On Sunday night at 8:55pm, our family lost our best friend. Our protector. Our adventure buddy. Our toddler-cleaner-upper. Our squirrel chaser.
Bender passed away suddenly after complications from what appears to have been an undiagnosed blood cancer (hemangiosarcoma). His case seems to be textbook: he showed no symptoms until he abruptly became lethargic and unsteady on his feet, just hours before he died. In other words, he was his same old puppy self his entire life.
This isn’t how this week was supposed to go. But death doesn’t give a shit about my plans for my newsletter. So maybe it goes without saying that this week my squiggle has fallen off the map.
Before Bender was “ours,” he was mine. And by that, of course, I mean that I was his. At the risk of being super cheugy… “he rescued me.” I was a single guy living in San Francisco struggling with loneliness, work-life balance, and all-around self-care.
But I’ve always loved dogs, I grew up with dogs, and I knew I wanted to care for one of my own. So on April 30, 2016, an extremely hungover version of me, along with two friends, drove out to a PetCo adoption event in Dublin, CA. There, Bender stared directly into my soul, sat on my chest, and silently declared I would be taking him home. $200 and some half-finished paperwork later, he was in my car heading back to two very surprised roommates and 7+ years of sheer joy and adventure.
Bender, in no small way, helped me become the healthiest version of myself. He got me eating breakfast, out for walks, and home at a reasonable time. He got me into a park every single day. He helped me explore the natural beauty of California, and in fact our entire country (I need to do a proper count but I think he made it to at least 40 states with me?). He was one of the best things to ever happen to me.
Devastated. I’ve used this word a lot these last few days, but it still seems to come up radically short at describing how I feel. Sad. Exhausted. Angry. Stolen from. Haunted.
Right now, everything is sad. The silence we come home to. An outdoor table we eat at without a dog crowding our legs. The reflexive worry about whether Bender will wake the baby with a bark when we get a delivery. And most of all right now, the sound of acorns on our metal roof that remind me of a paw tapping on the door, ready to be let in.
Monday and Tuesday, it was difficult to do anything except cry and look at photos and videos of Bender. Yesterday we made it out to boxing class and to the Austin Humane Society, to explore volunteer opportunities and see how it feels being around adoptable dogs. Today I feel a deep, dark, heavy sadness, but no tears yet. I suspect they’ll still come before the day is done.
I don’t have any takeaways yet. Not big lessons learned. And nothing curated today. This week is about processing our grief and finding our way forward—including how to turn our grief into action through donating and volunteering. More on that next week.
What I will say: thank you. To those of you who have already learned this news and sent your condolences, memories, photos, flowers, and more. To those of you—and a much wider community on Threads—who have grieved with us, offered support and advice, and shared your own experiences processing the loss of a beloved pet. And to those of you reading this email today.
Until next week,
P.S. We're building a huge iCloud album of Bender photos and videos—if you'd like us to share with you when it's done, please let me know