When a little dog became part of her household, this writer had no idea that it would conquer her heart.
MY family and I are avid animal lovers, particularly dogs of all species, be they big or small. Having been surrounded by dogs throughout the last 30 years of my married life, my husband and I have bred, and also buried, many dogs in the past when they die of old age.
However, the last one which left us on July 6 this year left me devastated for weeks. I thought time would heal and I should be able to get over the loss pretty soon just as I had in the past. I was wrong. This one was different.
Maybe because she was my dog, my pet. Everywhere I turned, I saw her. I see her sprawling languorously underneath my badawi chair, all cuddled up in her favourite corner in our living room, rolling happily all over my bed in the master bedroom, waiting patiently outside my bathroom while I showered, running around in my garden and playing hide and seek with me near the cluster of pandan bushes.
I still see her everywhere ... how can I forget her?
Hazel was the name given to my 12-year-old Yorshire terrier by the woman who rescued her. When we took her home, she was about seven years old already. She hardly weighed 3.5kg. She was so tiny, I could carry her in the crook of my arm. My daughter adopted Hazel as a gift for my 50th birthday.
After two weeks with us, I renamed her Hazel Yada Yada Yoong. Why Yada Yada? Because her whole demeanour, in particular, the shape of her head, reminded me of Yoda in the Star Wars movie. Over time, I dropped the first two names and she was simply referred to fondly as My Da, short form for Yada.
I feel I need to share the story of My Da with you as she was so special. She seemed more human than a real person at times. I also hope that by sharing My Da’s story, mothers will view pet dogs differently.
In February 2009, my eldest daughter, Hun, another avid animal lover, came home one evening and told me that her friend, a dog rescuer, has this cute little Yorkshire terrier which needed a home. My immediate reaction was, enough!
“Give us a break! Daddy already has to bathe six dogs at the weekend. No more, please!”
Knowing Hun, she didn’t give up easily. Two weeks later she showed me a picture of the yorkie in her mobile phone.
“See, Mum? So cute! So poor thing, no one wants her because she’s old and doesn’t bark.”
At that juncture, something in my heart gave way.
“We’ll drive over to your friend’s place this weekend and take a look. No guarantee that we will bring her back with us,” I warned my daughter.
When we reached the house and rang the doorbell, at least six dogs started barking. I peeped through the gate railings and saw this little creature that looked more like a cat than a dog.
What caught my eye was her unique two-toned fur – a mixture of very light brown interspersed with creamy blond streaks. She, too, came to the gate to check us out.
So, we brought Hazel back as Hun’s friend assured us that since she was so tiny she would take up very little space anyway. My agreement with Hun was that we would adopt her, on condition the other six dogs at home accepted her.
Hazel was easily accepted by our brood of dogs and my daughter was over the moon. Once Hazel got used to her new surroundings, she started to run around to check out her new home.
Then, on the second evening, my daughter noticed that she was following me around the house, literally at my heels! Perhaps she liked my scent as the little one seemed to enjoy shadowing me. Then, my daughter told me that Hazel would scurry to the door the minute she heard my voice at the gate when I came home from work. Apparently, she had chosen me as her mistress!
The next five years was bliss as My Da became my small companion and BFF. She rarely left my side. I brought her for long car rides when I had to chauffeur my kids home from college. When I popped by the sundry shop to buy bread, she came along too. She loved to savour the steamed bread with kaya and margarine when I stopped by my favourite yum-yum tree tea house for my morning cup of coffee every Saturday morning.
Life was wonderful and I never thought My Da would have to suffer so much towards the end.
One morning in January 2012, my husband noticed that My Da did not touch her food. She seemed to be losing her appetite, which was unusual. She was always the leader of the pack when it came to meal times. She also had difficulty walking and was hobbling a little.
We quickly bundled My Da into the car to consult our family vet. The diagnosis? Old age and rheumatism. My Da was put on a course of painkillers and looked better after that, or so we thought.
How wrong we were, as from then onwards it was downhill all the way for My Da. She continued to lose interest in food and most mornings, my husband would spend up to an hour trying to coax her to eat. Two months later, not satisfied with the earlier diagnosis, we took My Da to the vet for a blood test and X-ray. The results showed her lungs had filled with water, causing air pockets within and thus exerting stress on her little heart.
My Da was put on pills and because she was so tiny, my husband had to break the pills into even smaller portions.
My Da’s health continued to deteriorate and was put on diuretics to get rid of the water in her lungs. She got up three to four times a night to urinate. She did not like to dirty her “nest” and always woke me up with a deep cough to tell me she needed to go to the garden to pee.
Due to her enlarged heart, she found it difficult to even breathe. She could not climb up the stairs anymore and every night I carried her up to sleep.
Then in July, she stopped eating and drinking altogether, and threw up everything my husband tried to feed her. She sought solitude by hiding in all her favourite spots in the hall. It was as if she was telling us her time was near.
She was admitted to hospital on July 4, and put on drips as she hadn’t been eating well for more than a week and was extremely weak. I spent the next day by her side and she kept struggling up as if to ask me to take her home. We left her that night around 9pm and My Da passed away the next day at 11am.
It was like a part of me had died when the hospital called to inform my husband. We rushed over to claim her little body. I held My Da’s lifeless body close to me and cried shamelessly like a baby. I had lost the most wonderful gift my daughter had given to me.
When we brought My Da’s body home, my husband cleaned her up and dug a little grave under the mulberry tree and we waited for all our children to come home to say goodbye before we buried her.
Now, after more than a month without My Da by my side, I still feel her loss immensely. The only consolation I have is that My Da is no longer in pain and has crossed the Rainbow Bridge. My husband made a photo book of My Da and I keep the book beside my bed where I can take a look at My Da’s little face every night before I fall asleep.
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