Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Family Dog and Islam: Part III--One Dog's Diary, Final Entries

I am sad to say that my canine niece, Whisper, died August 27, 2010, of congestive heart failure. She was comforted by my sister, and supported by the rest of the family, through our shared thoughts and prayers. She is now with her beloved Grandpa, my Dad, whose passing in February  affected her greatly. As I wrote in an earlier post, both Whisper and Dad became acutely ill on Dec 22, and needed urgent appointments. Whisper had a better veterinary GP, than my Dad did a human one, and excellent veterinary cardiologists. They helped her to live well with treatment, and a few weeks beyond the prognosticated time.

Whisper's emotional heart was stressed by grieving, as her physical one was taxed by compromised aortic and mitral valves, resulting in an elarged heart that grew to fill almost her whole chest cavity. She also had congestive heart failure that at times compromised her breathing severely. In recent months she has been markedly slower in her movements, less able to take the stairs, less dynamic, and not allowed to go for walks, but still cheerful and appreciative of the little pleasures in life, and of family.

Her final days were prognosticated for the end of June, and I was very afraid she would die when I was taking care of her during the family's annual early July vacation. I didn't want her and my sister to be separated at such a time. Fortunately we spent a nice week together, though a much quieter and more homey time than usual.

In the last week or so of her life, she was having particular difficulties, and a lack of energy or interest. She soiled herself and didn't seem to care--very unusual. In the 24 hours before her death she was having so much trouble breathing that she was standing with her neck extended, and rarely lying down. In the car on the way to the vet, she sat sagely in the front seat, instead of hanging out the window with the wind blowing through her hair, as she loved to do.

At the veterinary clinic, she was much better with oxygen, and removal of fluid from her lungs, but the veterinarian showed my sister her terrible chest xray, and gave her some options, then left to care for another emergency. My sister and nephew shed many tears, but decided it was best that she no longer suffer as she had been, given the inevitability of more severe respiratory episodes. My nephew pointed out she would be with Grandpa, which decided my sister.

My sister stayed with Whisper, as she died peacefully by intravenous injection. She stroked Whisper's head, and repeated gently, "Mummy loves her Whisper" "Whisper go see Grandpa", until she passed. The veterinarian told my sister she had made the right decision, and hugged her.

During this time, my nephew had left the room though he was given the option of staying. As he said, "No! I'm only 11!". Instead, he called Grandma and spoke to both of us on the phone, telling us that the procedure was happening, and why he hadn't stayed.

He also observed that the recent deaths in the family had occurred on someone's birthday--my Dad's on his friend Rachel's, and Whisper's on my mother's. He then jumped to Saturday's activities: swimming test, which he was hoping to pass, then an afternoon outing for go-karting and paint-balling with a friend. He also talked about getting a new dog, reassured my mother the new one wouldn't shed; and when she protested he suggested fish as a new pet instead. She objected to that, too. I thought he was using a number of good psychological tools to handle his grief, so I jumped in and reassured him that the new pet idea was a good one, but maybe Grandma needed more time to grieve before discussing it further. Then he announced Whisper had passed, as he saw his mother come out of the treatment room, and ended the call.

Before her passing, Whisper had been looking forward to my publishing her diary entries from our stay together this year, while family were away vacationing. I am doing so now, posthumously, below. Feel free to enjoy, and laugh; she would have wanted you to (especially if you laugh with her and at me!)

July 4

Hello Family,

I assume by now you are safely arrived, checked in, and enjoying your stay. Did you notice my more serene send off this year? Amazing what a year's worth of maturity can do for one. No offense, but I resumed my normal activities right away. What can I say, I have raised you the best that I can, and now you must learn to travel without fretting and separation anxiety.

I am taking a similar approach with Auntie Chiara. After all my hard work training her last year, I am taking it easy. She seems to have come along as far as she is capable, and now we must simply reach an understanding. At least she is better able to appreciate my signals and desists, where before she might have persisted.

