2013-09-21_LA MUERTE DE UN PERRO, The Death of a Dog
Today in the afternoon it fell to me to help put to sleep a badly abused dog. A young dog, I believe, but terribly mistreated. He was on the kerb just to the side of my acceso to the Panorámica.
I’d seen him before. Yesterday, to be exact, Friday 20, on my morning walk with Azabacha and Estrella. He was curled up in a corner of a semi-abandoned piece of land –except I know that it belongs to someone— which is to one side of J*** and G***’s house. Curled up and looking in very bad shape. On his tail or one of his hind paws –hard to tell which-- I glimpse the bright red of an open wound. He’s completely curled up on himself, the way a dog curls up when he’s cold – although that morning it wasn’t at all chilly. Skin and bones, poor thing, his head looking even more massive because the rest of him is so malnourished. And his eyes look tired and defeated.
On this piece of semi-empty land is a small clan of dogs from which a friend, R***, adopted a puppy. These dogs are territorial but not aggressive, and it seems they’ve left this poor badly-wounded visitor-dog a little space in which to heal up, or maybe to die; at least to rest for a while.
Disgracefully, I did nothing. I thought about who I could call, how I could get him to where he might be taken, what friend with a car could I call … would he snap at me? I’d need something to cover his head— and in the end, there was something else I had to attend to and it went out of my mind. Until around 4:10pm the next day, that is today, when I arrived laden with wine from the gringo-style supermarket, to find R***, my neighbour E*** and her fiancé N***, a young woman and a young man … and the dog. All there on the Panorámica right outside my acceso.
He is completely black, this dog. Skin and bones. When I saw him yesterday he was less exposed than he is now. It breaks your heart, how thin he is. Now I can see that his ears have been trimmed as they do to the ears of fighting dogs. They are not well-healed and are covered with dried blood and a bunch of flies who seem to have taken up residence there. The wound which yesterday I thought was on his hind leg I can now see is on his haunch, and badly infected. He looks a bit like a pit-bull but there is something in his skull which looks like Lab or even Great Dane, something massive and almost rectangular.
The worst thing about this dog are his eyes. In this middle of this enormous face, with its square jaw and mutilated ears, those eyes. Liquid, coffee-brown, they look almost extinguished. R*** comments that yesterday he brought the dog water and dried food but the dog had no desire to eat or to drink. Somehow, and who knows why, he made his way to precisely this spot, the entrance to my house from the Panorámica.
I believe that this dog, barely more than a puppy –he can’t be more than ten months old— was used to train the fight dogs. As N*** says, so they get to know the taste of blood. Again I am nauseated by this custom, so deeply ingrained in certain economic strata in this part of México. I know it goes on Right Here, because I’ve seen these dogs being raised by my neighbours. Although they swear by their mothers that they’re not, I know perfectly well that they are, and I know that they are probably making a decent amount of money selling the puppies produced by the black female pit-bull who seems to be in a constant state of either pregnancy or lactation. Is it possible that this poor dog is a product of their “training sessions”?
So it turns out that the two young people came because R***, bless him, called a vet and that doctor sent them, with the material necessary to put the dog to sleep if that was what we decided. So now, it’s clear: it’s up to us to decide whether to rescue or euthanise.
The young woman is extremely thin, with a face like a flame. Very serious, very rigorous. She reminds me a bit of my niece C***. So much commitment, so much dedication. I have that same sense of pride as I have had with C*** so many times.
E***, who works as a volunteer with Corazón Canino –an animal-rescue association—is hesitating: she say that they’ve rescued dogs in worse shape … but it’s a risky situation when they are so badly injured.
It seems that everyone is hesitating. The young vets-in-training look at us –they look at me— in the eyes, and say that it is Our Decision. I realize that it seems as though everyone is looking at me as though it is MY decision.
I think. I consult my intuition. I try to feel. More than anything, I look at the eyes of the dog. I sense that the dog wants to go now, that he no longer has fierceness or life-force; I feel as though with his eyes he is entrusting his last moments to us, that he wants to go now, and that if we can help him along, well so be it.
I try to keep my voice steady but it breaks anyway, and with it breaking I say, Well, let him suffer no more. I think he has no more will to live. Let’s put him to sleep, let him suffer no more.
