Fifteen years is a long time in any human’s existence. It’s even longer in the case of a dog. Last Monday, the family and I had to bid goodbye to a four-legged friend who had been with the family since 2007, and the wound is still very raw.
The decision to put Harry to sleep was a painful one, but he had come to the stage where he could not control his bodily functions. In human terms, he was almost 80, an age which many humans live beyond nowadays, but still very old for a little dog. He had arthritis in his rear legs and found it very painful to walk outside.
The merciful thing to do was to put him to sleep. Fortunately, there are easy and painless methods to effect such a thing. But it does not make the loss any easier to bear.
Harry was given to my wife and I by a close friend who was recovering from a heart attack and finding the management of two dogs a bit too much. It was 2007 and he was one year old at the time, but house-trained.
We initially tried to keep him in a kennel in the garden, but his plaintive yelps ensured that he would end up inside the house. That wasn’t the extent of it; Harry finally ended up sleeping in someone’s bed. He was a nice pet to have around, and given that my wife is crazy about dogs, he had a very nice life indeed. The children took a while to get adjusted to him, but once they did, he was treated like a maharaja.
Two years later, my friend asked me if I would like to have his other dog as well, a Tenterfield terrier with the name Hazel. He had bought an apartment and wanted to give her away as she would not get much exercise living in such a place. So Hazel joined our household as well and was with us until 2017, when she had to be put down.
Hazel and Harry had already spent some years together so there was no problem having the two of them at our home. Hazel was smaller and four years older than Harry. But despite her size, she knew how to keep Harry in check whenever he tried to bully her. They had the occasional fight and Hazel always came out on top.
Jack Russells are small dogs that are, by nature, a bit nervous. Harry would occasionally snap at someone whom he did not know, more due to his own nervousness than anything else. But during all those years, he only once attacked anyone. That was a small dog who came too close for his [and Harry’s] comfort.
I had taken Harry out for a walk as my wife was away. The little dog who was attacked was under the care of an aged Chinese man and not on a leash. He came too close and Harry nipped him in the eye. His owners made a song and dance about it but I finally calmed them down by offering to pay the vet’s bills.
There were no such issues with Hazel. In 2016, we found out that she had a heart murmur. Later that year, she developed an ailment which resulted in fluid not being drained from her body. This worsened until April 2017 when she lost control of her bodily functions and we had to put her to sleep. That was our first experience with losing a pet.
Harry did not seem too affected by her disappearance. He was a little reluctant to go out on walks, but did not show any signs of depression or the like.
But then time catches up with us all. Harry started developing arthritis and from that point on, about three years back, he slowly went downhill. At times, he would not be able to support himself on his legs on the wooden floor.
At others, he would try to take a leap into the house through the door and fall flat on his chin. In the mornings, when he got up from his bed, he would often find it difficult to stand up.
In one way, I guess we were putting off the inevitable. But then there is always a point at which one has to decide. I left it to my wife to take the decision as Harry was something like another child to her.
And so on Monday, 4 April, we went to the vet at 2.30pm. Our daughter came along with us, but my son said he could not bear to be present. An hour later we were back home.
In the early morning, I would always keep an ear open for Harry with the signs of his stirring being the noise of his nails on the floorboards. One had to then take him out as soon as possible, or end up with a pool of urine on the floor.
I still find myself occasionally listening for that scratching sound in the mornings – before realising that I will hear it no more. At times, a tear or two comes to my eye. But then one has to accept that nothing in life is permanent and treasure the happy memories that Harry and Hazel brought into our lives.