Dim Sum

I am a Chief Petty Officer in the United States Coast Guard. Shortly after my wife Jenny and I were married I found out I was to be deployed to Kodiak, AK for two years aboard the USCGC Munro. At the time my wife and I were to be billeted in Government housing in Alameda, CA. The house we were placed in gave us enough space to have a dog, and since I am a firm believer that every home should have a dog, we went hunting shortly after we moved in.

Jenny and I went to Berkley, to the Milo Foundation. This is the only tie I have to Berkley, and thankful I am for it, but it is the most wonderful tie I can think of. As is the case with many pet rescue stories, Dim Sum picked Jenny and I. We had every intention of picking out a Husky, Samoyed or Malamute, but this gorgeous, loving American Eskimo dug her way into our hearts.

After two months of living with us Dim Sum was very much a part of the family. All dogs have their own personality, and it was clear that Dim Sum was to be the protector I couldn’t be while deployed. Two months into my tour my Cutter took me away on patrol. I was worried that Dim Sum wouldn’t remember who I was and be overly protective when I walked through the door at the end of my three months away. We were so happy to find out not only did Dim Sum not forget who I was, but she missed me very much! It was then that I knew that the decision Jenny and I had made to allow my deployment to Kodiak be a Geographic Bachelor deployment (I go alone, leaving my family behind for two years) would not leave my wife alone to fend for herself.

Seven months later I moved to Kodiak alone. It was a tearful departure for both of us, and it was clear Dim Sum understood what was happening. The strain on my marriage would be born by both these wonderful ladies in my life, and the guilt I felt at leaving, regardless of the duty, was a very heavy burden.

After five months apart I found myself in Honolulu, HI for training with the Cutter. Jenny took the opportunity of my being in one place for a month and a half to come visit me for a week and a half. Her visit was therapeutic, but also necessary, as our marriage was starting to fall apart due to the distance. It became clear that despite the company Dim Sum provided the distance was too much to bear. We decided to move everyone up to Kodiak for the remaining 18 months of my tour beginning in February of 2008. That brought to light the very complex process of moving a pet to an overseas location. Yes, I know Alaska is part of the United States, but the locality is considered an Overseas billet for the purposes of administration because of the strain on the local infrastructure moving whole families into the area presents. In most cases Overseas localities can’t bear the load, so the family must go through a very in-depth screening process to be cleared for the move. The pet moving side of this equation isn’t part of the screening process for the military, and the battery of health tests and quarantines that Dim Sum had to go through, along with the flight was very dramatic. Not only that, but once we made the trip to Kodiak we were forced to live in a hotel room for 30 days due to the lack of an immediate housing opening for our family. Dim Sum, being the trooper that she is, took all of this with incredible grace.

Eighteen months, three 3 month patrols, a four and a half month patrol, an Easter blizzard and Kodiak Brown Bear incursion into the greenbelt behind our house passed while we lived in Kodiak. My being away for 13 of the 18 months we lived in Kodiak didn’t help much when it came to salving my marriages wounds, but Dim Sum made sure Jenny was well taken care of. I owe so much to this darling dog. Her place in our lives was cemented, and it would have taken a Master Stonemason to pull us all apart.

2009 rolls around and we finally get orders to Alameda again; this time a shore billet. We rejoice at the fact that I’m going to be home so much more often, and start our planning for our trip down the ALCAN Highway, a drive totaling over 3600 miles. The trip started with a ferry ride from Kodiak to Homer, AK. Being a sailor I know rough seas, and having been on a catamaran with Jenny in some pretty rough waters while on vacation in Hawaii, I knew we both were going to be able to handle the seas we knew we were going to see on the ferry ride. I was very pleased to see that Dim Sum was a sailor’s dog through and through. not once did she get sick, or lose her footing during the roughest of the passage. Once again she had proven she was a dog after this salty sailor’s own heart.

The drive starts… Its immediately apparent when we pass into Canada because the condition of the roads goes from well kept to almost non-existent in the blink of an eye. Dim Sum showed signs of nervousness during the roughest patches, but most of that was due to the vibration of the 4Runner on the poorly paved or completely unpaved roads rather than the fact that she was car-ridden for five and a half days. While I drove for 3500 of the 3600 miles Dim Sum kept Jenny company. We were pleased to see that she was always ready to go for a walk at the end of the driving day.

Once in California Dim Sum made very clear she was done moving around, and we were happy to oblige her. I for one had attained rank high enough that I was able to be at least moderately sure I could find a way to stay in a geographic location for more than three years, and for that we were all thankful.

Jenny and I found out she was pregnant in April of last year, so we bought a home in Elk Grove in November. Dim Sum made it her own by shedding EVERYWHERE. There wasn’t a corner of the house that you couldn’t find white dog fur. We’d finally come home, which was something we’d never known before, and we were very happy.

In December Jenny gave birth to our first baby, Jeremy. When we brought our baby boy home and introduced him to Dim Sum she took to him very quickly. It was obvious she would not have a problem accepting him into the pack, and Jenny and I were once again marveling at the emotional fortitude that this wonderful being had. Once again we remarked on our having built a “home”. The emotional impact this revelation presented was very tangible for all of us.

A week ago yesterday Dim Sum started showing signs of lethargy and poor health. She stopped eating, started drinking a lot of water, and wouldn’t go outside anymore. On Tuesday of last week we took her to the veterinarian for a health check-up. The vet called Jenny that afternoon and said they wanted to hold her overnight for observation because they thought she might have a parasite that they needed to run more tests for, so I took her back to the vet that night.

Wednesday morning the vet called Jenny and told her Dim Sum had advanced stage cancer that had infiltrated her liver and kidneys. The vet said an abdominal ultrasound had revealed tumors throughout her body with the largest in her liver. All of the tumors could be treated except for the one in her liver, and the vet was sad to say that they do not conduct liver transplants for dogs. We were informed that it would be humane to have her euthanized because she was in a lot of pain and the internal bleeding would not be able to be controlled without surgery. Even with surgery she would not live out the week.

Dim Sum was put to rest at 3pm on Wednesday, the 16th of March, 2011 after having been an adoring friend and wonderful protector to the Pisano family since July of 2006. She was about two years old when we rescued her, which made her roughly six and a half years old at her death.

I know in my heart of hearts Dim Sum is watching over us as our family mourns her passing. I also know that if she hadn’t been so wonderful a companion to my family I would not be married today, and thus would not have a wonderful baby boy to care for. Dim Sum, Jenny, Jeremy and I miss you very much, and know you are waiting for us on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge. We will see you once again, my angel. I promise.

— James from Elk Grove, CA