A Tribute to Laika

A few days ago, we lost a member of our community. They took their own life. 
 
It's always hard to process death. Even through these wires and screens, the realization that someone you talked to, that you had a connection with is just gone forever is hard to stomach. Especially when it's someone who's a part of the same minority you are. Especially when they left in a way that's so relevant to our situation. 
 
If you haven't heard, I'm talking about Laika. They were a kind, warm soul who I interacted with from time to time. News of their passing spread through the community leaving a lot of tears in its wake. They'll be remembered, they'll be missed.
 
There's not much you can do to mark the death of a stranger on the internet. But I want to give them space. To memorialize them in the only way that I know how. What follows is a collection of poems, quotes and messages from a few friends of Laika's who in the wake of this passing felt like they had something to say. 
 
To start things off, here's Demon Dog with some thoughts. 
 
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Someone is gone. Someone I do not know, have never talked to, followed on the internet but have never once thought about outside of. Someone that I will probably forget about in time. Someone who has had, until now, no noticeable impact on my life.
 
Zoos receive a lot of hate online. A LOT. We’re degraded, demeaned, told we’re bad people, abusers, rapists. Told we’re not loved, that we’re alone. Told on the daily that we should kill ourselves. It is an incredibly bizarre part of modern reality, the ease at which some find it to be callous to the lives of others, to actively wish harm on others, to encourage others end their own lives. It can feel hopeless, it can feel isolating. But it’s not. Goddamn it, it’s not. We aren’t alone. No matter what you think, you’re not alone. If you know one person, even just casually, even just from work or class, a passersby on the street you exchanged a few words with; you exist within that person. You have made an impression on more people and animals than you can even imagine. That is a part of living. Seek someone out, be direct, tell people when you’re struggling. Understand that people care about you. It might not always be the person you want to care about you, but someone cares about you. 
 
And understand the struggles of others too. Understand that just because someone doesn’t offer immediate help, that doesn’t mean they aren’t concerned about you, that they don’t care. Everyone is fighting their own battles, constantly. Take a break, take it easy. Show others some compassion, some empathy. Show yourself the same. Please.
 
Someone is gone, and I’m using their loss of life to write an article. I don’t know what that says about me really. But as someone who has gone through multiple suicide attempts this year alone, I just want to say, please take care of each other. It can be easy to become jaded, to be tired, to not have time for others. There’s only so much each of us can do. No one can be expected to save everyone. But, if you can, try and reach out, offer compassion when you’re able to. Maybe offer compassion even when you don’t feel able to. But try not to overwork yourself, compassion fatigue is a real thing, you don’t have to constantly sacrifice yourself for others.
 
And for those struggling, feeling even the slightest bit bogged down by online hate, by anything else, take a break. Shit is not as bleak as it can seem online. There is hope, there is change on the horizon. You’re not wrong for being you. You know you best. You know your intentions and others don’t get to decide you’re bad based off of things they know nothing about. Take some time off. Fuck irrelevant people on the internet. You matter way more than some loser advocating for the death of others based on their own personal ignorance and biases. It’s ok to be tired, it’s ok to be overwhelmed. Someone is gone and this is too soon to write, but take some time for yourself, things will be ok.
 
 
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Next up is a poem from Brass Bulldog:
 
Oh dear fallen, how they burned you with hate.
They pushed you t'wards an unfortunate fate.
Unable to prevent your demise,
We raise up our voices to the skies.
Your death will not be in vain.
 
In the hopes that we might ease the pain,
We push onwards so none end the same.
Our rallying cry, your name.
Oh dear fallen, you fell down through the cracks.
Our grief for this, we carry on our backs.
Your memory, we shall not forget,
From the early dawn long past sunset.
Your death will not be in vain.
 
In the hopes that we might ease the pain,
We push onwards so none end the same,
Our rallying cry, your name.
Oh dear fallen, please wait for us beyond.
Watch over us till a new day is dawned.
I hope that our efforts bring you peace,
And that they may make the hatred cease.
Your death will not be in vain.
 
In the hopes that we might ease the pain,
We push onwards so none end the same.
Our rallying cry, your name.
Oh dear fallen, we meet again at last.
Let that which took you here stay in the past.
The world now better than when you went.
I hope you received the message sent.
Your death had not been in vain.
 
In the hopes that we might ease the pain,
We pushed onwards so none end the same.
Our rallying cry, your name.
 
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Finally, we have a few quotes from people who knew Laika. 
I got to meet a great person, a person who changed the way I looked at things for the better. I think anyone that met them could say the same, and though they didn’t talk much they’d always defend their ideas and the people they loved most. They fought until the end and that’s admirable. Even though being a zoo was a bit of a burden to them, they’ve always said they’d choose to be a zoo anytime because not everyone can love in the way they could. Don’t overlook mental health, check on your loved ones.  Laika’s now exploring our universe.
 
-An anonymous friend
Laika considered themselves a background zoo, but I'll always remember them as someone with a thirst for knowledge and enthusiastic conversations.  
 
When they first told me that Spanish was their first language, I asked how they learned English and they told me it was from reading product packaging! Since then we shared a lot of stories, comparing countries, politics, and culture. Later I also discovered they knew many languages and inspired me to keep exploring my Japanese roots, if only to understand the world a little bit more.  
 
Cats were also the focus of our admiration, a bit of fresh air in the canine centric animal lover world. Laika couldn't get enough of the big cat girls and we bonded on the topic, though it was not a secret in any means, even to the public.  
 
Many zoos in the last years have witnessed their pride and It was an honor to know such an integral part of the community as a friend. They will be dearly missed.
 
-Gin Fossa
We rarely realize how precious our chances to spread love and uplift each other are. Being Nonbinary and Zoo are some of the bravest truths one can accept, I'll never forget Laika's bravery. They were a light in our community. My heart goes out to their loved ones and everyone else lucky enough to know them.
 
-Zoey
My connection with Laika wasn't huge. I passed by them the same way that you would a coworker at work from another department. Someone who seems nice, but you never really had a reason to talk to. And while I didn't know them personally, it's clear to see just how much they were loved by the gap they've left behind. All I can hope for is that everyone else that feels alone can reach out and know that this world is better with them in it.
 
Adiós leona. Dulces sueños.
 
-Anonymous
 
 
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As I sit here about to publish this, it feels... not enough. But, sometimes it's all we can do. If you have your own fond memories of Laika, or messages of support for others that are struggling, send them to us and we'll add them in here too.
 
 
Thank you all for reading. We'll miss you Laika.