Wednesday, September 22, 2010
When I was 9 years old, I finally convinced my parents to get a family dog. We decided to get an English Cocker Spaniel, a gorgeous breed with long, floppy ears, and big, adoring eyes.
We found a breeder, and I had my heart set on getting a black and white puppy. However, there was a certain brown and white puppy that kept following me, nipping my heels gently, wagging his docked tail. He was so incredibly playful from the moment I met him, and I knew that he was the puppy I was going grow up with. It's true, it really is - the dog chooses their owner.
He was the friendliest dog in the world, and loved EVERY visitor that came to our home. He had the biggest heart, which was so appropriate as he was born on Valentines Day, 2001.
Being an only child, he was the one I played my childhood games with. He was a brave Prince, venturing into the forest (which consisted of some tall shrubs in our old house's backyard) to rescue his Beloved (his favourite ball). His favourite game, needless to say, was "Fetch". His tail wagged joyfully every time he saw me, and even more so if I held a leash in my hand.
As I grew older I spent less time with him, but I still loved him just as much. I would try to spend time with him - which was hard, because my mother wouldn't allow him inside the house (although I would occasionally sneak him in) - and we would go for walks to his favourite nearby park. I now believe I could have tried harder to spend more time with him - a little less TV perhaps, and more games of Fetch. I also loved just sitting with him, and once he got over the excitement of playing, he would sometimes rest his head on my knee, and we would soak in the sunshine, the moonlight, the beauty of the day gone by.
One day I came home to find him hiding under a shrub, refusing to move. I was so scared, and after awhile managed to coax him out. It was revealed that he was in intense pain from arthritis in his paw - the first sign of him growing old. I could scarcely believe it - not once had my dog shown a single sign of aging - he had never quite grown up, and was always a puppy to us.
One week ago, I brought him to the front of the house and I noticed he was short of breath. He began making an awful noise, and I thought he was choking, but it turned out he was coughing. We brought him to the vet who said there was nothing wrong, and sent us home. Two days later we brought him back to the vet, and we discovered some horrific news - our beloved dog, my best friend, had a heart that had grown to twice the size it was supposed to be. So beautifully tragic, our dog who had too much love for everyone, was now suffering from the fluid collecting in his lungs from his large, weak heart.
We were told there was nothing we could do for him, except take medication which would not reverse his congenital condition, and would only provide symptomatic relief for his fluid-filled lungs. He could no longer play without wheezing, he would not even run to get his ball when I saw him. Even the medication could not guarantee an extended life - his weak heart could give in at any time.
Throughout the week, he rapidly deteriorated. His coughing became less intermittent and more frequent. I could not go outside without making him overexcited, causing him to wheeze. Even through all his suffering he remained in high spirits, prancing around whenever he saw me, causing yet more suffering. There has never been such an optimistic dog. I made the most excruciating decision of my life - to put my darling best friend to sleep, to put him out of his misery. I could not bear to watch him panting as he tried to eat his dinner, which was usually one of the highlights of his day.
This morning, at approximately 11.20am, my puppy at the tender age of 9 years and 4 months breathed his last breath. I will never forget his last whine as the vet injected him with sleep. He was still warm, and I cried tears of guilt and grief. Should I have fought harder for him? Should I have prolonged his life - and his suffering?
Somehow I think I made the right choice - I let my puppy go whilst he was still in high spirits, and did not let him suffer without reason. He had a life filled with joy and love, and loved greatly. I miss him so much already even though it has only been a few hours - I hear noises and believe for a millisecond that it is my dog, only to be disappointed as the realisation that he is gone sinks in.
There is no better example of unconditional love than my puppy. He had a big heart, both figuratively and literally, and loved everyone with everything he had. I will never, ever, forget him, and he will always be in my heart.
Rest in peace, my beloved Valentine, you are dearly missed.