Farewell to a Friend

I remember the first time I saw her. It was an unremarkable weeknight. My two siblings were giddy with excitement as my dad’s pickup truck parked in the garage. The moment Duchess stepped off the flatbed, she ran excitedly towards her new masters. My brother, sister and dad fondled the then year-old pooch. In contrast, I ran away when she made her way towards me.

You see, I was never fond of dogs or animals. As a child, we used to have this black mutt as a pet. After a few months of initial interest, I grew distant from my first dog. Soon enough, I hated dogs altogether. This animosity towards these gentle creatures reached a climax ten years ago, when our neighbors’ two fierce dogs chased me around the entire length of our street. Frankly, I could not get man’s bond with man’s so-called best friend. I was dumbfounded at this relationship.

Everything changed for the better, thanks to Duchess.

At first, I was fearful of her and her playful attitude. I used to squirm each time she licked my hand or ran circles around me. I even had trouble feeding her at first, in light of my fear of dogs. Gradually, our relationship grew deeper. I remember during 2007, during my fifth year and final UAAP year, I had loads of free time. During those quiet weekdays, I just sat by our garage or front porch, reading a book with my furry friend.

My dad always likes to quote Gordon Gekko’s famous albeit cynical line: “If you need a friend, get a dog.” Indeed, Duchess was a great friend, especially to this reserved, emotionally-scarred, quarter-life stricken person that I am. A dog is a loyal companion. A labrador retriever, with its playful demeanor and cheerful attitude, is the epitome of being “man’s best friend.”

In my twenty-four something years of existence, I have experienced quite a few emotional ravines. During those trying times, Duchess has been a constant companion – my closest confidante in light of my lack of close human relationships. When my dear grandmother died in early 2008, the time I spent with my dog did much to assuage the pain of losing a loved one. I can still vividly remember my dog’s expectant eyes, drooling and panting as I played with her, each time I felt down. About a month later, I suffered another emotional blow when I badly lost in my final UAAP sprint hurdles race. I was depressed for months. At the nights I came home drunk with Bacchanalian excess, my faithful dog always gave a warm welcome. Being jobless, I spent an inordinate amount of time staying home. Duchess, as always, was there lend her long droopy ears.

When I started working, I rued not spending enough time with my dog. Hence, I made it a point to check up on her a bit before I left home at mornings. When I got home from work or training, my first stop would be to greet my dog.

On Saturday, I noticed something different about Duchess. She wasn’t her usual bubbly self. She wasn’t responding as fast to my commands. She kept on bumping into walls and stuff. Even though she had appetite for food, it was apparent that something was wrong. Off I went to the vet. She took a blood test. Apparently, everything was normal aside from her eyes, which were at the early stages of acquiring a cataract. The Vet provided a megadose of Vitamin A for Duchess.

We went home after that. I went to the gym for my weekend workout. However, I couldn’t seem to stay put, so I cut short my workout. When I got home, I found the dog disoriented and quite unresponsive. In line with the earlier diagnosis, I presumed that she had difficulty seeing at night. She was moving slower too, far too slow. At one point, she just laid down at her favorite cool spot in front of our kitchen door. Before I slept, I made sure she had some light to prevent total disorientation – or so I thought.

By Sunday morning, her condition grew worse, far worse than the indications of a early stages of cataract. She hardly responded to my commands, staring blankly at empty spaces. Her eyes had that glassy look of the sick. Her breathing grew shallow. When she tried walking, she fell out of balance. Duchess didn’t even touch her food or drink water. She was severely weakened to the point that she just laid immobile underneath her favorite spot under my dad’s car. She had lost control of her bodily faculties too, defecating and urinating where she sat.

There and then, I was crying. The last time I cried that hard was when my grandmother died. The thought of losing my dog was a tragedy waiting in the midst.

My driver and I lifted Duchess into my dad’s pickup truck since she was unable to walk on her own. At the car, she laid by my side, wheezing – dying. The least I can do was touch her, let her know that I was there by her side.

We brought her to a clinic in Kalayaan Avenue. Apparently, Duchess had ingested some sort of organo-phosphate substance – a poison. They injected stimulants and a substance to facilitate her breathing. They connected her to an IV. She was confined to the clinic for the better part of the day.

I called up the Vet by late afternoon to check up on her. Her breathing remained shallow. There was a 60/40 chance of dying/surviving.

During dinner, I cried my heart out in front of family – a rarity. I could sense my friend’s life slipping away. That evening, it rained so hard one would have thought that there was a typhoon. After a few minutes of tumult, the rain stopped and the sky cleared. I felt something different, something wrong.

As soon as I got home, I went to the clinic to check up on my dog. The crushing news of Duchess’ death greeted me. It was as if the whole weight of the world fell into my weak shoulders. Seeing her empty cage and her macabre corpse crushed my heart to a million pieces.

I shouldn’t have left her there alone. Had I known she was about to pass away, I would have stayed with her until the last moment. Sorry, old friend. I’m truly sorry.

I drove home with Duchess’ body in my trunk. I was crying. I was shouting my lungs out in an effort to assuage the grief. When I got home I cried some more as I broke out the news to my family. After a few sips of beer, my dad chose a place for us to bury Duchess and we started digging. We dug as deep as possible under the circumstances. It was the least we can do for a faithful friend.

When I woke up this morning, I felt a deep void. I couldn’t seem to stop crying, to stop thinking of her, to stop going to her usual hiding places and hangout spots in the house. As the car left the house this morning, I gazed at our gate expecting to see Duchess – my friend, the ever-cheerful and energetic labrador retriever – looking back in return.

She was not there.

They say that all dogs go to heaven. Until then, old buddy. See you when I see you.

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2 responses to “Farewell to a Friend

  1. ian August 16, 2010 at 8:42 AM

    I’m sorry for your loss..

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