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24 July 2012

One Last Farewell

11.05.2005 - 23.07.2012
This is Raja. No. This was Raja. It is frightening how quickly ‘is’ can become ‘was’. It seems like only yesterday that he came home, a frightened little puppy we picked up from the shelter. He was the quietest of the litter, and perhaps that is what appealed to my son, then twelve years old. Unlike his more boisterous siblings, he stayed at the far end of the cage. 

We came home, my husband, and I, and my son, and a two-month-old baby – with a two-month-old puppy. Even the people at the shelter thought we were crazy. Our dog is was just five days younger than our baby. It was like having twins. 

Tired, sleep-deprived, there were oftentimes I grumbled at him for making puppy messes. (The yelling I reserved for my husband.) He would go into his crate and look at me with huge puppy eyes. It was hard to remain angry. When the tone of my grumbles changed, he would come out of his crate, his tail wagging his body, sure that his transgressions were forgiven, if not forgotten. After all, he forgave us ours! 

Raja was a mixed breed – we had been told he was Beagle and Hound. He had the Beagle colouring alright, but he was definitely 99% Hound. Then the vet told us he thought Raja had a smattering of German Shepherd. Didn't matter; he was all dog.  

He had been the friendliest, most loving, most rambunctious little puppy ever; he grew up to be the friendliest, most loving, most rambunctious large dog ever. We had been told he would be a ‘big’ dog. ‘How ‘big’?’ we asked. ‘Oh, about 50lbs.’ O-kay. We were okay with that size. 

Well, Raja didn’t know he was only supposed to be 50lbs. He was 50lbs when he was six months old, and growing. He continued to grow. Finally, at about a year, when he tipped the scales at 80lbs, he looked at himself and decided he was large enough. 
 
He was large enough to scare most people. Yet, he never quite lost his puppyhood. When he stood on his hind legs to welcome visitors, he towered over most people of average size. When there are large teeth at one end, you tend to overlook the fact that his tail was wagging at the other. Raja, however, thought everyone was his friend (with the exception of skunks, racoons and possums) and that they had come home with the express purpose of playing with him. As one friend said, he was the laugh-iest dog she had ever seen. 

We played with him, and laughed with him, walked him (or he walked us), grumbled at him, talked to him – he put up with all of it; as long as he got food at the end of it. No, not kibble. People food. Rice and yoghurt and sambar and chappati and fruits and vegetables and tandoori chicken and channa and sabzi and idlis and dosas – he would eat that first; then he would delicately lick any liquid that was left. Then, if he felt like it, he would eat the dog food. There was nothing he wouldn’t eat. Hmm, no, he hated pasta. 

Then, suddenly, almost two years ago, he fell sick. So sick, he couldn’t get up from his bed. So sick, my husband came back home from work so we could take him to the vet. We heard the dreaded word, ‘Lymphoma’. Then began chemotherapy – a protocol that would last 14 weeks. Through all of it, Raja remained as good-natured as ever. He loved the hospital staff, and they adored him.

When he went into remission, they cheered as much as we did. When he remained in remission a year later, they changed his monthly visit to a check-up once every two months. We rejoiced. Raja began chasing squirrels again. The cat next door decided that taunting him just outside the invisible fence was not such a good idea after all. Another skunk bid goodbye to the world after an encounter of the close kind with Raja. He ate and drank and sunned himself on our deck, barked at trucks, and greeted us with huge doggy woofs when we came back home. 

Then one day, he couldn’t get up. His chest was distended, his breathing laboured. He sat patiently as we examined him, though he must have hurt. We took him in to the hospital, at once. He had pleural fluid – 700ml of it. They drained it, we brought him home. Six months passed, and his lungs filled again. We drained it once more. 1.7l of fluid. Two months passed. 3l this time. A week later, the fluid was back. 3.6l and they had to leave 400ml behind, because they were scared of puncturing his lung. They began to talk ‘generally’ about euthanasia. 

We brought him back, groggy from the anaesthetic, all bewildered, but happy to be home. It took him a day to recover from its side effects, but he was perkier than ever. He chased the squirrel. He chased the cat. He even chased a coyote yesterday. In the night, he couldn’t breathe. By morning, he had worsened, his chest ballooning in and out as he laboured to draw breath. He wanted to go for a walk, so S and S walked him. Until he could walk no more. Then I picked them all up in the car. 

