Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.
(Roger A Caras)
Losing two family members within a month and a half of each other is one of the hardest things to survive; it takes time to come to the realisation that gratitude is in order because you were blessed, and blessed twice.
We never thought it would actually happen even though we knew it would. Granted, he was thirteen. Granted, he had a growth on his liver, was on borrowed time, had cataracts, arthritis. Couldn’t see well. Couldn’t hear much. Couldn’t climb stairs. Couldn’t even bark.
But his spirit was strong and shining, evident in a quiet obduracy – an implacability developed and honed in his waning years when he couldn’t communicate as well as before. He was a solid presence, with a grave and concentrated gaze filmed by white, very in the moment, very sure of what he wanted and how to get it. There was nothing wrong with his nose, nothing at all, and it led to a silent unyielding, a wordless insistence, a waiting for a piece of biscuit, a bit of bread or rawhide.
We became used to the lifting of his massive head, the sniff sniff detection of P’s presence, and the lumbering walk as he followed an invisible tethering to his human, the love of his life. He would go close, as close as he could, and breathe in P’s existence, a sustenance that filled his heart and soul. Then came the bum-rub, as he turned around, wag, wag, wag, rub, rub, rub. A lick or two, gently. Then a deep sigh and a carefully lowering to the ground. A settling and unique splaying of limbs that used to elicit loud chuckles from our Indonesian help. Sosis, she would say, time and time again, seperti sosis. (like a sausage). Or ayam panggang, like roast chicken.
At two years, he was a gorgeous teenager, the largest-hearted piece of chocolate trouble in a dog’s avatar, strong, wilful, brimming with energy, obstinate and joyous, alert, eager to experience, to please. He must have chewed his way through at least fifty pairs of footwear – ours, theirs, anyone’s, everyone’s. He chewed through the wood of the staircase. He ate his bed, his toys, his leash, clothes, plants, plastic, leather … he had powerful jaws and an insatiable appetite.
Needless to say, he needed more exercise than what we could give him. Long walks, twice a day, became his ‘me’ time and he had very definite ideas on where he needed to go – bushes, trees, lamp posts, lanes. When we didn’t agree, he collapsed into a large chocolate smudge of non-cooperation, a Gandhian satyagraha, head on his paws, refusing to move. Cars slowed down, waited, but he would not budge. Vehicles edged past in amusement, chuckles all around, amused and sympathetic.
He grew into a gentleman, a creature of immense dignity and boundless love. His chocolate coat glistened and shone, his muscles rippled. His strong musculature and Zen like presence made man and beast pause, but he loved people and he loved dogs and his good humour won them all over.
Every whiffle, bark, sigh, twitch of the ear and wag of the tail became a familiar language.
We like to think Cads and Fluff have reverted to their healthy days, are together, companionable. And that we reside in their hearts (and spirits) just as irrevocably as they do in ours.