Monday, 3 January 2011

The Big Chill (Part Two)

I received some awful news today from Rizza: our old guide dog pal, Guido, was dead.

He was knocked down by a gritter. I still can't quite believe it. Of all the dogs in this world Guido should have known better. He was trained to know better. I asked if there was any chance that Rizza could have been mistaken. He told me he had smelled the blood on the road himself. He'd heard first hand the tearful account from Guido's owners to Rizza's. He'd felt the increasing discomfort of being inside Guido's house, surrounded by so many old smells of the dog himself, realising he was gone forever. Tears flowed from both of us as he told me.

They'd said that Guido had been suffering quite badly in the cold, his arthritis really playing up, and that he'd appeared so depressed the vet had started him on pet antidepressants. It seemed so out of character for him to wander into the road with no justification. They wondered if the pills had muddled his mind in some way. It didn't change anything though. Guido was never coming back.

Rizza speculated that it sounded like suicide. I argued that that was ridiculous. There's no such thing as pet suicide. The survival instinct always kicks in. When I'd been a stray I'd not been happy but I'd never wanted not to wake up. I'd never felt like giving in.

Rizza argued back that that was because I'd been young and didn't know any differently. You couldn't want to die without understanding what death was. At that age I had no experience of death so wasn't aware of the option. For me there was only life and that was how it should be. But how could we know how we'd feel when we were old, knowing that most of our life lay behind us. Maybe Guido decided upon which road his final journey lay. Maybe he even picked the vehicle. Maybe it was his choice.

I felt this to be utterly preposterous, yet couldn't dismiss it entirely. At the back of my mind, an uncertainty niggled, fuelled by the many unanswered questions that would always remain. After all, we hadn't spoken to him in a while, due to the prolonged cold spell; we didn't know how he'd been feeling. We'd always wonder if there was anything we could have done to prevent it. 

At times like this, your friends and family become so important. You need them around to share the grief and lessen the pain. And you hold a mirror to your own life and reflect upon what you've achieved. Personally, I've always lived for the moment. I've had fun destroying squeaky toys, running fast and guzzling snacks. I'm loved by my owners but I've no chance of a family of my own (unless I adopt, which I've no plans to do). This blog (and some photo gifts created by my mistress) are probably the only lasting things that will survive me and even then only noticed by a few. I pondered my legacy.

Rizza seemed thoughtful too. He came closer, sniffed behind my ear and whispered softly he needed my friendship now more than ever. His face gently nudged my neck. I glanced into his big, teary eyes and nearly weakened. As I hesitated, his pupils widened. He licked his lips and made for my rear. At that point I could have succumbed but instinctively I spun round. Instead of biting him, though, I licked his face, a consolation for declining his 'comfort doggy'. He wasn't a bad friend. He was just wanting to ease the hurt like a boy dog does. I continued to lick away the salt from his face and his eyes and he liked it. He rolled onto his back and wagged his docked tail. I wasn't going to lick anywhere else though, even if it was protruding and whiffy in a salty way.

We remained silent for a time, pondering the implausible. We were missing a corner of our triangle. Guido will always be in our memories. We'll chat and play again in our thoughts and dreams. In dog heaven we will be reunited, but not yet.

Farewell Guido, guide dog, retired. I'll miss you forever.

Guido R.I.P. 1998-2010