By Dr Ken Lunde
Reality sets in, and the meaning of the title of this article became crystal clear to me due to events that transpired early this year.
Although 2023 has barely begun, its first month was very difficult for our family.
First, our tuxedo cat, Pocky (ポッキー), whom we adopted in December of 2007 at the age of two months, passed away on 2023-01-10. He was over 15 years old, and although we did not know what ailment was afflicting him, as soon as we realized that he was suffering, we brought him to the vet so that he could be euthanized. My wife and I were with him, and our daughter, who lives and works in Seattle, joined via LINE video chat. We all cried.
Then, to make matters worse, and less than two weeks later, our German Shepherd Dog, Lucky (ラッキー), whom we adopted in April of 2012, also at the age of two months, was diagnosed with high-grade/aggressive (aka terminal) lymphoma. She was given four to six weeks to live. We celebrated her 11th birthday on 2023-02-27. We started to give her oral steroids on 2023-02-22 to mitigate the spread of the cancer, but they stopped having any effect after about three weeks. Although it was almost eight weeks, she passed away at our home, in our backyard (her favorite place), on 2023-03-18 at 7:35AM. I was with her. My wife and daughter, who were in Japan at the time, had a LINE video chat with Lucky a little over thirty minutes before she passed. I cried throughout the day. I was crying while writing this article.
Choco Lunde & Pocky Lunde
Inexplicably and somewhat out of the blue, we adopted two cats — siblings — in December of 2007. They were born in early October of that year, and their names were Chester (longhair black) and Oliver (shorthair tuxedo). We renamed them Choco (チョコ) and Pocky (ポッキー). Our daughter, who was seven years old at the time, was ecstatic. Pocky was named after the Japanese snack of the same name, because he had white legs and a black body. Choco was very cautious and reserved, while Pocky was curious and clumsy. They were always together. Choco always looked after Pocky.
Sadly, Choco had to be euthanized on 2008-10-10, shortly after turning one year old. We think that he was run over or hit by a car, and had quite severe internal damage. He was euthanized to end his suffering. My wife and I were with him. The same doctor who euthanized Choco also euthanized Pocky over 14 years later.
For a time, its seemed as though Pocky would look for Choco, wondering where he had gone, but eventually life went on. Pocky was both an indoor and outdoor cat. He loved the comfort of home, but also enjoyed the outdoors and patrolling the neighborhood. And like me, he enjoyed hunting: two rabbits, several birds, countless rats, a couple of squirrels, lizards, and even a bat or two. He also got into fights with other cats in our neighborhood. One time, he and another cat were fighting on our pool deck, and both ended up falling into the pool.
Pocky’s eating habits changed sometime during the last half of 2022. He no longer liked hard food, and even his favorite wet food no longer could be eaten. Things progressively became worse late in the year. We wanted him to pass peacefully in our home, but his suffering necessitated a visit to the vet in early January of this year.
Pets tend to multiply. We adopted Lucky (ラッキー), whose birth name was Bella, on 2012-04-28. She was born on 2012-02-27, and was from a litter of about eight pups. The Christmas card that I gave my daughter on Christmas Day of the previous year included a note that indicated that we would get a dog. Apparently, German Shepherd Dogs have a gestation period of approximately two months, so something magical may have transpired as a result of that message.
Lucky enjoyed laying in our backyard, either on the grass or on our patio. She also liked to lay on our leather couch, sometimes in awkward positions.
Lucky was very attached to our family. She enjoyed taking rides, and accompanied me to South Dakota more than a dozen times, first in our 2006 Infiniti FX35, and then in our 2016 Mazda CX-5. Even after returning from a 1,400-mile ride, she would be eager to get another ride, even the very next day!
Our grandson became quite attached to Lucky as he grew older, and they often played together in our backyard.
Lucky had several favorite foods. Chicken was her favorite, but she also enjoyed beef, sweet potatoes, carrots, cucumbers (Persian or Japanese), watermelon, and even dorayaki (どら焼き).
Lucky understood a remarkable number of words—in both English and Japanese—meaning that we needed to be careful what we said, otherwise she would set certain expectations, such as going for a ride or getting a treat.
Lucky’s first medical issue was hypothyroidism, which was diagnosed in August of 2020. She was gaining weight for no apparent reason, and we discovered her condition after having her blood tested (for the first time in her life). The heaviest that she weighed was 98.8 pounds. Less than three months later, after starting to take Levothyroxine, her weight dropped to 76.1 pounds. Her weight stabilized at about 65 pounds in early 2021.
