Wednesday, June 14, 2017

dog street

I live in a world of dogs.

Almost all of my neighbors have at least one. Some have several. From chihuahuas to pit bulls.

It was the perfect environment for Barco. During the year he lived with me, he never lacked canine companions. And, being a golden retriever, he liked them all -- and they liked him.

But like all friends, he had favorites. Lucky, the pug. La Guera, his nanny. Astrella, a huge black pit bull with an angelic nature. Paloma, a medium-size mogrel as white as her name would indicate. And, the youngest of the lot, Luna. That is her playing with Barco.

Luna came into Barco's life when she was just a puppy. She lived around the corner from us and was thrilled whenever Barco showed up.

From her lines, she must have had either whippet or greyhound heritage. She was a dead ringer for Santa's Little Helper on The Simpsons. And the most passive dog I have ever met. But her disposition was that of a puppy. Sweet and cuddly.

Against my better judgment, I would take Barco off of his lead whenever Luna and Paloma were playing. The three of them would run as if they were chasing kudu on the veld. They always made me laugh -- until Barco would get it into his head to run into someone's house or tease one of the dogs tied by chain in the yard.

But, life on our street takes its tolls on dogs. Estrella died from cancer. Someone poisoned Paloma for barking. (I trust there is a place in Hell for souls that wretched.) Since I moved here, I am aware of at least a dozen dogs that have died far too young.

Around February, Luna went through a major change. At first, I thought it was from the trauma of having gone into heat the first time -- with the attendant attention of every male dog for blocks around. Where she was once The Happy Dog of the local pack, she became more introspective. I racked that up to passing into adulthood.

I did not see her very often the first half of this year because I was travelling. But when I returned, I asked her owner, Jaime, how she was doing. He told me she seemed to be very ill.

When I saw her, I almost felt sick myself. She had a terrible cough and, even though she had never been a muscular dog, she was mere skin and bones with eyes that showed none of her lust for life.

Jaime said he had no money to take her to the veterinarian. I knew how to fill that gap. Yesterday, Jaime and his wife accompanied me to Barco's former veterinarian, Andres. He knew Luna from previous treatments, and asked us to leave her there until the afternoon. He needed to run some tests.

When we returned at four, I could tell by Andres's posture the news was not good. An x-ray revealed Luna had a severe case of heartworm. He explained there were limited options for treatment at this stage of infection -- all of them less than perfect. She could be treated with arsenic to kill the heartworms. But, in her weakened condition, there was little hope it would work without the treatment killing her.

She would also need to be kept away from any mosquitoes. Heartworm is spread just like dengue -- through the bite of a mosquito. Luna would be a risk for any other dog in the neighborhood.

Jaime's wife was ready for the last option -- putting Luna down -- and she immediately chose it. She wanted to avoid any more suffering for a dog she loved.

And that is what happened. Andres went into the back room, gave Luna an injection, and it was done. I paid, and we took Luna's body back to her house.

For me, it was another milestone -- not only because I really liked Luna, but because she was another reminder of the joyous experiences Barco experienced in this neighborhood.

On my way back to my house after my evening walk, Lucky and Guera greeted me. I hugged them and gave each a dog bone. I am not so sentimental as to think they knew what had happened earlier that day. But their presence meant a lot to me.

Because I am back in travel mode, there is no possibility I will buy another golden retriever. What I do have, though, is memories -- and a street filled with dogs who are always willing to fill the gap temporarily.

Even so, we will miss you Luna.

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