For example, I saw that she was getting ready to go and sit outside and read in the midday heat. She looked in my direction, as if to suggest I join her, but I merely sauntered off singing pianissimo "Fool on the hill" (an oldie but goodie), and I think she caught my drift--even if she didn't particularly catch that I had changed the words to "Fool in the house". I suspect I shall be singing that a lot. However, best not to offend the source of cheese rain and tuna juice.

Or, should I say, potential source, as today's lunch was singularly uninspiring from my point of view: a sort of antipasto combination of prosciutto, cheese, and olives. Frankly, unless it rains, drops, spills, or is in some other way presented for my benefit, I am uninterested in her concoctions. Still, by the groceries, I suspect there is hope of better things to come.

She is reading a novel in English, and as usual marking it up liberally, though in pencil, with her musings. No need to stick to English on my account. As the descendant of well-travelled seafaring Malagasy royalty, I am able to handle any language she prefers,  when I do sit with her on the swing reading in the cooler hours of the evening. For now, I am content with a little siesta on the cool tiles in front of Mummy's room, and the occasional missive on the computer.

As far as treats go, she has been a little better than last year. I do believe she gave me a whole inch of toast, and a beefy chewy little morsel she hand rolled, which I popped back like an oyster. I pretend I don't know that it is a pill pocket stuffed with little pills, so as to not offend. Oops, I mean, nice little boulette de viande farcie, almost as good as you make them!

So far our afternoon has been a calm one, and we are enjoying time to ourselves. We have a big day tomorrow. She will be going to the city, and I will be...well never mind, what I will be up to. The less said the better.


I have had my dinner, and nothing extra, if you catch my meaning. Jay visited to play with Brother, and failing that I told Auntie Chiara to help him carry back the newspapers to his Dad. She had a nice chat with both of them, which I asked her about. Fortunately she recounted all, though there wasn't much.

I told Auntie Chiara to close up the house, and clean up for the night, which she has done. I am exhausted from watching her so I told her to carry on, and I am about to settle in.

Night night!

July 5

Hello Family,

Thank you for the phone call. I told Auntie Chiara to take it, as I was resting from an eventful day.

We woke up early (6:40) and visited the backyard, then had a treat, and a boulette de viande farcie. I tried to encourage Auntie Chiara in the distribution of treats by heading out to the backyard again, but she didn't take the hint, so I didn't bother going down the stairs and just turned around on the deck, and back in. I was all happy and twirly expecting a treat, but she said something about the boulette de viande farcie and I gave up on her. Let's just say there were a few more choruses of "Fool in the house".

Later, she was working on the computer, and I took a call from Mummy’s friend. She had phoned to catch Mummy before she left, but I told her she was too late--I said it nicely. Good thing, she really knows her dog psychology and grieving. We had a lovely chat, and then Auntie Chiara made me hang up so she could begin what she now refers to as her Odyssey, and I call “the day of pipi disturbances”.

First she made me go out, which was fine, I had business to do in the back yard. Then she was getting herself ready, and kept forgetting things (good thing I never forget the lyrics to “Fool in the house”), and packing and repacking her pink tote. She was almost ready to leave--finally!--when she decided to check the map about bus stops, and was delayed again. By the time she was ready, she had given me 3 ice cubes in my water (1 for each  attempt at leaving), and tried to get me to go out to pee again. I let her go on, and even go down to the lower deck herself. I just stood on the upper one and looked at her (as non-sarcastically as I could manage given the situation) until she comprehended--really, finally!--and started back up, whereupon I led the way into the house. She must have been really impressed because she gave me one of the heart shaped treats.

ALONE AT LAST! I played some games on the computer, watched a little television, listened to the radio, played a little piano, and explored the terrain--no decent dropped "care packages" or anything. I was enjoying my ice water, but I was determined not to pipi inside. Just to prove a point! Well, okay, after hour 6 I thought of leaving a little present to make a new point, about exaggerating one's absences when I should be the focus of attention. However, I remembered the bus/train schedule, and her ophthalmologist running a minimum of 2 hours behind, so I just waited by the air con vent near the back door.

