In memoriam: Kumara 2000-2011

August 1, 2011

Regular readers of footnoted know that my dog, Kumara, has been an important part of the site since, well, since before there even was a footnoted. He was at my side as I researched and wrote my book, was at my feet when I registered the footnoted.org domain name, and was the sole employee for the first five years. I often joked that he really was the brain behind the site. When Morningstar (MORN) acquired footnoted last year, few people were happier than Kumara, since it ensured his daily supply of chicken feet from nearby Hemlock Hill Farm.

On Friday night, around the time that Kumara and I would normally be busily digging through the Friday night dump, my husband, Scott, and I, with the help of our vet, Wendy Westrom, put Kumara to sleep at his home for the past 11 years, otherwise known as footnoted World Headquarters.

Anyone who has ever loved a dog (or cat, or really any other animal) as much as we loved Kumara, knows how hard this can be. But over the past 10 days, we had watched as an 11 year-old dog who loved to hike and swim and especially, to eat, quickly turn into a shell of himself and both Scott and I knew it would be unfair to let him continue to suffer.

Kumara had stopped eating a week ago Wednesday when I was on a regular visit to Morningstar’s offices in Chicago. At first, Scott and I thought it was due to the unusually hot weather we had in New York on July 20 and 21, when temperatures reached over 100. But when his appetite didn’t improve, even as the temperature outside slowly declined, we became very concerned. Given that Kumara’s tummy clock was finely tuned — he would often walk over to the freezer at five minutes to noon to demand his lunchtime chicken foot snack — we always knew that if he ever stopped eating, it would be a very bad sign.

During the 10 days leading up to Friday, we took Kumara to several vets, eventually ending up at the new Cornell University Veterinary Specialists in Stamford. That was last Monday. On Thursday evening, Dr. Marnin Forman called to tell us that preliminary biopsy results had come back and that they didn’t look good. The impression slides showed undifferentiated carcinoma in his liver. Dr. Forman explained to us that Kumara’s liver was failing and was not responding to any drugs. On Friday morning, after paying Cornell a whopping $6,800 for four days of care, we took Kumara home, instead of putting him to sleep there.

This past weekend has been full of lots of second-guessing: did we miss early signs of a problem? Did one of our vets? Should we have been feeding him something different? Was it related to him swimming regularly in the Hudson River, so close to Indian Point? Did it have anything to do with the Rimadyl we gave him after his two earlier surgeries for his cruciate ligament? And that’s just a sampling of the grief-driven gerbils that have been going through our heads!

The bottom line is that we’ll never really know, just as we rarely ever know the exact cause of cancer in most of us. What I do know is that there’s an empty space in our hearts that’s likely to be there for a very long time.

For those of you who have pets at home, give them an extra cuddle (or Kumara’s favorite, a belly rub) sometime today. And, if any readers of footnoted really want to honor Kumara’s memory, a donation to New York Pet Rescue, or any other animal charity of your choosing, would be an even nicer gesture.

Reading the filings on Friday night — or really any other time — is going to be a lot less fun now that Kumara is no longer at my side.

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