I never saw myself as a dog whisperer or even a potential pet owner. I admired them from afar and gazed at them as they walked past me on the street, but did not want the responsibility of caring for another being.
Then I met Jazz and Tazz. The night when I first arrived at my spouse’s to be home in California I was greeted by two large intimidating looking Sharpei-Pitbull mixes who had been adopted as puppies from a kill shelter. Their six male littermates had been quickly taken home by willing families while Jazz and Tazz, the only females of the litter, had to wait longer. Now, fully grown and in a loving home, they welcomed me into their lives. Jazz jumped on my lap and licked my face while Tazz enthusiastically wagged her tail and begged me to caress her rear end. I was immediately smitten by this duo of slobbering giants.
From then on, they were my unconditional companions. I was amused by the intensity with which they lived each moment; the mere act of offering them a treat would elicit such dramatic howls and enthusiastic leaps that it made me laugh out loud. There were many hikes, day trips and hours of sitting by my side in the backyard as I read countless volumes of self-help books, until we decided to make Toronto our home, and they took the cross-country trip with the family.
Three years after, in Thanksgiving Day 2011, as our family gathered to celebrate, Jazz was laying on the floor observing us feeling unwell. We wanted her to get better and would offer food, water and many pats on the head as we sat by her and encouraged her to eat or drink. As the night ended, she got increasingly ill. We sped to the emergency pet clinic and there the vet delivered then the unexpected news: our dog had internal bleeding due to a ruptured tumour and would not live to see morning.
As I paced back and forth and looked at her heaving panting body and scared eyes lying sideways, I understood there was no decision and all we could do was hasten the inevitable. She had to be put to sleep before seizures kicked in. Friends do not let friends suffer.
She lay on the metal table panting uncontrollably. As I walked slowly toward her, her face turned, looking for me. I stood next to her and embraced her, told her she had been a loyal friend who was there in my darkest hour, a four legged angel.
Then the convulsions stared, the violent thuds drowning out her weak whines. It was time. I left the room and sat in the car with her sister Tazz who was solemn as though she knew what was going on. I petted Tazz and felt something very precious being yanked away from me. Words cannot express the sense of loss I felt at that moment. That she was a dog did not make her departure any less painful; it made it harder because I had the power to make that final decision on her behalf.
Her sister Tazz has outlived her for three years but is now ill with cancer that has spread to many other organs. We have chosen to make the remainder of her life as joyful and pleasant as possible until the moment comes when she will join her sister. That day, we will call a vet to put her to sleep on her sofa, in her home, surrounded by her family which includes Diego a mastiff-rottweiler mix we dopted to keep her company.
Human life spans are much longer on average than those of our pets, and we must witness them living and ageing in fast forward, but this does not dissuade me from doing it all over again. Once you have experienced the adoration and companionship a pet provides, living without one seems very empty. Take solace in the fact that they live in love and leave us with a grateful heart. We think we adopt them, but in reality, it is they who adopt us.
* Colombian-Canadian writer living in Canada.