October 6, 2020

My Boy, Flip.

    I met my best friend on Christmas Day, 2005. Two days ago, on October 4th, 2020, I said goodbye.

    Our little boy—family member and pup, Flip—unexpectedly passed away some time around 4am in the arms of us, his family. We are absolutely devastated. The only peace to be found lies within the circumstances that our boy did not go out assisted. His passing was on his own terms, and for that singular reason is there some sense of solace under the weight of this crushing loss. Otherwise, it all still seems like such a dream—the type of nightmare you wake up from only to find yourself questioning reality, wondering if the things you just saw really happened or not. This time, we really did.

    Perhaps this disorientation of the senses permeates from our family history with Mr. Reaper, an old friend who continually seems to greet us during the most inopportune moments. This time I got the call at 2:43am, waking me from a deep sleep after having spent the day in Santa Barbara to celebrate my anniversary. We had taken the Amtrak Surfliner train out of Burbank and were this close to getting a hotel in order to extend our trip, which thank god we didn’t, because then I wouldn’t have gotten to say goodbye to my boy, my best friend, Flip.

    It’s been said for time immemorial that the bond between a boy and his dog is something special. Many of us are fortunate enough to know this as true. My truth is that Flip was not my first dog. He was, however, the one who grew up with me, the two of us growing up together. Flip watched me graduate middle school, high school, and college. He was there as I got ready for my first date and he was there when my heart broke for the first time, but, more importantly, he was there when I found love again. He watched me obtain jobs and he watched me lose them. He was there when family and close friends met Mr. Reaper themselves, and he was there when others were born in their place. My bond with my dog lasted during my formative ages between 13-28 years-old. Flip decided it was his time just two days shy of his 15th birthday—a legendary run, if you ask me.

    I love my dog more than I love most people and I know I’m not saying anything brash or new here. A pet is more than just a furry friend. They can be true family if you choose to treat them as such and, unlike their human counterparts, they will never fail you. Ever. Think of this: What person offers you a source of unending unconditional love? What thing? Nothing on this green Earth I know of. I mean, that’s why we have pets, isn’t it? Because we sure as hell know the price we’re paying as soon as we make the decision to add that special member to our family—that there is an extremely high probability that we will live to see them die. And yet, we pay up regardless, because the value of their companionship heavily outweighs the pain that at that time of welcoming them into our lives seems so abstract, until the day that it is not.

    Two days ago, I said goodbye.

    I’ve been crying since and even now as I sit here at my computer. I find myself replaying the memory of his last breath being drawn in the palm of my hand as I quietly whispered into his right ear the shaky, but hopefully reassuring words that “goodbye” was okay to say this time, and that we loved him—more than he could ever know.

    I have tried to tell myself that I loved him enough to say the words, knowing the immense pain that came attached. With my first dog, Bailey, there were questions leftover. The hand of god had been played (with good reason) and doubts naturally gnawed their way through the cracks of our battered defenses. With Flip, we live with no doubts about it. He went on his own terms and without pain, gently into the night. A legend, indeed.

    A year ago, I had an idea for a short film. The title was to be something like Good Boy, Bad Boy and the subject matter was going to be, of course, Flip. I figured I could film B-roll of Flip living his daily life, and then I could provide voice-over to narrate the gruff rumblings of an old dog who always favored himself a “bad boy,” but was forced to come to grips and embrace his true nature found in the realization that everyone referred to him as nothing less than a “good boy". It was to be my tribute, and I never saw it through. I even knew that me putting it off was taking a huge risk, given his increasing age, but I only filmed a few clips and left it at that.

    I do not regret not finishing the project. It would have been a fun thing to look back on, and maybe it’s still possible to put together given the material I did end up filming, but to give my voice to Flip now seems disingenuous. I think leaving room for my imagination is far better than anything I could make tangible.

    I miss my friend so much already. It pains me to know that my parents are without both their sons at hom but at the same time, I thank the universe that I was able to be there. I thank Flip for waiting for me to make the drive home at 3am. I know he did that for me. I thank him most of all for fifteen years of love, all the memories he gave me, and the fact that nature allowed him to go on his own, for his last breath to be in the hands of my own.

    Flip, you weren't just a "good boy," you were the best boy. The best friend I could have ever hoped for when I made that wish for you to please be under the Christmas tree back in 2005. You exceeded all expectations.

    I love you. Happy 15th birthday.

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Brando Conklin © 2021