She came in, and fortunately was less obtuse than she often is. She let me out, I did my business, and then I greeted her appropriately. There was another heart shaped treat in it, given that I had kept the place so bone dry and it is the first full day that I have been alone, with all of you gone too, and being on a water pill and all. She does have some clues. I also had a boulette de viande farcie as an hors d'oeuvre.

We have now had dinner, and I told her to scram while I use the computer. I think she is watching CNN. We will be having a boulette de viande farcie later, and then turning in for the night.

I am glad to hear Grandma has bought new bloomers. I guess my unpacking her undies and jammies wasn't as funny a joke as I thought. Well, actually, I have been splitting a gut laughing about it, but you may not appreciate my refined sense of humour.

Hope you have a good day tomorrow too!

July 6-Special Bulletin

Hello Family,

This morning I left Auntie Chiara a rather creative message, if I do say so myself. I call it Poem in Caca.

Poem in Caca

I will just take a nap in front of the television, you thought,
Then, computer plans ruined, fell profoundly asleep.
Hours after the cock had crowed thrice, you awoke,
Late for school, if there had been any.

Oblivious, you thought to start the day.
Ah, but what do you find on approaching the hearth,
An ambiance redolent with eau de caca wafting about,
A sign, a trace, an olfactory trail,
A path wending about the kitchen chairs.

One caca for your dining chair,
One for your alternate,
One in between for good measure,
One for your reading chair,
4 little well-formed fresh cacas artfully arranged.

"Thought you were going to have a tea and read your Calvino?", they say,
"Our Royal Canine Mistress thought not."

I allowed her to find me at the foot of Grandma's bed. Hint. Hint. I do believe next time she will sleep in the bedroom where I "suggest".

July 6

Hello Family,

Well it has been, in its own way, an eventful day. After my contemporary poetry installation (see Special Bulletin), I took some time to contemplate my artistry, and now I regret not making Auntie Chiara save it for posterity, but I am sure that such a great work will become known in some way. I understand from Grandma's phone call that the text version was well received. I am, as an artist, gratified by this, of course.

Speaking of texts, thanks to Mummy for the written instructions about treats. I have taken the liberty of a slight editing (slight being a relative term), and expanded in a way compatible with Auntie Chiara’s propensity for length; then sent a copy to Auntie Chiara for her edification and her files--but mostly for my greater satisfaction with our relationship.

The Treatise on Treats

Treats are to be given in liberal quantities, generously, with a celebratory attitude. Spontaneity in treat giving is the best regimen to adopt, while allowing for timeliness with boulettes de viande farcies which constitute a treat extraordinaire, and with which one is not to interfere.

Treats may come in a variety of forms; and, indeed, diversity, tastefulness, aesthetics, and presentation are all a part of treat selection and giving. Traditional treats like cheese rain, Trisquits, and tuna juice must be retained, even as new treats are introduced for variety and balance. A little popcorn is welcome, a sampling of coconut covered marshmallow, a crust of bagel, a little diced red pepper, and of course the heart-shaped treats which are somewhere between new and traditional.

Treat giving should begin early in the day and continue until the night time ritual, in an intermittent yet consistent array of offerings. Sun up, sun high, sun descending, sun down, all times are good. Rewards for real or imagined good behaviour, and pre-emptive treating are all a part of good treat giving.

Some people are learning to be more generous with treats while concocting strange lunches which do not allow for traditional treating as in summers past. They are to bear in mind that both traditional and new treats are to be maintained and added to, not replaced.
I thought since there was rice involved that she was going to suggest we dine with the chopsticks she had in her pink tote, and which were now set on the table. However, she wisely recognized that chopsticks are inappropriate for a Mediterranean rice salad, and is saving them it seems.

