I’ve been avoiding this blog for a while. I wouldn’t say it is procrastination. Its a lot more simple than that. I simply decided to make this particular content one of the hardest pieces to write about. Today, I’m just deep-diving into it.
Just a bit of background into my personality. I’m one of those “late bloomers”. It took me a while to come out of my shell. Hell, it took me a while to even talk. I had this innate fear of people. If I were born in this day and age, I’m pretty sure I would actually be diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome! So what changed? I got introduced to dogs. The best thing about animals is they do not judge and better still, they have no recognition of time. Past and future is irrelevant. All that matters is the now and when you spend time with a dog, they BRING YOU TO THE NOW. That being said, I had been surrounded by dogs growing up. During my peak – I had 5 dogs all at once. Going home being welcomed by 5 bundles of fur – best thing ever. I looked forward to my evening ‘play time’ with all of them. Then around 2004 – terrible things happened. Quite literally I moved from having 5 dogs to none for various reasons in 1 year! Death, disease, dog-napped etc. My life went silent. I promised myself to never ever have that many dogs again because loosing them one after another was too painful to bear.
And the news came: a labrador, st. bernard , rottweiler mix (yes, all those genes combined in a SINGLE amazing dog) was available at the dog breeders. Went for a visit and that little creature was intent on jumping out of the dog-pen to greet my dad and I. Or so we thought! Because, as soon as we let that dog go, he ran to the grass to pee. He evidently did not want to wet the dog-pen, his place of rest. So, OCD in a dog? Well, what is there to decide – we are getting him! Tasked with the duty of training and raising him, he spent the first month living in my bedroom because he was too young to be vaccinated against heartworm disease (those who aren’t familiar with the disease, mosquitoes are the carriers and where I am from, mosquitoes are everywhere except indoors). Seemed like a good idea back then to take on the responsibility, but that dog really gave me a taste of parenthood. OCD meant every time he peed or pooped, he cried. Needing for his cage to be cleaned even though the ‘dirt’ really passed the cage grids into the tray. This happened every few hours. 3AM, and it was normal for me to be cleaning the cage and subsequently coercing the (now alert!) dog to go back to sleep. I remember so clearly playing fetch with his plastic bottle with my eyes closed! Interestingly, it was during our 3AM moments where I trained and taught him the most.
He was an obliging dog with ESP. In my time with him, I taught him multiple tricks. But the greatest thing he could do was something I could have never taught him. Intuition. I have never met a dog with so much of it. The house may just be pitch black, and you may have decided to open the curtains to check on things outside, without even making a noise – lo and behold, Ebony would be lying there, facing AWAY from you – but wagging his tail. He knew I was there. I do not know how, but he knew. Every morning he was there to greet me, to love me and also to demand to be loved. I recalled however, my mum sharing one morning that she woke up and thought Ebony had just lost his ESP. She was at the window, but Ebony hadn’t responded. No tail wags, no turning of head. So my mum called on him instead. Loudly. When my mum opened the sliding door, he pushed himself into the house and shook his body so hard. There was blood everywhere. Called the vet and we later found out that an intruder attempted to break into our home in the wee hours of the morning and Ebony attacked the intruder. Perhaps in panic mode, the intruder strangled Ebony and bit his ear off. All the blood splattered across the car porch was Ebony’s blood gushing out of a major artery every time his heart contracted. We almost lost him. Hell, I almost lost my parents. God only knows what a man wanted to do entering an obviously inhabited home. While I wasn’t there when this happened, I knew that Ebony’s loyalty knew no bounds. That dog would take his life for us, and a little missing chunk of his ears were a reminder of that love.
Fast forward 11 years later, he becomes abnormally thin. Still a big dog who thinks he is a little puppy, but just abnormally thin in spite of all the food he ate. We knew something was not right and blood works revealed that he had liver disease and the vet (the very same vet that saved his life after the intrusion) told us he had 4 months left to live. The deterioration happened. He lost plenty of hair. Touch his body and there were boils everywhere. Towards the end, his boils would be 3 inches in diameter. Ironically, while he physically deteriorated, his spirit remained high. Every morning he demanded those hugs and kisses. He still ran out of the gate to play at every opportunity. And he still welcomed me at the front door every time I entered the house. He made it seem like he was OK. I knew though – that in between those moments, he would be curled up in the corner in pain. Sometimes even too weak to respond to my calls. The frequency of those increased and the day finally came when we as a family decided it was time.