I was going to give him a biscuit, one of those I make for Azabacha and Estrella, but they say no, he probably would throw it up. OK, no biscuit.
E*** says, I can’t watch, I’m sorry, I’m going. I say, I’ll stay, don’t worry, I’ll keep him company.
Why? Who knows. Thinking about it later I said in answer to my own question, IT’S NOT FAIR, this dog who maybe no one ever petted in his poor fucking short life, it’s not fair that he should exit this life without anyone petting him and comforting him and keeping him company; it’s the least I can do and what does it cost me, for crying out loud?
So I stayed there, caressing the massive head of this dog, massive in spite of his terrible thinness. It still makes me weep, the memory of those eyes. They put a cloth over his head for a moment, I and the young woman vet-in-training held him; for a moment he panicked and tried to get up but he no longer had the strength. The young man gave him the tranquilizer shot in a hind leg and she and I held him up, seated, until the front left leg started to tremble and then we helped him to lie down. I the whole time giving him a little massage on the bridge of the nose, where supposedly dogs have this acupressure point which calms them down; and the almost-vet stroking his neck.
And once he was calm, the other injection. This one in the vein of a front leg. Between the dehydration and the malnutrition it took the young woman quite a while to find the vein; and even when she found it, it was difficult to inject. She had to ask her co-worker for help.
It took a while for him to stop breathing. De rigueur, to check heart and respiration. Still no. But then yes: no heart, no respiration, nothing. No response when checking the eye.
The young woman vet-in-training makes a small sign of the cross over his nose. I am still weeping and realize that I will not be able to control my voice if I speak.
I think about how Estrella almost died two years ago and cry some more. Now I see them both, Estrella and Azabacha, waiting for me behind the gate; and I feel a wave of gratitude for having these two companions in my life. It’s very easy to fall into Hallmark-type sentiments in these moments. But that is exactly how I felt and how I feel: profoundly grateful to have these two companions in my life. It is the first time I have ever had a dog and now I cannot imagine life without a dog.
N*** has brought a large black plastic bag. And that’s it. We edge his poor starved body into the bag. The two men take it to the garbage container. They return.
Two other neighbours come to comment on the situation. I am still openly weeping, aware that it’s not just the death of this dog that I’m mourning and with no interest at all in disguising it.
We stay there for a while, talking as I suppose we need to do after a death: I mean, after the death of any being, a human, a canine, whatever.
And my two companions Azabacha –the black dog—and Estrella –the blonde dog—are still there, behind the iron-work door. Azabacha arrived first. Now she is whining or crying very quietly, a bit perplexed: she knows something is happening, that I am upset, she can hear that my speech is strange because I’m crying. Then came Estrella. There they are, the two of them, patiently awaiting me. Can they smell the death of the other dog? I don’t know, but I suspect they can. At the very least they know something serious has happened.
Once it is all done, I go back to my house. All I want to do is be with the piano. First the Sarabande of the 3rd Partitura of JSB, with which I’ve been spending some time these days. Then the last part of Creación de las Aves / Creation of the Birds, Anne LeBaron’s Monarca piece, homage to Remedios Varo. Perhaps because it is so connected to life, to creation: an antidote?
There was a moment in which I could recognise and say, Jesus!, I don’t want to play or listen to or even THINK ABOUT these pieces. So complete was the fatigue. Then I realize that this is totally normal, I spent such an intense time with this music that now it is IMPERATIVE to rest from it: mind, ears, and soul.
No man is an island, says John Donne’s sonnet. And no event is an island either. The death of this dog with his sad, resigned coffee-brown eyes is connected to the death of my relationship with tobacco, with the inevitable death of this phase of Monarca so that the next metamorphosis may begin; and with who knows how many other little deaths right now.
In the garden, some plants die and the seeds of others germinate.
At the piano, at the end I play the third Impromptu Op 90 of our dear Franz Schubert, who also died young.
And I think, It’s not sad that the dog died. Because death, in the end, meant an end to his suffering. What’s sad is what brought him to such an end, that death in the end was the only solution to his suffering.
There are still moments when I want to howl with misery and rage. But almost in the same moment I am grateful to be alive.