This makes me fear further culinary adventures. As it was, I had to say "no thank you" to the rice salad, because, well there was no serious tuna juice involved, and no cheese rain came down in the preparation of this particular dish. I am holding out for the Greek salad, the ingredients for which are in the fridge, as there is a good potential for cheese HAIL! IF she REMEMBERS the FETA this time!

Supper was the same as lunch! I got fed up, and sent her out to do some gardening, while I took a little time for myself. Nothing special, a few computer games, a little Youtube surfing, a little piano-playing, and I was in the midst of a good television program when she returned and wanted to read--there. I said fine and walked off, leaving the television blaring. Let her turn it down, if she wants to be like that. She did. Good thing. I had a nap.

After she made popcorn, I decided to be a little nicer to her, and we enjoyed the popcorn together, her reading, and me watching a show she didn't mind listening to.

That was all for today--except she told me about her trip yesterday. Let's just say I was glad I had said "No, thank you" to her invitation to that little adventure too. It would have been quite embarrassing, and I would have had to pretend I didn't know her--hard when she is holding your leash.

First, at the train station, she saw a newspaper headline, and literally jumped up and down, and loudly cried out, “YEEESSSS!" I read the headline and the article in the copy she brought home. I fail to see the cause for excitement. Do I care about changing guidelines for male (human) circumcision to a pro-neonatal circumcision position? Not as much as she does, apparently.

Then, on the way home in the train, she had Thai chicken curry (hence the chopsticks in the pink tote) and a bottle of Coke. Did she manage to open the Coke and have it pour all over? Oh, yes, she did. Fortunately she had a newspaper on her lap which absorbed the overflow--well, the overflow that didn't cascade to the floor, just barely missing the light beige trousers of the nice executive gentleman opposite. Veeerrrryyy lucky, even though he was extremely nice about it, she says.

See what I mean? I can't take her anywhere! Best to send her by herself!

Hope you had a good day. I'm going to put Auntie Chiara to bed now to make sure she goes to sleep in the proper bedroom.

July 7

Hello Family,

I just finished putting Auntie Chiara to bed, and reading her a bedtime story. That should keep her where I won't be required to perform any more poetic art with caca.

As I thought, it was a banner day for cheese HAIL! She seems to be on a creative culinary jag, but I don't care as long as there are suitable side benefits for me. She had a Greek salad at lunch, and I persuaded her to add tuna to the more traditional ingredients. Fool! She did it! Tuna juice for me, and a little more creative a salad for her.

I was telling her to make a pain bagnat tomorrow but she protested. I said, "What's the problem? You make what you have been making lately and stick it in a round bun!" She went on about the right style of bun. I said "What, your legs are broken? You can't walk to the bakery?" She muttered something about the stifling heat, and "We'll see". I said, "Well, as long as there is tuna juice, you sort out the pain on your own."

The feta cheese hail was most welcome, even if one larger hail “stone” landed on my head, like a Greek crown. I wore it for a while, but its white on white effect was too subtle for a decent royal tiara so I told Auntie Chiara to serve it properly. She did.

Ever watch her make and lose her tea? HILARIOUS! 8 hours it took her to find it--on the kitchen table! Where she had put it after a particularly careful brewing and blending! The cup still full, there so long it was stuck to the table! It was over at Brother's spot. "Why there?", you ask. Because she put it down fast after she stepped barefoot in a pie plate of ICE WATER!

I had told her not to leave the pie plate of ice water there. Why would I need ice water at the door to go out to pee? DUH! She had brought it in from outside after our morning on the deck, and left it there thinking we might go out again.

This morning, we sat on the swing before it got too hot. She had breakfast, I had treats. After a while I panted in her face to tell her that ice water or no, it was time to go in. You know how effective my panting in someone's face can be! I find it moves people right along!

