He was born to shepherd his human through life’s difficulties.
ONE of the toughest things to do in life is saying our final goodbyes to the ones we love most.
Last week I found myself in such a tragic and painful moment.
My nine-and-a-half-year-old German Shepherd Dog (GSD), Biman III, died most unexpectedly of a very serious condition called “bloat” where the stomach is overstretched by excessive gas, causing low blood pressure, shock and damage to the internal organs.
It is believed by some experts to be the second leading killer of dogs after cancer, especially among GSDs, Great Danes and Dobermanns.
Biman was also recovering from tick fever at the time.
Biman III was born in Klang, Selangor. He came into my life in 2004 as a happy-go-lucky pup at nine weeks old.
It was at a critical period when I was still hurting and depressed over the loss of my previous shepherd, seven-year-old Biman II, which had succumbed to cancer six months earlier.
I was desperately looking for a worthy successor to Biman II, an outstanding canine and one of my first service dogs.
On the day that I adopted Biman III, I caught him peeing on the floor inside the breeder’s office! It was love at first sight for me, as far as I was concerned. The rather rebellious nature audaciously displayed by the black and tan pup would add some much needed colour and life into my mundane existence, I figured.
As it turned out, I couldn’t have been more right about my relationship with Biman III.
Our bonding began immediately.
On the first couple of nights Biman howled for his sisters and his mum. But he soon settled down with his new family, which included my senior service dogs, a Rottweiler and a golden retriever that have since passed on.
Biman understood and saw my disability in remarkable and unparalleled ways that few able-bodied persons ever did.
The first such sign was how quickly – and wonderfully – he bonded with all of us.
There was, for instance, his first solo toilet break: It was just a week since I’d adopted Biman and I was taking him and the senior dogs out in the car; suddenly, Biman began indicating an uncontrollable urge to pee so I made a quick detour to the nearest park.
As soon as I had opened the door, and before I could leash him, to my horror the 10-week-old pup scampered out into the open field about 3m away from the car to ease himself.
With my wheelchair tucked away in the boot (I had not been expecting to use it), there was no way in which I could go out and get him. Then to my surprise and relief, instead of yielding to the temptation to explore his new surroundings, Biman turned around and dashed back into the car to great big bear hugs from me and plenty of approving tail wags from the senior dogs in the back.
From then on, the novice service dog went on to excel in almost every part of his training.
In just a few short weeks he managed to master the art of retrieving objects from anywhere and bringing them to me – and I swear, it looked like the golden was virtually green with envy at the pup’s expertise!
GSD experts say the reason for the “shepherd” in the breed’s name instead of “sheep dog” is its uncanny ability to do things without having to be told how and when to do so.
Once, a friend showed to me a bottle of dog shampoo in his home. Just as we were about to leave, Biman astounded us both by leaping out of my car, finding the item, and bringing it to me – perhaps he though my friend was being selfish in not giving it to me!
At home, Biman killed every cockroach because of my phobia for them. And he never failed to sit by the bathroom door every time I was inside in case I dropped something or fell down and needed help getting back on the chair.
Even during his final days with high fever, Biman would pick himself up and soldier on with his duties even when I didn’t want him to.
My baby was so attached to me that even after suffering bloat, he hung on to his life for several hours until I returned home so that he could have a final glimpse of me.
Biman dashed out of his crate and ran towards me – as he always does during a thunderstorm. He always thought I had great powers to command the lightning and thunder to stop. Except that this time, all the “turbulence” was happening right inside of him.
Biman collapsed right in front of me, next to my wheelchair, where I hope he had always found peace and refuge.
We rushed Biman to the Gasing Veterinary Hospital in Petaling Jaya within 10 minutes where as many as four veterinary surgeons and three assistants fought hard to save him.
But God had other plans for a precious shepherd of a dog that unflinchingly gave his very best to me.
Biman III breathed his last at 8.20pm on Wednesday last week with our best human buddy, Andrew Martin, by his side.