“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” – Will Rogers
Since 2009, we are living with eight dogs at home. They are all Aspins except for Sophie (minipinscher – shitzu) and Maxi, a pure bred Dalmatian.
To live with dogs is also to accept the fact you will outlive them (most of the time, at least). It’s a reality that we, as dog parents, don’t want to discuss nor think of while they are still around.
Like human beings, death also comes like a thief in the night. Nothing could prepare us for that even if we know they live shorter lives.
A week ago today, we lost one of our eight dogs: Sushi. She got weak in a matter of two days and it was so sudden that we were not able to figure out what’s wrong with her until on the evening of February 19.
Losing a dog is never easy, especially that we treat them as members of our family. We treat our dogs as the ‘furry siblings’ of our two-year old daughter, Jordi.
Sushi was the jolliest among the eight dogs at home. Whenever we come home, she would be the first to bark and greet us as we open our door.
She would jump, wag her long fat tail as her body wriggles with excitement to lick our face, feet and hands. She would not stop until you respond to her with either a cuddle or a massage.
Since she was gone, coming home was different. Even though seven of them would still welcome us, I could still feel the absence of Sushi’s electrifying energy. We terribly miss her unique, loud bark which turns to a short howl in the end.
Being part of our family, we allow our dogs to sleep inside our bedroom. But sometimes, not all of them want to sleep inside. Some would sleep in the sala or at our office upstairs.
If Sushi is left outside the bedroom, she would scratch our door begging us to let her in so she could squeeze herself underneath Jordi’s old crib. It is the space which she sometimes share with her 10-year old ‘grandmother’ Sophie.
Sushi was the offspring of Boks and Chiyo. The other dogs are Sophie’s look-alike Shinji and Kimi. All of them are Sophie’s offsprings.
On February 19, I’ve already noticed that something wasn’t normal with her. She refused to come out under the stairs, which used to contain the drawer for our tools. All along, I thought she just want to rest since she always love to hide under the bed and chairs.
It was not until I bathed her that I noticed that she was a little bit weak. She also lost some weight.
During dinner, I was the one who prepared her food: rice, kadyos and native chicken. It was a special one for her.
Sadly, she struggled to eat the chicken wings because she could not clip it with her already swollen paws. It was heartbreaking to watch that one of our beloved dogs is struggling to eat.
I intended to give her a different meal from the others in the hope that it would encourage her to eat. But she won’t. I tried talking to her, convincing her to eat so she would be fine and we’ll go to the vet the next day.
She just stared at me, turned around and laid down beside the food bowI. I placed some boxes at the opening so that the other dogs would not steal her meal.
The following day, I brought her to our veterinarian friend, Dr. Bayani Vandenbroeck of Doc Bayani’s Animal Wellness in Maa.
While onboard the taxi, I wrapped her with a towel and carried her in my arms. I didn’t know that it will be the last time that I will be able to give her a tight hug.
I was staring at her weary eye, telling her that she doesn’t have to worry, that she will be fine and that we’ll be returning home as soon as she gets better. I was very hopeful but very worried.
At the clinic, Doc Bayani ran a series of tests. The results weren’t good. Sushi was really in a bad shape. I don’t want to go into details but Doc Bayani frankly told me that she may not survive the next 24 hours due to the severity of the illness.
I couldn’t believe what I’ve heard. In my mind, I was saying: “No, no, no. This is not happening. This is just a bad dream.” I rushed to Sushi, who was placed inside the cage behind the clinic.
I cried. I love our dogs very much. I love Sushi. My worst fear may come soon. In my heart and mind, I’m praying for a miracle.
I gave her a soft massage in the neck. “You will be fine, you will go home soon,” I told her while sobbing. She just stared at me all the time I was crying.
Everyday, dogs could show us how much we mean to them. Their excitement as we open our doors every time we come home is a manifestation of how much they love us unconditionally.
Living with eight dogs takes a lot of sacrifice: time, effort, patience and money. During hard times, we had to stretch our budget just to ensure that these little creatures could eat, too.
Our dogs, as some would say, are spoiled. Yes, they are. They sleep with us in our bedroom even if they were not able to take a bath for over a week due to hectic work schedules. Sometimes they stink but it doesn’t matter. They are our family.
Back at the clinic, Doc Bayani gave Sushi some booster shots. We stayed for a few minutes after they closed at 5pm for a small chat. Together, we left the clinic with a hope that I would still meet Sushi by sunrise.
It was the first time that I left one of our dogs in a clinic. It was the first time too that one of our dogs was not at home.
At about 9pm that night, Doc Bayani returned to the clinic to give her some medicines. She was sleeping, he said through text message.
It was a breather. But Sushi’s condition still bothers me, a lot.
While still in bed at around 5am the next day, Ruby and I were talking, wondering how Sushi was.
By the time I got up, I couldn’t wait for an update.
At 8am, I tried to call the clinic, hoping that Doc Bayani’s assistant is already around. No one is answering. My heartbeat is so fast, I’m worried.
About thirty minutes later, his assistant answered the phone. My worst fear has finally come. Sushi is gone. She was seven years old.
I rushed to the bedroom to tell Ruby the sad news. We broke in tears. It was heart-wrenching.
As I was about to leave the house, Ruby sat on the floor beside our bed with Sophie lying on her leg as if trying to comfort her.
On the way to the clinic, I cannot hold my tears. I still cannot believe that one of our furry kids is gone. Happy memories of Jordi’s furry sister kept flashing in my head. In my mind, I can still hear her loud barks and short howls.
Upon arriving at the clinic, Sushi is already inside a box. It is a heartbreaking sight. I am going home with a heavy box and a very heavy heart.
When I arrived home, I hurriedly opened the sealed box for a final look at Sushi. I took her out of the box and lay her down on the floor. We gave her a massage before I closed her half-open eyes. All the other dogs were lying quietly around and staring at us while we were sobbing in front of Sushi.
It was all quiet and a very depressing atmosphere.
No amount of words could describe our grief. It was almost the same feeling when I lost my grandfather about four years ago.
As I placed her inside the shallow grave, Jordi tossed a bougainvillea flower over her box before I scraped the soil to cover Sushi. It feels like my heart is heavier than the soil on the shovel. It feels like a part of me is buried as well.
As days go by, emptiness fills the space that Sushi has left at home. During meal times, I can feel her absence as I count their food bowls. I miss her excitement as she always jumps around, sometimes scratching my heels as I prepare their meals.
The last seven days were very depressing. We miss her a lot. It seems that the other furry family members were quiet and calm after Sushi left us. They lost the ‘leader’ in barking and hopping around whenever our gates open.
I bike going to work just to shake off the emptiness. But it’s not that easy. Tears would still roll down my cheeks as I recall that last day I wrapped her in my arms. I didn’t know that it would be the last. Had I known, I would have held her tighter, longer..
Physically, she is gone but she is alive in our hearts. When we transferred to our new house, over four years ago, we made that conscious decision to bury our dogs–when the time comes–beside our bedroom (Myra, who died in 2009 at our old house, was dug out and her bones were buried beside our bedroom).