We weren’t supposed to give them names.
Of the eight dogs of the Zoo on Cordillera Street, four were puppies. Three 4-month-olds belonged to the same litter, waiting to be given/sold to people looking for free/inexpensive half-Dalmatians; one was nearing his first birthday. The last one was Elvis (yes, I know — dad is such an Elvis Presley fan), while the little ones were affectionately called Kambang, Tisoy, and Tisay. Funny nicknames, no real ones. The reason? We didn’t want to get too attached to pups which we’d be disposing in few weeks time. Disposing — some silly term always used by my dad.
If only we knew what was in store for us.
I was the first to notice it. One morning, Kambang (named so for her black patch on the right side of her head and ear) had a fever. Aside from her high temperature, she seemed lethargic, didn’t want to eat, gave no reaction to my whistles and gentle coaxing, and occasionally vomited small amounts of fluids. Though alarming, we’ve experienced those clinical conditions before with other pups, and so I didn’t really worry too much about it. All she needs is rest, I thought.
Just before I left for UP, I checked up on her. I was slightly surprised when Kambang, in her illness and all, wagged her tail as I patted her on the head.
That was about nine in the morning. Less than twelve hours later, I arrived home from school, and the first thing I looked for as I opened the door was Kambang. But it was my Dad who greeted me with the simplest of greetings.
“Kambang is dead.”
I found her in the backyard. When I got over the disbelief, I spent some time observing her before she was properly “disposed” of. Her face was contorted in pain, with her blue eyes and jaws half-open. Wet, blood-stained stool stained her tail and the ground. Certainly a violent death, from within.
Right then and there, as I squat beside the stiff body of Kambang, I gave her a name. “Espy”, short for Esperanza, Spanish for hope.
Because two of our puppies were already showing Espy’s symptoms, and I was fervently hoping that they wouldn’t end up like her. Elbits, as I fondly called Elvis in “baby-talk”, was the adolescent “successor” to our true-blue Dalmatian. He was already having liquid feces with high concentrations of blood, which was of course very, very bad.
Panicky, we called up our local vet, and she gave the necessary (and expensive) prescriptions, not to mention injecting ’something’ into Elbits and Tisoy. The latter was still alright to an extent — Tisoy even yipped loudly when the vet stuck in the syringe. It was Elbits who was in a dire state — laid out on the ground, glassy-eyed with breaths coming in deep, rib-shaking heaves.
And so Elbits was given medication — anti-diarrhea capsules, antibiotic syrup. Because he wouldn’t eat and was losing body fluids quickly through his feces and occasional vomits, we force-fed him with water-and-sugar solutions. This went on for several hours, with the family hoping that Elbits would stop vomiting, stop defecating blood, and simply recover. We even brought him out to the backyard so that the other dogs couldn’t bother him in his ill state.
But the situation worsened. Elbits’ jaw began to resist our attempts at force-feeding, snapping together with unnatural ferocity. He threw up virtually all of his medication and the remaining fluids in his body.
I ran upstairs, opened the PC, did a quick scan of a dozen websites, and found the culprit — Parvo, the feared virus fatal to most untreated dogs below the age of one. The clinical symptoms were the same; more frighteningly, it often kills within a day or two after the onset of the symptoms. We were asking then: What could we do? We couldnâ€™t bring him to an animal hospital. We didnâ€™t have the money.
But damn, there was still hope. Espy, no, Elvis won’t end up like her. This dog was a fighter; he was the sole survivor of a whole litter which died. He was our Dalmatianâ€™s heir apparent, with the excellent tell-tale spots and lean and mean body. Most of all, he was the wackiest of them all, and as such he was my best friend.
That’s it. He was my best friend. And I was not going to lose him to some devil-kin, unintelligible life-form.
I was patient in administering the vet’s prescriptions; sadly, the virus wasn’t. By 2 AM Elbits’ mouth was tightly clenched, and two grown-up men (me and my dad) weren’t able to force-feed him anymore. His stomach, which was convulsing from time to time, obviously caused him a lot of pain (Parvo causes the intestines to slough, thus the bloody stool). I spent some time talking to Elbits, scratching his head (especially the prominent black spot right smack on his forehead) and even picking off some mites and ticks. Later, I left him to my dad’s care and hesitantly went to bed, fatigued beyond expression, both physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Unbelievably, I was able to have a wonderful dream.