After she was diagnosed with terminal lymphoma early this year, we decided to make every day special for her, to improve her quality of life. She would normally walk five or six miles per day, which was done in three separate walks. Her walks became shorter and slower, and during her last month we let her decide where and how far to walk. She got frequent rides in “Lucky Truck,” a 2009 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck that was gifted to us by my late father last November. Her last ride was on 2023-03-16, two days before her passing. I could tell that while her mind was excited about having a ride, her body was not.
Although I was able to observe subtle changes in Lucky’s behavior during her last two months, a big change occurred on the evening of 2023-03-15, the day before her passing: she didn’t finish her dinner, and she insisted on staying outside. This was the first time that Lucky didn’t finish her dinner. I placed her favorite mat, covered with her favorite blanket, on our patio, and she eventually moved there. I placed a water bowl and a food bowl (filled with soft chicken meat in broth, which was her favorite), but she didn’t touch either. I checked on her at 2 and 3AM, and she was still breathing, and still on the mat. When I woke up shortly before 5AM, she had moved to the concrete, and while I won’t go into the details, it became clear that her digestive system had completely shut down. The photo below was taken about an hour before her passing:
At approximately 7:35AM, her body began twitching, and some red-colored liquid that didn’t look like blood came out of her mouth. She was gone only seconds later. I was planning to call the vet when they opened at 8AM so that she could be euthanized, but she had already passed. I carefully placed her on her favorite blanket, wrapped her in it, then carried her to the bed of “Lucky Truck” for her final ride to the vet so that she could be cremated. This was so very painful to experience.
My late father once told me that his father’s nickname was “Lucky Lunde,” because he was very good at playing cards, so he was very fond of Lucky, and also treated her like family. He was the only one who let Lucky lick a dinner—or dessert—plate.
Loved Ones & Family Members
We treated Pocky and Lucky—and Choco, although short-lived—as genuine members of our family. Pocky and Lucky became even closer to us over the years. Although it took effort to care for them, no one in our family regretted it for an instant.
At times, Lucky would get jealous when Pocky would jump onto one of our laps, and Pocky would tease Lucky while she is waiting to be served dinner. We liked to say that they had their fair share of “Tom and Jerry” moments.
Unlike most dogs, Lucky never completely learned to play ball. Whenever we threw a ball to her, she would not want to let it go. In her later years, she sometimes—and quite reluctantly—let the ball go so that we could throw it again. She simply loved having a ball.
We shall miss our pets. Saying goodbye to them is painful, which is why they are truly our loved ones and genuine family members. Their memories shall live on in us. And yes, we shall have pets again. And yes, we know that we will necessarily endure the experience of eventually losing them. The warmth and joy that they bring to our lives is without measure.
About the Author
Dr Ken Lunde has worked for Apple as a Font Developer since 2021-08-02 (and was in the same role as a contractor from 2020-01-16 through 2021-07-30), is the author of CJKV Information Processing Second Edition (O’Reilly Media, 2009), and earned BA (1987), MA (1988), and PhD (1994) degrees in linguistics from The University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to working at Apple, he worked at Adobe for over twenty-eight years — from 1991-07-01 to 2019-10-18 — specializing in CJKV Type Development, meaning that he architected and developed fonts for East Asian typefaces, along with the standards and specifications on which they are based. He architected and developed the Adobe-branded “Source Han” (Source Han Sans, Source Han Serif, and Source Han Mono) and Google-branded “Noto CJK” (Noto Sans CJK and Noto Serif CJK) open source Pan-CJK typeface families that were released in 2014, 2017, and 2019, and published over 300 articles on Adobe’s now-static CJK Type Blog. Ken serves as the Unicode Consortium’s IVD (Ideographic Variation Database) Registrar, attends UTC and IRG meetings, participates in the Unicode Editorial Committee, became an individual Unicode Life Member in 2018, received the 2018 Unicode Bulldog Award, was a Unicode Technical Director from 2018 to 2020, became a Vice-Chair of the Emoji Subcommittee in 2019, published UTN #43 (Unihan Database Property “kStrange”) in 2020, became the Chair of the CJK & Unihan Group in 2021, published UTN #45 (Unihan Property History) in 2022, and published UTN #50 (KP-Source Property Value History) in 2023. He and his wife, Hitomi, are proud owners of a His & Hers pair of acceleration-boosted 2018 LR Dual Motor AWD Tesla Model 3 EVs.