puppies was.
He was the troublemaker of the group. Pulling on his sisters' ears and always the first one to drink about of the water bottle. He came home with us that day and on the way home he pooped inside the car.
I named him Bobby after a boy in my 2nd grade class. It wasn't that I had a crush on him. It was just a nice name and I thought it would be fitting for our new family member.
As Bobby grew older he showed signs of severe aggression and dominance. And any chance he would get, he would try to bolt out of the house. There were many times when he did and I remember running after him with a tasty treat in my hand. But he had such a sweet side to him as well. I remember when he would play with my ponytail thinking it was a toy and how he would always greet my dad when he came home from work. We would say he would do the Bobby slide (he would run and slide to greet my dad hello).
There were a lot of things we could've done better for him. When I think of that, my heart still hurts.
My mom mostly took care of him. The feeding, bathing and walks. He grew to be her protector. Any time my brother and I would pretend to hit her, Bobby would growl and throw himself in front of her so we couldn't touch her. He was so loyal.
But one day he bit her. In the face. And she was bleeding badly. But that didn't phase her. She just looked at him and he calmed down. Something unspoken but understood. Their bond was pretty strong.
Many years later we would be living in Norwood, NJ. My dad was back in Korea for work. My mom, brother and I decided to stay in the US until I was in college. Education was important for them and they wanted us to continue our education here. A year after my dad was back in Korea, my brother left for Georgia Tech. So it was just me and my mom and Bobby. Then a year later, Bobby died in a car accident.
I associate these three precursors as the start to my mom's mental illness. It's just my own thinking, but it makes sense.
My dad, my brother and Bobby were the world to my mom. She depended on them, but one by one they left her side. She was left feeling alone and scared in a country where she couldn't speak the language.
It was summer vacation and I was taking a nap. My mom came in my room and asked me to help walk Bobby. I said I was too tired and that I wanted to continue to nap. I should've helped her though. Bobby wasn't the greatest on the leash and he pulled constantly. But I was young and immature.
I remember falling into a dream. We had a recliner chair that Bobby loved. He would always sit on it with my mom. The foot rest of the recliner had broken off and was floating down stream. I yelled, "Mom! We have to save that piece! It's Bobby's favorite chair!" And my mom said, "It's too late."
I remember waking up to tires screeching. I had a really bad inkling and ran downstairs.
I would later find out that was the sound of Bobby's accident.
I was pacing near our front door - despite all the bad feelings I was having, I also had hope. I waited and waited to see my mom and Bobby come down the street. Instead, a couple of hours later, I saw a van pull up and my mom with Bobby's leash in her hand walking up to the front door, crying.
I remember hysterically yelling and asking her what happened. In my mind I was hoping that Bobby was injured and that he was being kept at the hospital. My mom just cried and couldn't get words out. Then she told me what happened.
She was walking Bobby and he had gone potty. She went to go pick up his poop. There were no cars. That area is normally very quiet. But when she went to pick up the poop a van was coming up the road. She didn't know and didn't have a firm grip on his leash and he ran. The van hit him and Bobby tumbled underneath and laid still. My mom grabbed him from under and the person driving the van, in shock, helped them in his car and drove them to the nearest animal hospital.
My mom said that Bobby didn't have any visible injuries. It looked like he was just sleeping in her arms. And then she put him on the examining table and the doctor lifted his mouth flap and blood dripped down. The doctor shook his head.
Bobby was gone.
After she told me the story of what had happened, my mom gave me the driver's business card. I just cried. Wailing. I hated myself. I killed Bobby because I wanted to nap. If I had just gone out then he would still be alive.
I wanted to call the driver and thank him. He had paid for the vet bill. He drove them there. And he cried. But I didn't call.
A couple of years later I would very much regret this. I wish I called him to thank him and pay him back for the expensive bill. I wish I could've told him that it wasn't his fault.
My mom and I went back to the animal clinic and we decided to cremate Bobby. I asked if I could see him one last time and they said no. That wasn't possible. They brought out his collar. His red collar. It was cold to the touch. He must be kept in a cold place so his body wouldn't rot.
That night I couldn't sleep. I couldn't stop crying. I kept hearing Bobby cry. He was whimpering. I looked up at the sky and the stars looked especially bright. I thought I saw a shooting star. I thought that was Bobby giving me a sign.
After Bobby left us, my mom's mental illness started to flare up and got worse as the months went on.
I wonder what would've happened if Bobby didn't die. I wonder if that would've changed the course of my mom's life, even just a little bit.
This would be the point where I would feel the guilt of being responsible for Bobby's death and contributing to my mom's mental illness in two ways - by taking away her beloved companion and making her stick it out here alone with me in the US so that I could finish high school and go on to college.