Posted by: gdevi | March 20, 2013

Old dogs

Sally, our oldest dog is almost 14 years old. Sally is a year older than my daughter, who turns 13 in a couple of weeks. We found Sally when we went to fix something awful we had done taking care of our friends’ daughter’s goldfish. They had gone to India for vacation and had asked us if we would take care of the little girl’s goldfish till they came back. Sure, we said. The fish were fine until we decided to clean the fish tank. We cleaned the tank really good, but the fish died when we put them back in the clean water. Operation successful. Patient died. We decided to pass off some new goldfish in place of the original deceased goldfish. This deceitful attempt was to save the young girl the pain of hearing that her favorite goldfish were dead. We told the parents and the parents said that was fine. Only the young girl would not know.

So we went to the Pet Smart near Coit and 635 in Dallas to get some new goldfish. Goldfish all look the same. Only the parent goldfish distinguish between the offspring goldfish. To our unspecialized eyes, all goldfish look the same. We were successful in buying the new and improved and living goldfish. When we were finished paying for the goldfish and were walking out of Pet Smart we had to pass all these kennels that SPCA had put up with dogs for adoption. Sally caught my eye immediately. Her name was Thumper then, because, as the SPCA lady explained, she kept thumping the bars of the kennel with her stiff and wiry chihuahua tail. We named her Sally, short for Saluki, though no dog could be more different from a Saluki than Sally. (Later, when we adopted Jesse from the dog rescue people, Jesse was already named Jesse. So we had two dogs named Sally and Jesse. Most people thought that we were fans of the show Sally Jesse Raphael. Ha!) Sally was very small–a terrier-chihuahua mix–and had this beautiful archetypal dog eyes. I fell in love with her immediately. We had never thought of keeping a dog before, but we decided to bring Sally home for one day for fostering. The same evening, we called Pet Smart and told them we were adopting her. 45 dollars. That is what we paid to adopt Sally. She was one month old when we brought her home.

I still have Sally’s baby teeth with me. I found them lying on the living room carpet one day. They reminded me of jasmine flowerbuds. She never grew to be too big. At her biggest she was perhaps 17-18 pounds.  It is always amusing to me when strangers look at Sally and say “cute dog” and attempt to pet her. This was mostly because Sally resembled the Yo quiero Taco Bell mascot dog. Remember that commercial? People always stopped us and said Quiero taco bell! when we walked Sally. Sally is not a pet-able dog. She does not like to be touched on her head or her legs by anyone other than us. Even at the vet, we have to hold her while poor Dr. Livingston will put the muzzle on her before she can begin her examination. One day–this was when we were living in Dallas–somebody that we knew stopped to talk with me while I was walking Sally, and she tried to pet Sally. I told her immediately and repeatedly, please don’t pet Sally. She does not like to be touched on the head. But the lady said, oh, pooey, and proceeded to pet Sally on her head. It was instantaneous. I saw the lady pull her hand back with a shriek. Sally had bitten her on her forearm really badly. Her arm was bleeding. I was bereft. Dallas is a boosterville, as Molly Ivins once observed–it is all about cleanliness, sanitation, hygiene, germs and order. They might incarcerate you for jaywalking or if your dog bites someone. I thought to myself. This is it. They are either going to arrest Sally or put her to sleep, and god knows, I tried my level best to tell this woman in plain unambiguous English not to touch Sally on the head. Why would I say that if that was not true? I was completely depressed. But she would not listen and petted Sally and now something awful is going to happen to Sally.

I told the lady that I would pay for her shots and hospital visits. I had no idea that she would make a police record. But that is what she did. She went to the emergency care, got her shots, brought me the bill, and I wrote out a check for her immediately. Then she went home and called the Dallas PD. I did not know she had called Dallas PD. I was completely shocked when an hour later a uniformed police officer came to our door and asked to speak about a violent, unleashed dog on the premises. I told the officer that Sally was not violent, was leashed at the time and that I was holding her, and that I had repeatedly and earnestly told the person not to touch Sally on her head.  The police officer was a good woman and she nodded her head. She told me though that according to the law, Sally would have to be quarantined for a week to make sure that the lady did not contract anything from her. It was incredible. Where are you going to quarantine Sally? I asked incredulously. The police station downtown, the officer said. Really? I asked. I thought it the most unbelievable thing I had heard in my life up until then. Sally in the police station with criminals? The officer could see that I was trying my best to remain civil and coherent. So she said, tell you what, you can quarantine your dog with your vet. How about that? Is your dog up to date with her shots? I said, of course, she is. Thank you, I said, for not taking Sally to the police station. So Sally spent her quarantine with the good Dr. Baines.

Sally bit a few other people as well, both in Dallas and Lock Haven, all because of the don’t-touch-the-head rule.  She technically does not have a police record in Pennsylvania; the person she bit in PA knew it was her fault and decided to let it go. Our friends joke that we have a dog with a police record in two states. But it must be genetic; Sally would let Appu touch her on her head just like she lets us touch her on her head. Maybe she can sense that Appu and I are siblings. I don’t know. When Dayani was born, I was concerned that Sally might not like the baby. But I could not have been more wrong. I would always put D on a blanket on the floor with her toys when I was working, and Sally would come, walk around the perimeter of the blanket, look at D, sniff a bit, and walk away. Sally always kept to herself. She was not interested in biting children.

Sally is blind now. She cannot see at all. We have a cataract appointment with the vet. Sally bumps into everything in her way. I always worry when she goes near steps that she might fall down and break her bones. Since Daisy joined us, Sally has become increasingly irritated with Daisy’s bouncy ways. Daisy–who is 75 pounds now–does not understand that Sally is blind, so when Sally walks blindly towards her, she jumps on Sally and tries to push her down. It is quite a spectacle. So we have put Sally in a room all by herself and put gates up so Daisy can’t get to her. Or, as our friends, the Strattons observed, you have started to give your dogs their own rooms.

I must have been 17 or 18 years old when our dog in India, Mickey, died of old age. Mickey had come to us as a puppy. She was a gorgeous Pomeranian. Mickey was with us for a long time and gave us many litters of beautiful pups that we farmed out to family and friends. On the day that Mickey died, Mickey had become so weak that she could not even get up. My father had taken the car and gone somewhere, so mother and I called a rickshaw and took Mickey to the vet. Mickey lay on mother’s lap, unmoving with her eyes closed. We felt hopeful. The vet’s name was Dr. Bhagawan. Bhagawan, as you know, in Sanskrit, means God. We were taking Mickey to see God. Dr. Bhagawan told us that Mickey was just very very old at that point and that the best he can do to reduce her suffering was to put her to sleep. Mother and I could not really say yes to that. I, personally, would want to die electively if I am faced with some sort of terminal illness, but I could never make that decision on someone else’s behalf. So we told Dr. Bhagawan that we will take Mickey home. Mickey died later that evening, while mother was holding her and trying to feed her. She died very suddenly and very quietly.


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