Warning… Grief ahead.
Shanti came into our life via a Midwest cornfield where she was found along with 3 or 4 of her siblings. Probably the product of an Amish puppy mill “accident”. Is there such a thing as doggie rumspringa? Not being of pure blood, she was left to fend for herself.
Vouched for, and entreated upon us, by a gaggle of 5th grade girls who relished the thought of having matching dogs. She entered our lives as a small ball of fluff with big ears and even bigger fears. She promptly crawled under our dining room sideboard. The only way to lure out was with dots of Cheez-Whiz which she’d lick off the floor until she realized she was exposed, and slink back to her hidey-hole.
We eventually coaxed her into a crate with a pillow. And when more comfortable, we could move the pillow anywhere in the house and she would sit there.
The 5th grade gaggle grew up and grew apart and so did play dates with her siblings. Shanti grew into a trusted walking partner and was great off leash. She was flash fast and fleet of foot in her youth. Mostly aloof with other dogs, she made a few close friends whom she would pine for at the mention of their names- Seamus, Midget, Boomer and Baxter.
She had a stable midwestern life. A life of seasons and structure. But midway through her life her owners got a bug in their bonnet about traveling around the world and, Shanti, not being given a choice, went along as some sort of canine trafficking victim. Crated and shuttled away to Indonesia, Jordan and Thailand. Sometimes places where dogs aren’t too highly regarded.
She was kicked and avoided. Her walks became polluted and concrete, but the scents were varied and ripe. Rat, sheep and monkey. It was often a Chinese zodiac of odors on the streets. It was hot, humid, arid, or dusty.
She and her trusty crate went all over. She went to Baghdad before her owners on an errant cargo mix-up. There is nothing that strikes fear from an owner more than,
“Hi, we’re from the airline. Do you have your dog? We can’t find her.”
They found her and delivered her some 12 hours later, her forgiving, but unforgetting eyes, seething rage from her cage. “You mother f*&king, mother f*&ker! What in the ever-f*&ing, f*&k are you trying to do to me!? There had better be some f*&king cheese in your f*&king hand or I am going to lose it on your rug!!”
But after a bath and some cheese, even the unforgotten is distant.
And despite her general dislike of nearly everything, she proved resilient and tolerant. Withstanding countless interactions with curious children who petted her tail because it was furthest from her mouth. Children who pinched her ears. Doing her part to prove that dogs aren’t evil or frightening, she went along with it.
She softened our guards and would shake them down for snacks each night. She ate gently out of their hands, but really the roles should have been reversed. Toward the end of her life, those snacks were the only thing she’d willingly eat. Each night she’d give them a high-five on her way to bed.
We, her traffickers, had alas, moved her to a Buddhist country where euthanasia was frowned upon. And this brings a large amount of guilt to those of us from the West. She was wasting away. Walks got slower. Life certainly got harder for her and us.
Our vets, though quite capable and up to date, seemed reluctant to consider putting her to sleep. The culture believes that this is their burden to bear. We can’t really intervene. Although, we also tried chemo and homeopathic remedies and antibiotics in an effort to turn things around.
Toward the end, we’d find her crawling under the table to lie down. Returning to her puppy roots. And at the end, she gave up on her pillow, seemingly pained, but quickly, with us able to help her take her last step. Right about the time that we’d normally take our evening walk.
Which brings up a question. How exactly does one inter a pet on the umpteenth floor of a condo, in a concrete morass of millions? There are no pet cemeteries or parks or pleasant forests.
It turns out that the Buddhists, though they frown on euthanasia, make burial almost beautiful and soothing. Many local temples offer crematoriums. You can bring your pet there and for a very small price, they will cremate your dog and you can collect the ashes at the end of the day, wrapped tidily in a muslin cloth.
For a few baht more, the temple monk will come and pray for your dog for an easy passage into the next life and hopefully rebirth as a human.
And for even a few baht more, you can hire a boat to head out into the river and float the ashes on a leafy raft and float them out to sea. I found it remarkably calming.
There is a belief here that a dog who has been a pet and lived a well-behaved life, is one step away from being reincarnated into a human in their next life. So, if you come across a kind, yet anxious human with large ears, send them my way. I’d like to walk with them.