Remembering Soo, the service dog

Farewell Soo, loyal companion and dear friend.

THERE was great sadness in my home last week. Soolam, my senior service dog, was put down. He was 13. The decision to euthanise Soo, as my other dogs and I fondly knew him, was not at all easy.

The move was quickly reached when the Golden Retriever could no longer stand or walk. He could not even eat his meals without throwing up.

However, everything about Soo’s final journey on earth turned out to be as intriguing and uncanny as the day when he first arrived.

He was barely two months old then. The pup was a gift from a couple who were doctors. The purpose was to see if a retriever could make a good service dog.

He needed to be fed as many as four times a day. I had to clean up after a dog that seemed to have an endless supply of poo.

The most difficult part, however, was to grab the pup and put him back in his crate. Fortunately, his senior canine partners literally lent their paws to solve the problem.

Soo had a knack of chasing the big dogs around the house. One of them would cleverly use the situation to dash back to me so that I could grab Soo.

The experience of raising and training Soo helped to psyche me up. And as for Soo, he went on to become a service dog that was parallel to none.

He was the perfect companion to attend meetings with. He’d been to church numerous times and even stayed completely unnoticed at government meetings. Some of the chairpersons discovered his presence only after the event.

He has helped me in unusual places, too. These include in the toilet at the United Nations building in Kuala Lumpur (when my shoe was out of reach and the soap fell on the floor).

He also sat through a serious discussion with people with AIDS at the Malaysian AIDS Council.

On top of all these, Soo had appeared scores of times in the media which included newspapers, TV and radio. He was the main star of a special video which featured my service dogs.

Once when I was caught in a 30-minute thunderstorm in a forest, Soo chose to get drenched with me in the heavy downpour rather than seek shelter elsewhere.

In his more than a decade of service, Soo relished his car rides the most – so much so that I became his private chauffeur. We must have travelled thousands of kilometres over the decade and only once, in all those years, did he throw up in the back seat.

Once our adventure led us all the way to Penang on a gruelling 24-hour trip where Soo performed and wowed several hundred people at a dog event with his service dog skills.

On that fateful Sunday morning, an extremely feeble Soo looked straight into my eyes. It was as if he was telling me to be strong for him and do the right thing to painlessly end his suffering.

He never once whimpered or flinched. He took every opportunity to lay his head on my shoulder or hands whenever I was by his side.

Despite the pain, Soo remained resolute and dignified in the back seat of my car during his final journey to the veterinarian. He was on my lap with his head held high as I wheeled into the clinic.

I made sure that my hero fell asleep before he entered into eternal sleep. The clinic didn’t charge me anything for putting a great dog down.

Another doctor, who is an expert in dog show winning breeds, offered to bury Soo in his yard at home.

My king, I’m proud to say, is now privileged to be the only retriever laid to rest with other national and international champion Doberman and German Shepherd Dog breeds that have crossed over the rainbow bridge before him.

Even more amazing is the fact that Soo is buried in the home of the mother of my latest and youngest service dog candidate, Dobe Ace Zhar the Doberman.

Last Saturday, Zhar and I were at an international dog show in KL with more than 200 dogs from all over Asia. And although I was the only person in a wheelchair there, Zhar stuck close to me much like Soo used to do during happier days.

And by a very strange coincidence, Zhar kept climbing up on my lap several times as if to say: “Don’t worry, you’re safe now. I’m with you.”

Angels don’t always come with wings; sometimes they have tails, even if it happens to be a rather short one.

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