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Do dogs really go to heaven?
by Sumiko Tan

 

IF ONE human year in a dog's life is equivalent to seven dog years as
it is believed, then my three darlings are staring at a combined grand
old age of 280.

My mongrel Shiroko is 15, which makes her 105 actually.

Shih-tzu Ling Ling is 13, or 91.

The baby of the family, bichon frise Kenny, is 12, or 84.

So I know they won't be around for that much longer.

None is, however, at death's door yet. But I can see them ageing
visibly each day, and growing weaker.

I sensed that something was wrong with Shiroko a few months back when
she began creeping deeper into the house.

For years, she had been content to stay outside. Then she started
staking out a corner of the kitchen. Then the hallway.

The other day, she made it up the stairs on her wobbly legs and peeked
her head inside my bedroom.

She has had cataracts for a long time. Earlier this year, I found a
hole in her right eye. A nick about 0.5 cm by 0.3 cm had gouged a tear in
the middle of her clouded lens.

She wasn't bleeding, but her forehead was furrowed as if she was in
pain.

Thankfully, the eye has healed. The hole is still there, but her face
is not as scrunched up anymore.

However, she has lost her sense of hearing and, I suspect, her smell
as well.

I can stand behind her and shout her name and she won't turn her head.
If I place a piece of meat near her, but outside her field of vision,
she won't know it's there.

Worse, she has been losing weight rapidly. She's all skin and rib
bones, and her spine is a bumpy ridge.

She's also been behaving strangely. She refuses to sit for long hours
at a stretch, and instead scratches the ground, although there's
nothing in there.

And when she does lie down, it's an effort for her to get up
afterwards.

When I stroke her when she's unaware, she'll snap at me, something she
had never done before.

Ling Ling, on the other hand, has a respiratory problem. Several times
a day, he'll get into such a wheezing fit that his tongue turns blue.

The sweetest-natured of the three dogs - and much bullied by Kenny,
the other male - he's listless on most days and doesn't even lift his
head when I call.

Kenny, the baby, has lost nearly all the teeth on his lower jaw. His
right eye started tearing recently, and he weighs barely 4 kg. Numerous
cysts have also appeared all over his body.

When I come home from work, he just sits there and stares, his right
eye sad and teary. He used to literally jump for joy.

ACCORDING to a website called www.pet-loss.net , I'm suffering from
what is known as 'pre-loss bereavement'.

This is the 'hidden stage' which non-animal lovers may have problems
understanding.

After all, my dogs aren't dead yet, so why am I behaving all
melodramatic and wasting column space on them, as if they're gone?

Besides, so what if they are dead? They're just dogs, right? It's not
like we're talking about people.

But the bereavement is real, and I know what it is like to lose a
dearly-loved pet.

Years ago, I had a beautiful terrier called Benjie. He was treated
badly by his owner and was later abandoned at the Kampong Java pound to be
killed.

He was a golden little thing with an over-sized black, wet nose.

I heard about his plight and went to the pound to adopt him. He was in
a cage with a giant German Shepherd. He was petrified.

He was also mad.

He couldn't stand any noise, and bit everyone who tried to get near
him, including me, many times.

But he had his sane moments.

He slept in my room where he'd keep as quiet as a mouse.

Each morning, he would wait for me to wake up and open the bedroom
door. He never whimpered or made a fuss even though he was dying to get
out to pee.

I got him neutered in the hope that he might become less snappy. But
it didn't help.

One night, he chased me in my bedroom for no reason. To escape, I ran
up the bed and ended up cutting my hand on the window blinds. It needed
five stitches.

I was at my wit's end. I couldn't touch him. I couldn't even bathe
him.

So, three months after I had brought him home, I decided to put him to
sleep.

I got a pet transport company to take us to the vet. I sat in the back
of the van, next to the cage where he was locked up in.

The strangest thing was, when we reached the clinic and I opened the
cage, he allowed me to carry him.

He put his fore legs round me, like a baby. His face was nestled next
to mine. He didn't bite me.

The end was quick.

I placed him on a table, held him, the doctor injected some liquid
into him, and he was gone.

When I saved Benjie from the pound, he had a piece of string dangling
from his neck.

In the three months he was with me, no one dared remove it because
he'd bite us.

It broke my heart to see the string on his warm carcass.

I buried him in my garden.

I GOT Kenny, the bichon frise, a month after Benjie died.

I know most books don't recommend getting a replacement pet, at least
not right away.

But Kenny was totally different. He would sleep in the crook of my
arm, he loves being cuddled, he's possessive of me and gets mad when I pay
attention to Ling Ling.

I suppose it's hard for non-dog lovers to fathom what this fuss is all
about.

But for those who love dogs, you'd understand how life just sucks when
you know your best friends won't be around for much longer.

Thank you for the e-mail on my last column about my friend who had a
lump on her breast. Thankfully, it turned out to be benign. Please send
your comments to
stlife@sph.com.sg 
IP Address:203.124.2.3