My dog Scrappy was not always called Scrappy. His first name was actually Fluffy, because he was then a small fluff of a ball the size of my bedroom slipper. He had this name for about 24 hours, give or take. Within that 24 hours, it became apparent that he was born to be Scrappy. He had very strong boundaries-- that meant he was very protective of his food and I couldn't go near it; he knew exactly what he wanted and was not afraid to express it and he stood by it. He really was a Scrappy.
He was about 3 months old when I got him, and today he is about 10 years and 7 months old. But he is not going to grow older, because he is about to take his final walk home. I am plagued with doubt and guilt and shame. I had read articles, given it a lot of thought, spoke to those whom I feel would know better. They all agreed it was time to set aside my own attachment and set him free from suffering. Still, it is not easy. Who am I to make such a decision? Who am I to be so sure that this is the best thing I can do in this situation?
What makes it more difficult is that Scrappy has always been a fighter. We've been through a lot and came through the other side. A month into being in my life, he got sick with distemper. The vet had already managed my expectations then, but I made sure he took all his medicines and ate all his meals, and somehow, he pulled through. He has also had eye surgery, ear surgery, and recovered from a slipped disc in this one lifetime. Every single time, he did better than expected, and this is why it is hard for me to accept that it is indeed time to let him go. He is Scrappy, my Scrappy, it is part of who he is to always pull through. But I also cannot deny facts. His health had started to decline beginning the middle of last year. Today he can no longer stand. He cannot get to his food and water or go to the toilet on his own. I see it, he experiences it, the x-rays and tests prove it. Early this week he stayed up awake almost all night barking and whining and trembling in pain. The pain medications he is on are helping. But this is also the best it could get and it is only going to get worse.
I choose to write these words now because I want to express all the love in the world that I feel for him while he is still in it. I want to thank him for the 10 years and 7 months that he kept me company, and to apologize for my many shortcomings. We had great times. He is truly a girl's best friend. He has made many an appearance in my dharma talks because he taught me so much about life and loving.
When he was just a few months old and we still lived in Beijing, I took him everywhere, to parks and to the frozen lake and even to bars at night. I took him to a party or two. And he was always the star of the night. We celebrated his first "birthday" with party hats and ice cream cake, though I had to convince my boyfriend at that time to go along with it. The same reluctant-to-celebrate boyfriend had lost Scrappy for a few days while I was away, and so to this day, what happened in those few days are a complete mystery. For all we know, it could be the wildest days of his life-- sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I'd like to think of it that way.
When my family visited us in Beijing, we fed him multiple times because we each thought he hasn't been fed. He ended up pooping a memorable heap that was the source of much laughter at that time. He went to obedience school and even though he did not learn to be obedient, he did actually graduate. As if to prove his point, he was the only dog who couldn't sit still long enough to look at the camera when their group picture was taken. I am embarrassed to confess that I took a bite of his graduation muffin before I realized it was meant for him. We all make mistakes and Scrappy loves me in spite of it.
Because I got Scrappy when I was in Beijing and I've always known I will not be staying in Beijing, it was without question that Scrappy has to move and leave his Peking roots at some point. Coming to Manila, we were on the same flight but he had to be on cargo instead of the passengers area. The few hours of separation worried me. I wasn't sure how he would deal with the air pressure with his flat snout. So when I saw him come out of the conveyor belt in his crate, it was with a huge sigh of relief. He was alive and well and not shipped mistakenly to some other place. Because I suppose it doesn't happen everyday in Manila that dogs come out of the baggage conveyor belt, he was the star of the show at that time.
His celebrity status also included being on the front cover of a magazine. Despite his earlier struggle in obedience school, when it came right to the photo shoot of my condominium unit, he effortlessly managed to pose as the photographer wanted him to. I think it's not because he has celebrity aspirations, but that he was home and he knew this is where he belonged.
