Remembering Whitey

Today’s Hong Kong Dog Rescue blog was Sally’s reflection on more and more unwanted dogs, on how easily dogs are given up with hardly a second thought. HKDR now has a young Maltese, just imported in September, meaning the family only has had the puppy for two weeks. Tops.

How does someone go from spending time and money to research importing a puppy to surrendering him? How does someone decide in less than one month time that they’ve had enough?

It’s a sad time, for all the puppies born and yet to be born. And a Maltese brings back memories…I have a soft spot for them.

Maltesepainting of maltese

I remember sometime in my second year of university, while I was living at home, I was working hard to get a puppy.  Our last dog had passed away almost two years previously and I felt I was ready for a new friendship.

I don’t remember how long I begged but one day my mom relented. I think she told me over lunch, before sending my sister to the airport. I think it was after spring break and she was headed back to school herself. Wanna talk about an impulse buy? Afraid my mom was going to change her mind, I drove us to pet shops immediately. Yes, already many things wrong with this picture, right?

Even though I had been thinking about it for a long time, this really does qualify as an impulse buy. And we were headed to a pet shop – a HUGE no no, with all the puppy mill horrors. This was back in the day when I didn’t know about puppy mills and even a place like Vancouver hadn’t politicize the issue or action moves like banning sales of live puppies at shops.

But I wanted a puppy more than anything. I wanted one before the choice was taken away from me. And so after several shops and several puppies, a little white fluffy pup came home, bundled in my sweatshirt, along with all-new supplies, ready to start his life with us.

Whitey was my first puppy (but not my first dog) and he would be with me for eight years. He went just about everywhere with me, on long drives up to Whistler, out to visit my friends, grocery shop runs, even to Montreal for a stint at environmental studies… He cuddled with me watching TV and movies and slept with me every night.

I would take him running in the endowment lands, through the dirt trails. He happily ran ahead me, exploring the grounds and pools. People used to make fun of him, laughing at his size, calling him a little cat. Whitey didn’t care. I didn’t care. We just ran and ran and breathed in the crisp cool air and pushed our feet deeper into the dirt. It was glorious.

I remember Whitey fondly and with love. He went through quite a bit with me. The whole puppy stages, from escaping into the neighbour’s yard through broken fences to his first bark. Kneecap surgery, so common in these little breeds. An enlarged heart. And for me? Graduation, breakups, living on my own for the first time, and just so many moments of life.

His passing was very difficult. On that morning, I slept in a little later than usual. I was laying in bed with him, just enjoying the silence and heartfelt contact. I asked him to hold on, not to go, but I knew.

That day, my sister took him for a vet check-up. Something was bothering him. Nothing in particular. He just had tests not so long ago. That morning,  he couldn’t quite sit down properly. They put him under to get an x-ray. Whitey never woke up.

I remember getting the news at work. I remember quietly listening to the news on the phone, thinking how badly I felt for my dad for having to tell me. I quietly left my desk to sit in the bathroom cubicle. For a long time.

I think I was in shock. I didn’t cry and wouldn’t for years, until one day I did.

Not all impulse buys and purchases from pet shops end in tragedy but I had a lot of help. My parents helped me with all the costs, including vet bills and Whitey stayed at friends whenever we travelled. We lived in a house with a yard and in a quiet residential area with lots of good walks. All my friends were dog people and now that’s a lot of support.

Whitey’s story may have been different. Was his puppy mill pedigree the cause of his health? Perhaps. Could I have been a better keeper? Most definitely. I didn’t know too much about training, complementary medicine or raw food. Who knows what difference it may have all made to my little dog.

I think – hope – Whitey had a good life. Whitey did have constant companionship, never as a side note or a forgotten toy. His first bark was initiated in the company of other dogs (Maltese, actually), with whom he spent many holidays and festivities. He was much loved, not only by me, but all those who knew him.

Remembering Whitey used to be difficult. Now I understand I just didn’t know better. It’s not an excuse but I cannot change the past and can’t continue beating myself up for it.  What counts is that now I am doing right by my dogs, as far as I know. What matters is that we learn and align knowledge with heart. And speak up for the dogs and speak out against neglect and abuse.

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