Dhalia, as with so many other dogs, offered lasting lessons.
Inevitably, as Jean and I went around our ‘stuff’ yesterday after burying Dhalia in the morning, there were moments of quiet contemplation and gentle discussion. Interludes over a hot drink where we reflected on the special dog that she was.
Much has already been written in this place but there can’t be too many reminders for us quirky humans of how valuable are the qualities of trust and love given to us by our dogs.
We need reminding how dogs are so intuitive and can reach out to a stranger without a moment of hesitation. As Jean described when recalling how she first came across Dhalia.
It was a Sunday around the middle of the month of September in the year 2005. My friend, Gwen, and I had set off for La Manga, a small fishing village three miles from San Carlos, Mexico. As the trip would take us through areas of desolate desert and the day was forecast to be a sizzler, we left early. The purpose of the journey was to feed a pack of dogs that were living on the outskirts of La Manga. These wild dogs were gradually getting used to our presence and with the aid of a humane trap we had previously caught two of them, a small puppy and her mother. Those two dogs were at my home and were gradually becoming tame so that good homes could be found for them.
Half-way to our destination, we saw two dogs running by the side of the road. It wasn’t unusual to see strays searching for road-kill. I stopped the car and prepared food and water for them. One dog took off almost immediately but the other just stood perfectly still looking intently at me. She was rail-thin and full of mange. Her ears and chest were scabbed with blood, and I could see that previously she had had pups. Tentatively, I pushed the food towards her. She took a bite and sat on her haunches; her eyes never leaving mine. Then she lifted a paw and reached out to me. Immediately, I burst into tears and scooped her into my arms. I carried her back to the car where she lay quietly in my lap whilst we went on to do our feeding. She was bloody and very smelly. However, I didn’t care.
Dhalia was always a gentle dog. One that would mix with any of the other dogs. A dog that loved people, of all types and ages.
It was Dhalia who inspired me to write a short story a couple of years ago: Messages from the Night.
So to the last couple of weeks. Back just a couple of weeks to when the vet’s assessment of Dhalia was that she had bone cancer that, in turn, inspired me to write the post Life, and mortality. So little time to say goodbye to Dhalia. (Dr. Codd’s assessment when we went to him with Dhalia yesterday morning was that the cancer must have been well-established for it to have metastasised so quickly; the normal interval between diagnosis of cancer and death would be six to eight weeks.)
That Dhalia reached out to the other dogs in our ‘bedroom’ pack was evident these past six or seven nights. For it has been in the last week that Dhalia was unable to go through the night without needing to pee.
The first night that this happened, I was awakened by Cleo coming to my side of the bed and running her head past my arm. It was 3am. Cleo repeated that for the next few nights and each time I was able to take Dhalia outside so she could relieve herself. Then as Dhalia’s internal organs started to fail it was Pharaoh who in the middle of the night uttered a couple of tiny barks; just sufficient to wake me and allow me and Jean to look after Dhalia’s needs.
When the bedroom door was opened to allow Dhalia to go through the house and, thence, to the front gardens, all the rest of the dogs remained still in the bedroom. They sensed the nature of what was going on.
So to the last photograph. Taken last October here at home in Oregon showing Dhalia in typical independent spirits.