It is with a heavy heart that I write concerning the passing of a consummate Mighty Mutt: our beautiful little beagle, Julia. We adopted our little girl at the end of 2011, when we assume she was about 7 years-old.
Though technically we ‘rescued’ her, it was she who saved our hearts. The story of how Julia found us is miraculous, needs to be shared, and affirms my belief that our dogs never ever really leave us.
In April 2011, we had to say goodbye to Winston, our family dog of 16 years. I was 16 when Winston joined our family and 32 when we said goodbye. He was there for me through high school, college, law school, a judicial clerkship, post-grad law school, and finally real life. Winston was our best friend, our brother, our father, our priest, our conscience.
As wonderful a dog as he was, there is no denying he was a devious puppy, always plotting and scheming and seeming to get the best of us. We named him Winston after Winston Smith, the main character of George Orwell’s 1984.
When Winston passed away, my sister and I consoled each other by saying that we would adopt a dog together again; that, when ready, we would adopt an older dog who needed a home; that we would find a sweet older girl this time. I said to my sister, “It would be great if we found a dog we could name ‘Julia.’” In the novel 1984, Julia was Winston’s soul mate. To which my sister realistically replied, “Her name will be whatever her name is. It would be cruel to re-name an older dog.” I knew she was right.
To honor Winston, I started volunteering with Mighty Mutts at Union Square each weekend. 8 months passed and we were beginning to feel like we could consider adopting a dog. The week before Christmas 2011, I showed up for my post at Mighty Mutts. I sat down in an empty chair that I was to occupy for the next several hours, hoping to find prospective homes for the lot of wonderful dogs up for adoption.
As I sat down, a beautiful beagle jumped into my lap and immediately started kissing me all about the face. She refused to be anywhere but my lap. I could not believe how adorable and how persistent and confident this little beagle was. It was as if she was announcing herself to me. I asked the woman in charge of everything-Mighty Mutts at the time, “Who is the beautiful beagle?” She replied, “Really? I can’t believe you haven’t met Julia yet?!”
I could not believe the chances of there being a dog named ‘Julia,’ up for adoption, just as we began to feel like we could adopt, at the very place I was volunteering. It turned out that Julia’s previous owner, only in his late thirties, fell ill and suddenly died, and that was how she came to be at Mighty Mutts.
I knew this was our girl. I knew she was sent from above. I knew Winston had something to do with this. We met with her foster family, and she was home with us in a few days. This was truly her forever home, and was the home in which she passed peacefully this weekend.
Julia was a salve to our broken hearts. Though we had four and half short years, she like Winston saw me through many stages of life. She was there when I married my beautiful wife and there when we welcomed our son (Sasha-Winston) to this world. One of Sasha’s first words was ‘Bea’ (how he said ‘Julia’) and every dog was a ‘Bea’ to him. Our whole family loved her. While my wife and I were in London, she stole the hearts of my sisters-in-law. Julia was herself pure love, she was kind, a cuddler, so gentle, and yet such a tough little lady.
2015 was rough. Julia was hospitalized three times because of a rare case of meningitis afflicting beagles. All three times she stopped breathing and was ventilated. All three times the vet told us it was unlikely Julia would ever breathe on her own again. All three times, Julia pulled through.
After this, Julia was never truly herself, and though Julia never showed it, I knew that life was more and more of a struggle each day.
When Julia declined on Friday, our whole family came to see her. We told her that it was okay for her to go home now, that she had done her work on this Earth. When we left the room for a few minutes – when we had temporarily stopped petting and hugging and kissing our little girl – she left this world.
I think we all accept that it was Julia’s time. But accepting the death of a loved one is different from the pain of their absence. That is where we are now.
That tender, tough, gentle, crazy, goofy, smart, and loving beagle will live within us always; we are eternally grateful for the love she brought us and lessons she taught us. The most important of which is that love itself is not finite, but something infinite found both within and without ourselves.
We will adopt again and a thousand times over if we could. We love you, Julia. I know you are waiting for us, and that we will meet again.
Your loving family,
Alex, Effie, Rachel, Tamar, Ronit, and Sasha-Winston