In Memoriam

On May 3, a military-chartered plane  traveling from Cuba to Northeast Florida landed hard and skidded off the runway into the St. Johns River at Naval Air Station Jacksonville. All humans aboard survived, but unfortunately, three family pets, two cats and a dog, did not. In remembrance of these beloved animals, I share their stories.

Lilah, a boxer, never met a stranger. Her enthusiasm for life soared once she found a home with a loving family. The boxer from BARC (Boxer Aid & Rescue Coalition) ambitiously took on the role of head nanny, official floor inspector and designated Romper Room participant. She loved spending downtime with her family, sunbathing, chasing dogs at the park (except for a pesky Weimaraner) and wearing her cool harness, mushing beside her human’s bicycle—she could hardly contain her excitement when she heard her dad give the cue “Go”! If she met you once, she’d remember you, and leave her mark with an energetic greeting and a good thrashing of her tail.

Mushu, a sleek black beauty of a cat, was scooped from the salty waters of the Naval Station Mayport Basin at five weeks old, quickly becoming a family member. She enjoyed sun-soaked afternoons kicking back and lounging in the middle of potted planters, gazing at birds flying overhead. Her favorite pastime was lizard-chasing, but her most magical moment was after dark, when she’d curl up on a warm lap and purr herself to sleep.

Sergeant Tibbs was found alone in a warehouse at Guantanamo Bay. He spent a week in foster care, learning the ropes of being a cat, before joining his family. Tibbs was received with open arms and officially promoted to Staff Sergeant by the Army veterinarian following his neutering. He had a knack for cackling at birds, butterflies and iguanas, and especially enjoyed surprise-pouncing his sister, Mushu.

His modus operandi was last to bed, first to rise, giving him a competitive advantage in the hunt for cheese crumbles on the floor. Tibbers was loved by all and never batted a paw when it came to helping his mom with sewing projects. The only thing he loved more than his favorite marble, which he carried around in his mouth and dropped on the tile floor, was his family.

Lilah, 7, Mushu, 5, and Staff Sgt. Tibbs, just a bit more than one year old, will be greatly missed, their memories cherished forever.

Losing a beloved animal companion is one of the most difficult things a pet parent can go through. Whether it’s sudden or expected, the grief that follows can be overwhelming. The best way to honor pets who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge is to celebrate their lives and their spirits.

The family extends their appreciation to the first responders, rescue crew members and flight passengers for their efforts. They’d like to express their sincere gratitude to the community for the overwhelming support, concern and condolences for the passing of their furry family members.