When Michael K. of Dlisted posted a story yesterday about Fiona Apple’s recent postponement of the South American leg of her world tour he published the letter that Fiona sent out to her fans on Friday where she explains her reasons why. In a 4-page hand-written letter which Fiona posted on Facebook page late last week, she tells the story of her 14-year-old pitbull Janet who has a tumor in her chest, and sadly Janet will be passing on to that great big dog pen in the sky any day now. Michael warns his readers that the letter is particularly heartbreaking, but that didn’t hold me back. “I can handle it; after all, how sad can one letter about a dog possibly be?” I said to myself. Well, last night this letter was the very last thing I read before I went to sleep and needless to say my pillow was moist by the time I closed my eyes:
It’s 6pm on Friday,and I’m writing to a few thousand friends I have not met yet.
I am writing to ask them to change our plans and meet a little while later. Here’s the thing.
I have a dog Janet, and she’s been ill for almost two years now, as a tumor has been idling in her chest, growing ever so slowly. She’s almost 14 years old now. I got her when she was 4-months-old. I was 21 then, an adult officially – and she was my child. She is a pitbull, and was found in Echo Park, with a rope around her neck, and bites all over her ears and face. She was the one the dogfighters use to puff up the confidence of the contenders. She’s almost 14 and I’ve never seen her start a fight, or bite, or even growl, so I can understand why they chose her for that awful role. She’s a pacifist.
Janet has been the most consistent relationship of my adult life, and that is just a fact. We’ve lived in numerous houses, and jumped a few make-shift families, but it’s always really been the two of us. She slept in bed with me, her head on the pillow, and she accepted my hysterical, tearful face into her chest, with her paws around me, every time I was heartbroken, or spirit-broken, or just lost, and as years went by, she let me take the role of her child, as I fell asleep, with her chin resting above my head. She was under the piano when I wrote songs, barked any time I tried to record anything, and she was in the studio with me all the time we recorded the last album. The last time I came back from tour, she was spry as ever, and she’s used to me being gone for a few weeks every 6 or 7 years.
She has Addison’s Disease, which makes it dangerous for her to travel since she needs regular injections of Cortisol, because she reacts to stress and to excitement without the physiological tools which keep most of us from literally panicking to death. Despite all of this, she’s effortlessly joyful and playful, and only stopped acting like a puppy about 3 years ago. She’s my best friend and my mother and my daughter, my benefactor, and she’s the one who taught me what love is.
I can’t come to South America. Not now. When I got back from the last leg of the US tour, there was a big, big difference. She doesn’t even want to go for walks anymore. I know that she’s not sad about aging or dying. Animals have a survival instinct, but a sense of mortality and vanity, they do not. That’s why they are so much more present than people. But I know that she is coming close to point where she will stop being a dog, and instead, be part of everything. She’ll be in the wind, and in the soil, and the snow, and in me, wherever I go. I just can’t leave her now, please understand. If I go away again, I’m afraid she’ll die and I won’t have the honor of singing her to sleep, of escorting her out.
Sometimes it takes me 20 minutes to pick which socks to wear to bed. But this decision is instant. These are the choices we make, which define us. I will not be the woman who puts her career ahead of love and friendship. I am the woman who stays home and bakes Tilapia for my dearest, oldest friend. And helps her be comfortable, and comforted, and safe, and important. Many of us these days, we dread the death of a loved one. It is the ugly truth of Life, that keeps us feeling terrified and alone. I wish we could also appreciate the time that lies right beside the end of time.
I know that I will feel the most overwhelming knowledge of her, and of her life and of my love for her, in the last moments. I need to do my damnedest to be there for that. Because it will be the most beautiful, the most intense, the most enriching experience of life I’ve ever known. When she dies.
So I am staying home, and I am listening to her snore and wheeze, and reveling in the swampiest, most awful breath that ever emanated from an angel.
And I am asking for your blessing. I’ll be seeing you.
After reading that letter, the normally cocky and aloof Michael K. wrote: “Reading that letter was even sadder than watching ‘Beaches’ on a loop while stoned. Some people might think Fiona’s letter is totally melodramatic and I probably would’ve thought that too if I didn’t have a dog friend who has dealt with my dumb ass for over 10 years. I would give him a hug right now, but he’s eating a treat and he’d probably bite my eyes off if I got anywhere near his eatin’ space. So I’ll blow him an air kiss from afar. And I love dogs with people names. And I really love dogs with the same name as the closeted lesbian on ‘Three’s Company’.” Michael, if I had a dog right now I’d blow him a kiss too.
Fiona’s dog Janet sounds like she has the spirit of a wise and loving grandmother filled with unconditional love beyond words. So Fiona, as you spend these coming days taking care of your best friend Janet, just remember that when she passes on she will quickly return in spirit to stay by your side for the rest of your days where she’ll be watching over you as well. Take care.
For more information on how Addison’s Disease affects dogs be sure to visit AddisonDogs.com