We looked at him. Then we looked at each other. Called the hospital and took him in. They talked of tapping the fluid, open chest surgery, chances of recurrence... we took the only choice we had; a choice that was in his best interests, not ours. He came out of the examination room wagging his doggy tail, ready to go home. After all, that is what he usually did. He was puzzled when we took him back, but trusting. We were his family. He loved us.

We hugged him. Whispered how much we loved him into his silky ears. We hoped he knew we were not betraying his trust. Then we let him go. 

Home.
While we came back to an empty house. Alone.

24 comments:

  1. Anuji, so sorry to learn about this.
    We join you and your family in sharing your grief.

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  2. He sounds and looks wonderful, your family must have had a great time with him. Please accept our sympathies and best wishes.

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  3. He was the best dog ever! Thanks, Samir.

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  4. Death is always harder for the ones who are left behind, Anu. Especially if we have to stand by and let them go. My sympathies.

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  5. I am so sorry, Anu! I can just imagine how awful you must be all feeling right now, especially the boys. I have to make this brief because someone here gets excited when I open the computer, and wants a turn! Hugs to all of you and my thoughts and prayers go out to you. Rest in peace, Raja, in animal Heaven!

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  6. Thanks, Lalitha. A is unhappy because everyone is unhappy; he still hasn't processed 'death'. He thinks 'put to sleep' means literally 'sleep'. He is expecting Raja back in 'four days' - that is what he told his older brother. :(

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  7. Thanks, Lalitha. Arjun is the least affected, except by our grief. He still hasn't processed death; to him, 'put to sleep' means exactly that. The rest of us are still looking for him around the house.

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  8. I am not a dog person, Anu. And I must admit that though some friends of mine have posted tributes to pets who've died recently, none of them has ever managed to actually bring tears to my eyes. Yours did. As lucky as you and your family were to have Raja, I think Raja was just as lucky to be part of a family that loved him so much.

    *hugs*

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  9. Dear, dearest Anu!
    *HUGS*
    First of all it IS Raja, it will never be this WAS Raja. He is.
    Dogs give so much to us in the short span of time, that they are with us. Give, give and give! Your Raja belongs to this tribe of givers. It hurts a lot when they leave.
    But exactly like you said, it was time for him to go, to another dimension. You and now even we have this good memories of him. In the memories he continues to live ahead in this dimension.
    He is without pain now!
    *HUGS* again
    He was happy to have shared this great time with you!

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  10. Thanks very much, Harvey. You are right. This is Raja. He gave us so much - we are all wandering around lost at the moment. S comes home in the evening, and he has a biscuit in his hand - Raja was always the first to know he had come, long before the car entered the garage. I rolled out an extra chappati as usual at night before realising Raja wasn't lying on the mat looking beseechingly at me as usual.

    But Raja is without pain, that is what is important. That is what we keep reminding ourselves.

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  11. Thank you, Madhu. I have always been an animal person, but Raja is the first dog I have 'owned'. We had him for seven years; it is a wrench when we look around and he is not pattering around after us.

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  12. Never been someone close to pets, so sentiments may differ, nevertheless, death of someone close will always hurt.The camaraderie and affection that you shared with him cannot be replaced, I suppose, but as always, time to move on, sadly. Hope the rest in the family, esp children, are taking it well enough.

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  13. Yeah, it's rather tough. We keep looking for him still.Thanks, Pradeep.

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  14. Oh my God Anu, I'm so sorry! I remember you talking about your dog at my blog and saying that he will be offended if I get scared of him. Euthanasia really must hurt... I haven't had a pet (Except my aunty's cats), but it really must be really really sad. :(

    One of my aunty's cats has heart disease too, so I sort of know how hard it is to have a pet with an illness... really Anu, I'm sorry. :(

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  15. Thanks, Bombaynoir. It is really, really sad. And yes, he would have been very unhappy if you had been scared of him.

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  16. Don`t know what to say except, I am sorry he had to go. Death is not the end of Raja, but just the end of his pains. He will always live in your memories.

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  17. Thanks, Nra. I agree that it is the end of his pains. That is the only thought that keeps me going. It is heartwrenching to lose a pet like this because they look at you with such trust and belief that you will be able to help. :(

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  18. So, so sorry, Anu.

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  19. Dang! You made me cry. 

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