Sunday, October 04, 2009

my sister's dog

His paws were enclosed in baby socks, and his honey-brown head lay sadly on the vet's examination couch. There was a pool of blood a palm's width across where his muzzle rested on the paper mat beneath him. Two clear tubes snaked into his nostrils, and a bag of fluid hung nearby, connecting into him. I expected I'd get teary but didn't expect I would lose the ability to speak altogether when I saw him. He's not my dog, he's my sister's. Was my sister's.

My sister called him Waltah. Not Walter, but Waltah, to reflect how she always said his name - in a mushy, silly, adoring way. We all teased her when she named her dog Waltah. But in the end, we forgot he had a silly name, and we came to love him for his adoring, affectionate ways, for his earnest obedience and for his doggy joie de vivre. Staffy dogs are the bomb. And he was a wonderful Staffy.

Yesterday, my sister's friend took Waltah for a short walk (my sister is overseas). Within minutes, Waltah began to pant heavily, and his breathing became laboured. The vet diagnosed heat exhaustion, and Waltah was cooled, given fluids and oxygen, was catheterised, plied with medications, and sedated. He rallied at first, but then his kidneys failed. After several hours, the vet told us Waltah could not survive this. A decision had to be made. Waltah looked exhausted. He turned his brown eyes my way and my sister's friend and I told the vet to go ahead.

First we held a mobile phone to his sweet doggy head and my sister crooned her love for her 'hairy child' (as she calls him) into his ear. We laughed at the ridiculousness of holding the phone up to Waltah while we cried at the sadness of my sister not being able to say goodbye in person to her beloved pup. His eyes stayed open as she talked to him, and I believe he heard my sister's voice. I hope it gave him comfort.

And then, as Waltah looked at us wearily, and as the vet pushed the plunger on the syringe, my sister's friend and I stroked Waltah's head and ears gently, and I told him, "Good boy Waltah, you're such a good boy." Because he was.