We took him out for his final walk. He seemed happy and I was just guilt ridden the entire time. I knew that night, when I returned home, the home wouldn’t be the same anymore because he was scheduled to be put to rest that evening itself. I tried to be happy. The entire afternoon, we had guest come over one by one. People who previously volunteered to take care of Ebony not surprisingly grew a huge liking to him. We felt it was only appropriate that they too get the chance to say goodbye. He ran warmly up to each of them, thinking they were there to play with him. He was obviously confused as to why everyone that visited him was bawling. Until, the last visitor came. His friend the vet. He stood far from the gate. This was the first time he failed to greet his favourite friend, the vet. He knew. He just knew. I crumbled. I felt like he felt betrayed. I did not want to let it happen. I debated it in my mind one last time, but the vet said the situation was in fact worse than the vet expected. Ebony had so many boils on his body, the vet knew he was in pain and burning up. No amount of painkillers would increase his quality of life. I knew it was time. Ebony laid down upon request, like the very obedient dog he was. Just when the vet was about to inject him, he fought back. I just held on to him and told him that its OK. He has been the best dog anyone could ask for and it was his time to go home. To be pain free. To be with Jesus. He literally surrendered and GAVE his paws to the vet. He never made it difficult, even to his last days. He left peacefully as though he was going into a deep slumber…
For his burial, I was given options (1) To store his ashes through individual cremation or to (2) just let him be cremated with other dogs. I decided not to do any special cremation. I saw no point. The Ebony I loved and knew, was no longer in that body. His spirit had departed and I knew heaven just welcomed a big ball of love. Ever so often, I am stricken with guilt over letting him go when he was not ready. I try to reason in my head that it was the right thing to do, but for me, doing the ‘right’ thing, did not make it OK or easy. Would it have been more selfish if I just kept him? As someone who lost another dog who ‘suffered’ and died naturally – I would say yes. Keeping Ebony would have been cruel. He would have had to bear with the pain to the last second. I remember loosing my other dog, Kenzo – naturally. Before letting go of Ebony I reminded myself of the promise I made regarding Kenzo. I promised myself then, to learn to let go. During Kenzo’s time, I was ill informed. The vet tried to sugar coat it and made it sound like Kenzo would be able to fight the disease. He was barely breathing when I saw him at midnight. That morning, I woke up and he was gone. I knew he suffered and only wished I had given Kenzo an easier departure. I guess I learnt and decided to do things differently this time. It hurt no less though. In fact, it still hurts…
It is weird to go home without that dog bowing his head and greeting you at the front door. Or that dog nuzzling your arms, flinging it above his head so you are forced to hug and love him. It feels so weird to look out the window at night hoping for a tail to wave back at you but alas, the other dogs are in a deep sleep. I miss playing with him every evening and him just forcing himself underneath my short bent legs, pushing me off balance. There are so many memories. If I could talk to Ebony – I would say:
Thank you for looking at me yet not judging me
For bringing me back to the moment, every time the world distracted me
Thank you for showing me what it meant to be loyal and a friend
For forgiving me and still being there for me even when I couldn’t be there for you
Thank you for reminding me to be gentle even when all around are otherwise
For keeping my spirits high even when there is so much pain to bear
Thank you for teaching me that life is fleeting – and I should enjoy every moment of it
And importantly, thank you for showing the power of unconditional love
Ebony was laid to rest more than half a year ago. My entire family’s life remains touched by this gentle giant. While the home isn’t what it used to be, I have accepted the fact that life happens. You can never fight it or decide the course it will take. Painful things happen but it doesn’t mean it is bad. Sometimes, it makes way for amazing things. Like appreciation, gratitude, or for new dogs to come into your life. The best thing you can do is to go with the flow. This moment in time, literally – right here and right now, the moment I have for sure – I have so much to be thankful for: God, family & friends.
Written in loving memory of Ebony (2004 – 2015)