My Pet Story: Salute to Bodhi

Bodhi showed unconditional love, trust, loyalty and dedication to his owner throughout his life. Photo: Loke Siew Foong

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My beloved dog Bodhi was very special to the family as he showed unconditional love, trust, loyalty and dedication to his owner. And he was a responsible security guard, too.

Bodhi was adopted from the SPCA 14 years ago. I guess we might have met in our previous life as he quickly came to me, wagged his tail and showed keenness to be with me and my husband. We took him home and our bond began.

When young, he loved to bite socks and shoes, and dig up the garden. Whenever we opened the gate, he would charge out and run down to the golf course. Footloose. And we had to round him up, and his companion Yoga, and bring them back home.

A couple on regular morning walks used to call out “Handsome Bodhi!” and he would stand at the gate, waiting to be patted on the head.

Every morning, whenever he heard my footsteps and the sound of the bell at the altar, he would eagerly wait for the front door to be opened. He would then wait for me to start my morning prayers. He would follow me as I walked around my house and chanted silently.

Whenever I went to work, he would see me off at the gate. By 5 or 6 o’clock in the evening, he would be waiting at the gate for me to come home. If I was late, he would still wait there till I got back.

Every evening after dinner whenever I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth, he would quickly get up and follow me and wait at the door. Once I was done, he knew it was time to go to the garden for a walk. He would diligently follow me.

Dogs are real friends and I truly advocate dog therapy for healing people. Their silent companionship is difficult to fathom. They give comfort, affection, and unconditional love.

Seeing Bodhi sick with immune mediated haemolytic anaemia (IMHA) during the last few months was heart-wrenching. When the vet said he needed a blood transfusion, we quickly rushed him to the animal hospital.

After running some tests and an ultrasound, it showed the spleen was inflamed and swollen. The vet recommended an emergency operation to remove the spleen or a biopsy to see if the tumour was cancerous or not.

What if it was cancerous? Could Bodhi go through a biopsy, followed by surgery and possibly chemotherapy? As a dog owner, we wanted to give him the best treatment, medication and care possible. It was quite a predicament for both owner and dog. Finally, my husband and I decided not to go ahead with all these invasive procedures, and opted for palliative care for Bodhi.

Bodhi had a good 14 years with us and we wanted him to enjoy his familiar surroundings during his last days. We knew Bodhi wouldn’t be happy being kept in a cage at the vet’s. So we brought him home.

I was quite helpless at caring for a sick dog. Although my husband and I have hospice training for humans, we have no experience caring for a sick dog. They can’t speak and we are helpless as to what needs to be done.

We were blessed to have met a compassionate lady, Jackie Zhang from an NGO, Save A Stray Malaysia, in the process of getting a canine blood donor. She shared some tips on how to care for Bodhi, what to feed him and how to move him around in the later stage, when he would not be able to get up and walk.

This is when I realised there is a need for nursing and palliative care for animals. It is sorely lacking in Malaysia. It would be good if animal lovers and veterinarians could come together to start basic training courses for people who are interested to learn how to care for their dogs or cats in the end stage of life.

During his last two days, Bodhi was in a lot of pain, I could feel it. The night before he passed away, I spoke to him and said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. So, I looked into his eyes and he gazed at me attentively while listening to me.

I narrated to him how we first met at SPCA, how he came to stay with us, the good times we shared together and what a good friend he had been to us, and how dutifully he had done his job. I told him I enjoyed his companionship, and hoped he enjoyed being with us too.

I apologised to him for forcing him to take medicine and food when he was very sick. I told him that if he could get better, it would be good, but if he had to go, I would understand – we would let him go and we would take care of ourselves. I told him, “Bodhi, may you be born as a human being in your next life.”

On his very last night, Bodhi had a seizure and was gasping for breath. The night seemed long. As I stroked his forehead and chanted, he calmed down.

By morning, his breathing had slowed down and my husband placed a stupa with sand mandala on his forehead. He later passed away peacefully. My husband recited prayers for him, and covered him with a yellow blanket with mantras printed on it.

Bodhi was cremated and his ashes were kept in a beautiful urn. He was laid to rest in the garden next to his beloved girlfriend Yoga.

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