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Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Personal History: A Look Back - Death of a Dog


Nick * Man's Best Friend * James Salter

Nick was more than a good friend, faithful companion who, on dark days made things bearable.  Nick died in 1989.  After so many years it is not often that I think of him.  But a few weeks ago he appeared in a dream.

I looked up some old photographs and remembered Nick.  Nick came to be a part of the household because my daughters wanted a dog.  So we went to the local pet shop and brought a pup home. It was love at first sight.  Named him Nicki but, soon, he became Nick. And, as he grew up and lost the cuddlieness, the girls began to spend less time with him.   Nick became my dog and remained my dog until his death 14 years later.  It was while taking Nick out for his walks that I started jogging to keep up with him, and that lead to my interest in distance running.

Nick could sense my mood. Never failed to show his joy when I came home after work.  Watched my movements with his eyes; sat down next to me when I brooded.   As the years went past Nick began to suffer from age-related ailments.  Lost his energy. Arthritis restricted him from following me around.  Then a time came when sitting up from a lying position  became a struggle.  I began to think of the day when I would have to face the inevitable.  It was then that my work required me to make a long trip.  

Talked to my daughters about not letting him suffer, and I took off for Yemen via London; Mumbai for a stay of three weeks; then, Kolkata, Madras, and Singapore before the flight across the Pacific to San Francisco.   It was during my stay in Singapore that I received a call from my younger daughter.  She said that Nick had to be put away.  I knew it was the right thing to do.  I expected the news. Yet the pain was almost physical.  I went out for a run through downtown Singapore and I wept oblivious of the people on the streets.  Usually I kept track of the turns I made on my runs in unfamiliar cities.  Not that morning.  Lost my bearing but kept on running.  I thought of Nick and the good years that we shared; my way of paying tribute.

When I returned from the trip, the house felt different. Nick was not there.   His absence left a void.

Recently, while reading James Salter's "Light Years", I came across this passage. And I thought of Nick.

He became intelligent, strong, he knew their voices.  He was stoic, he was shrewd.  In his dark eye one could see a phylum of creatures--horses, mice, cattle, deer.  Frogboy, they called him.  He lay on the floor with his legs stretched out behind.  He watched them, his face resting on his paws.

Thank you for sharing. It brought up a lot of memories. It was good remembering Nick after reading your blog. I know exactly how you felt. Every time I saw how Nick was with you, I thought of Lassie, and I knew I was definitely going to get a dog at some point. I finally did, years later, so my kids could experience life with a pet. But secretly, I know I did this for myself. I needed something to fill a huge void in my life, and a dog was just the answer. Last July, six years later, our dog suddenly took ill. One night he let out a gut-wrenching groan. When we took him to the vet the next morning, he gave my dog a shot for the fever, and some medication. But after a hundred bucks later, and a series of painful groans that prolonged morning, the dog passed away. Needless to say, we were really upset, and all I could do was go to the vet and demand why the dog died hours after getting the shot and ingesting the medication. He claimed then that our dog was on his last leg. He had a huge tumor and was not going to survive it. He didn't say anything earlier because he didn't have the heart to tell my daughter her pet was dying. You see, she went in for the consultation before I arrived at the vet's from work. I was shocked that we had no idea the dog was sick. He looked well, a little slow perhaps, when he was walked, but never a whimper, or any tell-tale sign.

Well, there was nothing we could do but howl our eyes out, siting beside this passive, but peacefully still body looking quite healthy, except for some greenish drool from the mouth because of the medicine, and sadly, stiff to the touch. We took him the shelter later that afternoon, so they could dispose of the body.

The sound of his piercing groan still haunts me and every time I find it hard to fight off the tears, because I feel weighed down with regret that I didn't do enough for him.
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