He used to wake me up every morning, usually by 5am, and we'd go take a long walk that would last two hours. He was a master of pee conservation, because it is an art to make sure he has enough for all of the trees and posts we happen to walk past by. One time, a few other dogs were in a ruckus but he merely looked at them, disinterested, and went on marking his territory, tree by tree, post by post. A man who often frequents the park found it amusing, that while the younger hence more immature dogs were busy, the older and wiser Scrappy chose to acquire property. We often joked with each other that he is the true owner of Ayala Triangle Park, and every time he pees on a tree, he is actually counting money.
Another time, my vegan friends and I had this brilliant idea that not only were we going to have a potluck, but that we were going to bring our dogs so that even our dogs could be friends. Though that turned out to be a funny situation for my friends because their dogs started having an orgy, Scrappy remained in the sidelines and was unaffected. He just seemed like an independent thinker. He did not conform. He did not have to party with others. He was just doing his own thing, being his own person.
Scrappy is one of the most intelligent dogs I know and he was difficult to trick. One day, I was pacing around the perimeter of a round table and I noticed he was following me. I walked a little bit faster, then he walked a little bit faster. When I ran, he didn't run. He merely turned around to meet me from the other end. Another time, I thought it may be fun to trick him with a laser pointer. The first time I pointed the light against the wall, he ran after it like I had hoped and predicted. It didn't take long, though, for him to figure out that the light had a source, and he connected the light to the pointer that was in my hand, and that was the end of the game. He hated baths, and for some reason, he could tell if I was just picking him up for affection or picking him up because it's bath time. And so, for a time, I had to cook up a different way to trick him-- and I have to be creative-- because he always remembers the last one.
If I could sum up Scrappy's favorite things in life, it would be walking and eating and greeting me by the door. When I lived at my parents' house after I moved back to Manila, he would always get excited when he hears the sound of my car pulling up the driveway. His enthusiasm would be uncontrollable. It was then a surprise when one time I did not hear a single peep from him when I was walking up the stairs. The story, as told by my mom, was that he did hear my car pulling up the driveway. His ears perked up and he was looking at the door where he usually greeted me, but that day he had a dilemma. My mom was cooking spaghetti sauce and he was enthralled by the smell. So he looked at the door, the pot, the door, the pot, the door, the pot. The agony was real to have to choose between two things he loved, but food inevitably won. And that was the one day he did not greet me at the door at my parents' house. No grudges on my part, but all love for the fluffy little guy, for he and I share the love of food.
Walking ranks really high in his list of joys. It broke my heart when his legs started to give away, falling from his walks first, until he walked less and less, until he could no longer hold his legs up to stand.
I took him out for a walk-- his final walk-- this morning. Or rather, I walked and I carried him in my arms. I stopped by the trees and posts he used to like to smell and pee on. We sat under the tree on the ground. We stopped by our old building and said goodbye to the guard dog Tabasco. We stopped by his favorite rock-- well, his favorite rock to pee on a few steps away from that building. I think the walk was more for me than for him, a ritual, a gesture, a walk down memory lane before I let him go. One final walk and one final good memory and one final goodbye.
When I think back to the time we were separated but on the same flight to Manila, my fear was that I may not be able to see him again. I have that fear today, magnified many times. I cannot imagine a world without Scrappy. I cannot imagine not having his hair on my clothes and people asking me if I have a dog. I cannot imagine home without Scrappy. He is my dog, my friend, my life. We moved 7 times together, and all were home no matter how long or short we stayed and no matter whether it was just the two of us or there were others. It was home because it was effortless and he belonged to each one of those places and he belonged to a big space in my heart.
Scrappy, I love you. This flight we are taking-- it will just be like the flight we took together last time. We won't see each other for a while, but we will be together. You will be on the cargo, I will be in the passengers area. We will be apart and yet together, going to the same place at the same time. This flight will land, and I will eagerly wait for you, and I will see you emerging from the conveyer belt. You will greet me when you see me, you'll wag your tail, bark your bark, and you'll walk-- no, run-- again in delight. This flight is temporary, we will see each other on the other side.