I was standing in the backyard, looking at Elbits perched upon some platform. He seemed to be alright; after all, he was sitting, not sprawled on the ground!
But in the most painful of moments, I suddenly heard our maidâ€™s voice in the background, saying, â€œElbits has passed away.â€
I woke up, shaking off the drowsiness and headache. I slowly made my way down to the ground floor, opened the door to the backyard, and knelt in front of a friend.
Amidst the strong stench of bloody stool and the buzz of flies, I paid my last respects to Elbits. As I ruminated over what could have been and what would not be, I patted him on the black spot on his forehead.
Moments later, as I readied to leave the house for UP, I paid a last visit to the backyard. There, I laid my hand on Elbitsâ€™ head for one last time, and said, â€œGoodbye, dear friend.â€
At the same time, I silently apologized to him, and cursed and damned myself for letting him die.
While I was away at my thesis class, they buried Elbits in our small garden box (garden box, not garden). True, it was an unprecedented move to assure the virus’ survival for months to come, but we had to give him a decent burial, not throw him and leave him to rot on some vacant lot.
By evening that day, Tisoy (with his blue eyes, beige nose, and chocolate-brown spots) became more sick. His frame degenerated into almost a skeleton. We brought him out to the backyard to isolate him from the other dogs. Hours of force-feeding again took its toll, and I slept early that night, still not having recovered from the previous nightâ€™s ordeal.
Again, I had a wonderful dream.
The dream-state Corsarius opened the door to the backyard, and Tisoy came rushing into the house, galloping and yipping like crazy!
When I woke up, they told me Tisoy had already died when I was asleep.
Tisay, as she was called (she really looked like a Dalmatian), was A-OK the day her sibling died. She was as ravenous as a tiger, and as active as a tadpole. But the following day she showed the symptoms of Parvo — lethargy, depression, bloody stool, vomiting.
For three days I patiently force-fed her with Gatorade (to supply her with electrolytes) and medicine. She was a strong pup, able to survive longer than her buddies. But as her illness progressed her condition swiftly regressed — she was having liquid feces more bloody than those of the other pupsâ€™.
Morning of the fourth day of her sickness, I was horrified to Tisay discharge a pool of reddish, liquid stool, feebly walk towards my direction, and collapse to the floor.
More than an hour later, while I was in a distant library in UP preparing for an exam, the last of our puppies died.
It is always hard to lose a friend to the shadows. More so for four friends.
And as always the case, God has a reason for all of these. A mysterious reason, that is, one which is worth a million crap-ollars for many of us, including me. As church doctrine goes, we should soul-search for this reason; it is our responsibility as children of God.
But if I need to oblige with this, then I’ve got a request for Him in return, a little plea of a corsair who isn’t accustomed to pleading with people at all. I will plumb the depths of my soul to find Your reason, but give Elbits and the rest of all departed animals their own souls. Make every crying kid’s animal heaven a reality. With that mountain-moving, sea-dividing might, give them this simplest of requests, the greatest of dignities. Give them their souls, so they can meet their masters in the end, and blissfully frolic in the fields of Elysium. Please. For me, and for the millions of people who, at one time or another in their lifetimes, mourned beyond mourning for their dear friends.
I’m not sure — heck, no one’s sure — if this small request of mine will be granted. But one thing’s sure.
The Zoo on Cordillera Street is a much more boring place now.
Farewell, Elbits, Espy, Tisoy, Tisay, and the others. Wherever you are, know that you’ll be fondly — and lovingly — remembered.
Till next time then.
July 1, 2005 (Evening) - Espy (”Kambang”), 4 month old half-Dalmatian
July 2, 2005 (Dawn) - Elvis, 8 month old half-Dalmatian
July 3, 2005 (Early Dawn) - Tisoy, 4 month old half-Dalmatian
July 7, 2005 (Morning) - Tisay, 4 month old half-Dalmatian
*Stop, traveler. Latin. Used on tombstones.