Patting his forehead, with his ‘father’ on Zoom, I watched and felt as life slipped away from my four-legged ‘nephew’ and companion, Puga. A white shepherd he only five or some thirty odd years in our two-legged terms. We had found out that he had small kidneys, ones which had even lost their contours, and, so, whatever we did, he would not be with us much longer.
Besides, this was a being who loved to run, smile and start barking in the middle of the night if he sensed that cats were impinging on his territory, that is the backyard of the house. I would get up and go with him to the dining room’s large window and try to calm him. Sometimes, he would. Sometimes, he would insist that I let him outside to chase the ‘culprit’. He would come back in five minutes or so, proud of himself, ready to sleep either in the living room where he had one blanket or go to the backroom, where I work on my old and new novels, and plunk his over hundred pounds on a comfortable mattress.
His life was not easy to start with. The ‘puppy’ of a high school teacher, a runner, who developed a devastating cancer, he was confined and not well cared for in first father’s apartment while the latter underwent chemotherapy. That father dying and aware that the one year old would not be taken by any family member gave him to the father with whom I am tied as the ‘auntie’.
He had a garden, an older white shepherd as a ‘sister’ and even, for a while, a lovely dark stray that insisted on staying. However, even here there was a problem. His second father saw his own father develop a debilitating illness and had to go back and forth to his country of origin.
That is where I came in. I was his third home, one with a rather spacious backyard and a routine which he quickly adapted to. We would walk/run for anything from three quarters of an hour to an hour and a half in the morning in three different ‘park’ areas in the neighborhood, have a go in the yard in the afternoon, and another fifteen to twenty-minute walk in the evening. Chow times were at noon and at six. Play times happened in-between.
At one point I had both his sister and him for a couple of weeks. At near seventy-two I was a bit overwhelmed, but Puga went along with a big smile and efforts to get his sister to play with him. She was not interested.
In June of this year his father went back to his parents’ home country to take care of family matters. He intended to come back in two, three months, but, due to his mother’s advanced age and the Cornavirus situation, he could not do it.
Slowly, Puga and I became a team, with Puga coming more often to sit on his mattress at the other end of the coffee table in the room where I wrote and becoming half of the ‘greeting committee’ that opened the door to guests, the partner of my daily walks and life.
As I walked/ran with him, I made many friends, other dog parents and simply people who would comment at how handsome, beautiful he was. We laughed together and sometimes even shared the same dishes. I learned to give him a spoonful of the natural Greek yoghurt I had for breakfast with fruit. I gave him some small pieces of the grilled meat I would have for one big meal — lunch.
Then a little over two weeks ago, he suddenly threw up, not once but twice. That was certainly not like him, but I was told and read that dogs, shepherds more than some, would do that and advised by both dog owner friends and internet articles, to go to a bland white rice and boiled skinless chicken breast. It worked and I increased the amounts. However, the minute I added some of his normal food, he threw up again.
I took him to the vet. He walked there. However, after I gave him prescribed antibiotics, he literally collapsed. With three men, a kind dog owner neighbor, his brother-in-law, and a school policeman friend of his second father, Puga was taken to emergency. I stayed with him until seven in the evening in a most welcoming place. When I came back the next morning, he tried to get up — it was eight, run/walk time — but could not. He made an effort to keep his head lifted and licked my face. It was his ‘goodbye’ kiss.