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Perhaps

Not everyone has had a pet, some people have had many pets, and some have only had a few. I have owned many pets. During college I had parakeets. In medical school, I had cockatiels. Over the past twenty years or so, I have had gold fish, lizards, turtles, and several dogs -- all of them Doberman Pinchers with the exception of a rescue Dalmatian. Regardless of their size, shape or species, all of my pets have been dear to me. Most of all, I am a dog lover.

Over the past twelve years, I have enjoyed the companionship of my dog Remington, a black and tan floppy-eared Doberman; I called him Remi for short. He originally joined the Merigian family as a companion dog for Roxy, the Dalmatian. Remi quickly learned how to follow Roxy’s lead, and he was always a kind and gallant guardian. When I married Lisa, he was her guardian too. Lisa commented on numerous occasions how Remi followed her in the house, and out in the yard, always making sure she was safe and protected.

One of the most amazing things about Remi was that he gave his undivided attention to me whenever I was around him. He never used a cell phone; he never sent text messages; he didn’t surf the internet; he didn’t care about Facebook; he didn’t stay glued to the phone; and he never complained about being served healthy-wholesome food. He exercised with me every morning. And if he was ill, he took his medicine without question. The worst incident I can remember was Remi’s post prandial vomiting of monkey grass on the media room floor. Green slime didn’t clean up very easily. Remi sat by the side entrance of the house as a way of communicating his sorrow for soiling the floor.

Two years ago, I got a red female Doberman puppy as a companion for him. Remi was quite older, but instead of being a grump, he treated her with kindness and patience. They became great buddies and played for countless hours in the yard. Remi always stood watch over Ankhensennamun (his red Doberman sister). Both of them guided me to my car every morning, and both of them greeted me every night when I came home from work. They were always there.

This past Tuesday night, when I arrived home from lifting weights at the gym, Ankhensennamun greeted me without Remi. She was a bit frantic, more frantic than usual, but I didn’t really notice until I realized Remi wasn’t with her. I asked her where he was. She wondered over to the side of the drive. Remi was flat on the ground, motionless. As I approached him, and spoke his name, he didn’t move. I touched his warm body, only to notice he wasn’t breathing. I ran into the house, grabbed my stethoscope and ran back to his side. He was warm, but his pupils were dilated. His pulse was absent and he had no heart rhythm. I pronounced him dead, and then I proceeded to cry. I did not have the chance to say good-bye to my noble and trusted friend.

I’m not really sure what a proper burial is for a black and tan Doberman who was as noble and gallant as any guardian I have had before. But I had some idea of what I wanted to do. So I called a close friend, and she came over to assist me in any way she could. I asked her to hold the flashlight as I dug his grave. It was a chilly night, but my mind wasn’t on the temperature. I toiled and sweated for an hour or so, until I had his final place shaved and tailored for his cold, silent limp frame. I swaddled him in a white sheet and wrapped him gently with a blue rope. As I lowered him into his grave, I said some things I can’t remember. I made sure his grave was deep enough to protect him from the elements, but shallow enough to make sure he felt the warmth of the sun. I had the notion that his soul would meet all the spirits of the other dogs I have owned in the past; and I hoped that I would someday reunite with all of them in the life eternal. Candles burned all night to help him make safe passage to the land behind the veil.

As I thought about his death, in between the moments of grief and sadness, I realized in some odd way that his mortality reaffirmed my belief that there is a thin fragile line between life and death. That every moment matters in life, every breath counts and that when we have the opportunity to help others, we should take the chance. His death was a shock since I had no forewarning that he was ill, or that he was on the verge of dying. Yet I can think of only a few things I would have done differently, even if I had known. I would have told him good-bye for now at least, and that I loved him more than he ever knew; I would have made sure that he knew I would make certain Ankhensennamun would be okay without him nearby; and I would have let him know his memory would live in my heart forever. Perhaps he knew all of that anyway, and he chose to leave when I wasn’t home. Because he knew how distressed I would feel being helpless in my ability to doctor him back to health. Perhaps he knew. Perhaps.

I choose perhaps. And that choice will get me through the grief of another day without Remi.

Doc 

Posted by Katie Reed at 9:03 AM
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