Anyway, her stepping in the pie plate of ice water adventure was hilarious, even if there was no wet cement involved. She later put the plate in the dishwasher and ran the dishwasher, as she had accumulated quite the collection of dirty dishes in her evening culinary flurry: poached sole, rice with vegetables, baked apples with chocolate centres. I don't know what has come over her, but I do my best with the new opportunities.

In the comedic department, yesterday she flashed the golf course! She was wearing a sweat shirt...because, well, she didn't compute well the inside (very cool for my medical needs)/outside (hot and muggy) temperature differential, and found herself overdressed on the swing. Off came the sweatshirt, and her Italian World Cup Soccer t-shirt came off at least half way with it. Let's just say, it was lucky there were no golfers passing by, or they would have had quite the show!

It was one of the only times I regret the street number is on the back of the house. Usually I like them to remember where they got their "move along" barking lecture, but this would have been embarrassing--IF I had let anyone know we were related. I was just, "Who me? I don't know who she is. Must be the hired help. It is so hard to get good humans these days." That was the attitude I adopted until I was sure no one had seen. Believe it or not, she almost did it again this morning! I shouted "Shirt!", and she held down the t-shirt.

As you can tell, we had an event filled day. Then I told Auntie Chiara to put out the garbage--all of it--and supervised while she did.

Hope you had a great day too.

July 8-9

Hello Family,

We had a good day yesterday, but by the end Auntie Chiara had one of her "sick headaches", what with the dropping barometric pressure,and all. I have been looking after her full time so I didn't have time to write. I am looking forward to Grandma taking over like Mummy promised.

Have Auntie Chiara tell you about how yesterday she studied the clouds, and then watered the outdoor plants by hand anyway. When it started to rain--as she was finishing--I just raised one eyebrow. She understood.

Anyway, looking forward to seeing you home at last. Now I have to run and clean up Auntie Chiara's mess.

As Whisper said, we had a nice, though occasionally adventurous week together. She was her usual willful and intelligent self, but a lot more interested in cuddling and being patted. Too many losses and separations, I guess.

I would feel remiss, if I didn't tell you the following, which I am sure Whisper would have wanted you to know. When Grandma came to pick up Auntie Chiara at the train station, she was very distressed about the radio. On the 10 minute ride there it wouldn't stop making some sort of tinny tune at regular intervals, totally unrelated to the music playing or the station, or even the on/ off button. It was most annoying as well as most mysterious. This was the first time this had happened in a car almost a year old. I heard it too, but was less annoyed because it was new to me.

10 minutes later, with the radio off and this tinny little tune repeating regularly I was more interested in stopping it. When it continued, even with the engine off at the gas station, I investigated other parts of the car, held up my mother's purse to see if it was coming from in there--wondering if there were some strange alarm in purse or car. Antoher 5 minutes later, we were both discussing the idiocy of this bleating car, and I said "It sounds like a cell phone". My mother reached down, to pick up her new tiny black cell phone on its tiny black carjack blending in to the car moldings. Hah! The source of the tinny tune, which kept on going, off and on. My mother told me to press the red button, the green, the red...whatever to stop it. On the green try I said "Hello, hello" nothing. 2X more, until I finally heard my nephew reply.

Wondering if the tinny tune was related to his call, I asked if he had been calling before. "Yes", he said defensively, "It's IMPORTANT". He went on to tell me that they were at the hospital with the dog, but she was ok, she was in the oxygen room, and feeling better. They would meet us at the restaurant for dinner as planned. Eventually the plans changed of course, but when we did finally have the birthday dinner, 2 hours late, he and my sister pointed out that my mother knew the ringtone on her new phone, she had been the one to pick it out!

I can just see Whisper and my Dad together laughing in the telling and re-telling of that one.


August 11, 1997 - August 27, 2010

Now with Grandpa,

May She Rest In Peace

Please feel free to comment, and to share your own pet stories.

