Jetwhine Loses a Friend

By Robert Mark on February 18th, 2019


          Dan Webb entertains Mr. Simba at                                             Camp Jetwhine.

I started Jetwhine 13 years ago amidst breaking news of an Embraer Legacy biz jet having collided in midair with GOL airlines Boeing 737 over the Brazilian jungle. A few years later my friend Scott Spangler joined and since then, we’ve worked hard to tell aviation stories in a way readers couldn’t find anywhere else.

There was another member of the team that only a few people who had ever visited Camp Jetwhine over the years came to know personally; my friend Dan Webb from the Airplane Geeks podcast knew him, as did Steve Vischer and Grant McHerron from the Plane Crazy Down Under podcast, plus a few more.

This week our unsung office mascot left us and left me wondering, “What is the Value of a Friend?” I hope you’ll indulge us this one time with a non-aviation essay. Thanks, Rob Mark


I lost a friend last week, a good one. It wasn’t really a surprise, yet there was that inevitable flutter up to the emergency before the last breath of course, when there was no time to think, only adrenaline coursing through my veins driving me to do something, anything … even though deep inside I knew nothing would help.

When I saw our big hound dog Simba on Friday morning, I knew the end was close.

Already diagnosed with a weak heart valve and a thyroid problem, his breathing was rapid and labored. His arthritis no longer allowed the big guy to support even is severely diminished weight; it was impossible not to grieve. Hell, I’d been grieving already for weeks.

Thirteen years ago, he was an impressive 110-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback, with big meaty paws the size of my clenched fist and a bark deep enough to frighten even the bravest salesman from our front door. The local beat cops told we didn’t need a burglar alarm.

Even as a puppy I realized he was clever and funny, if not a bit bossy at times. When he was on a leash he loved most people. He’d stop for almost anyone he thought might realize how impressive a dog he was. When they drew near, he’d lay down on his side looking hurt, which of course made people stop … even passing cars. A local cop once offered to drive us to the vet for help, until she realized all he really needed was a tummy rub. Simba knew most of the suckers in our neighborhood.

He did have a fatal flaw. I’m sure he must have been sired by goats because he was the most stubborn animal I’ve ever met. At morning walk time, even with the leash already attached, he simply refused to leave the house by the back door; only the front door would do. And 110 pounds of resistance was too much for me. If he wanted a left turn at the corner, suggesting a right was a waste of time. And if he spied a rabbit or a cat, all bets were off. I learned quickly when to let go of the leash.

But he was my friend, a guy who traveled to work with me every day and never missed a single one, until his last week on earth. We’d talk to each other at work when we had something to say, him often more than me. He needed more water, more food, another walk. I never could figure out how he knew when it was 3 o’clock each afternoon. He did have limits though. I’d run story ideas past him and he’d just cock his head with a look like, “What in the Hell are you talking about?”

The big guy loved evening television too. Back home from work, he’d climb on the couch in the family room and strut to and fro until the cushions felt just right. Then he’d simply drop himself on the chosen spot. I knew he just wanted to hang with Nancy and me … the tighter the fit to our evening pack on that old couch, the better. After the TV went dark, there were times he climbed up on the foot of our bed, although in the dark I simply could never be sure it was him.

Simba had a romantic interest too, even if it was rather one-sided at times … our dark-striped tabby cat Piper. The two were inseparable. She was with him right up to the end, when the doorbell rang and our vet walked in. Dr. Schwartz drew a nearly-silent breath as she took stock of the shriveled shell of himself that Simba had become. She knew his pain.

Nancy and I knew what was coming, but we were both numb. Still, we knew it was time to let him go.

Simba gently nodded off with his head in my hands and then he was no more. Just a shell. Real, yet not. I kept waiting for him to stop pretending he wanted petting, but nothing I said made any difference. Trying to mumble through the tears was useless so Nancy and I just knelt with our friend and sobbed. All I could mumble was a blubbery, “Goodbye my friend.”

Going to work alone now is different, strange. Quiet for sure, but lonely too. His bed is gone from the corner of the office by the radiator. His water bowl too. It’s much too quiet now. I began turning on the radio the other day for company. Strange I never used it when Simba was here with me. His slow, regular breathing was comfort enough, except for those times when deep in dreamland, his long legs would twitch as he chased a cat in his sleep. But those days too are gone.

A few days after Simba passed, our vet sent a card signed by all the folks at the clinic who’d taken care of him over the years. Dr. Schwartz included a copy of this brief essay, The Last Will and Testament of an Extremely Distinguished Dog, written by the late Eugene O’Neill. Pass it along to a friend who has lost their dog. It really helps.

Rob Mark

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4 Responses to “Jetwhine Loses a Friend”

  1. Derek W Thomas Says:

    Oh Rob! So sorry for your lost best friend. Very nicely written story, bringing tears to my own eyes as I remember lost friends through your words. Thanks for sharing this life with us – Good Dog, Simba!

  2. Paula Williams Says:

    So sorry for your loss, Robert!

    Why God decided that dogs should have a shorter lifetime than people . . . I’m not one to question the Creator, I’m sure he has his reasons, but dang.

    Love the “Last Will and Testament.” That is a great (and much needed) but of writing for such a time.

  3. Rob Coates Says:

    Very sad to hear of your loss, Rob. But a beautifully written and moving tribute.
    Regards, Rob Coates, Perth, W A.
    PS- Airplane Geeks ain’t the same without you!

  4. Vince Kayser Says:

    Rob, so sorry for your loss. Your story brought tears to my eyes and reminded me of my dear Dachshund, Rudy, who I initially thought was kind of a joke when we got him in 2000. How could a grown man have such a shrimp for a dog? He was with us for 17 years and I still miss him today. Paraphrasing Paula Williams, it’s so hard to outlive our pets.

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