Related Posts:

The Family Dog and Islam:
Part I--Some Generalities and One Family Pet
Part II--One Dog's Diary

Walking with God and the Saints
Time to Say Goodbye

*The flower pictures are all of ones native to Madagascar. The coton-de-tulear in the opening photo is a standin for Whisper.


Qusay said...

Condolences on the passing of your dog, she is in doggie heaven now :(

Chiara said...

Qusay--thank you very much for your condolences. I appreciate them greatly. We are all a little shell-shocked, still keeping an eye out for her, and now I wonder what to do with the tuna juice. :(
Thanks again.

Wendy said...

It is very sad losing a family member. It's too bad we can't put our human family out of their misery as we can with our four legged members.

Chiara said...

Wendy--thank you for your comment and condolences. Your raise an excellent point about how one deals with human suffering at the end of life. That is a topic for a post! especially as many don't realize that Islam like the other Abrahamic faiths promotes scientific medicine but also death with dignity, and no futile measures or undue prolongation of suffering.

Of course with humans, one moves to palliative care rather than euthanasia, except in certain very well-regulated situations as in Holland.

Other friends have asked if we had a funeral for Whisper, and what happens to the remains. My sister is very low key about such situations and didn't want a funeral, or the body, or the ashes. There are public health laws about disposal of animal remains, and it was best to let the veterinary clinic handle it.

Some people do have their pets put in pet cemetaries and hold a memorial service.

Thanks again for your comment and condolences.

I do hope readers are enjoying Whisper's diary, and having a good laugh! It is part of normal grieving to reminisce and laugh about such life events, as is formalized in the traditional wake (probably more in the Irish ones! :)).

Anonymous said...

Hi Chiara,
I am extremely sorry for your and your family's loss, and saddened by the fact that this happened in succession after your

fathers death. I wish you the very best in coping with it. What matters the most is the your whisper lived a full life by

being loved by you all and loving you the same way

Well pets are indeed like little kids who take your stress away. In my childhood i grew up with my pet cat. He was a

wonderfull cat whom i miss even after a decade. Infact he was with me in my worse and best moments and was akin to a lil

bro as i was the only kid at home. We both watched each others back like i would rescue him from his adventures when he

flirted with the neighbourhood tom cat's girl friend.

And not only that he was potty trained, by my mom!!!
he would do his stuff and flush the potty
and would push a small bucket of water kept for him to wash his feet to wet his feet before coming out of the bathroom.
And many people in my family esp. the old people thought he was a jinn, even Wife is a bit freaked out from the stories and

considers him a jinn as well.

And about the end, one fine day he just disappeared, we searched and searched to no avail. :(

Jinn or not, he is like my lil bro. If not for my baby Ameena i would have had a cat with me. May be when Ameena grows up.

Inshallah have patience chiara, things will heal themselves.

Take Care

Susanne said...

I'm so sorry to read this although I loved that Whisper left a diary so we could remember some of her adventures with you. I love how she critiqued the food you gave her, put you to bed and told stories. Also cute how she told on you when you, ohhhhh, spilled Coke and such. :)

Sorry for your loss.

Anonymous said...

My condolences to you and your sister.

coolred38 said...

Im sure Whisper went with a willing heart to be with Grampa..keep him company.

A pet is so much more than just a pet...he is a great listener to all your broken heart stories and rants about people that dared hurt you, non judgemental, great at cleaning up spills, likes all ur musical tastes, and never ever complains about your driving or dress sense (not that anyone I know does...they wouldnt dare).

He will be missed Im sure...but more than that...he will be remembered...and that is his mission fullfilled as a pet and friend...warm and happy memories that last a life time.

oby said...

My prayers and condolences to you and your family. Whisper was a dog but she was a member of the family... a true member of the family. She will be missed as such. But family members are always with us. We carry them in our hearts and minds. She will be with you whenever you need her to be. I am sure your father is happy to see her.

Emma said...

People are sometimes unaware that heart conditions can occur in dogs too.


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