Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dog destiny

On a whim, at the local supermarket, I bought a dog toy: a brightly-colored ball manufactured in one of those hard-to-define former-Communist countries that might appear, on the surface, to be quite qualified for the production of dog balls. Serious Sophia (seen here in a tense posture, because she was barking at an unidentified aroma that had floated up to her from the creek) has never been fond of toys.

But I was right in supposing that Fitzroy would appreciate this colorful soft ball.

His appreciation didn't last for long, though, because of the blatant manufacturing weaknesses (at least in the dog ball domain) of emerging former-Communist nations. Within five minutes, Fitzroy's teeth had punctured the object, and he had started to remove bits of the fluffy colored coating. Maybe I should go out and snatch the remnants from him, otherwise he'll surely devour them before the day is done. [Since writing that last sentence, I've taken the rubbish away from Fitzroy and packaged it up in its pristine wrappings, to be returned to the supermarket, accompanied by an angry letter.]

At a more serious level, I'm perfectly aware that it's going to be terribly heart-breaking for me to to accept the ineluctable decline of my dear dog Sophia. In general, I avoid making a big thing of this issue. In the purely human arena, I've just observed—from afar—the deaths of certain dear individuals, and I'm aware that it would be wrong of me, and unkind to others, to mix together—even within the narrow and inconsequential scope of my blog—the fate of humans with that of other animals. But circumstances have made me become ill-at-ease with that logic, after having lived here at Gamone for years in the unique presence of non-human friends. In fact, I wonder at times if my self-imposed hermitic existence—well outside the realm of everyday friends, and totally removed from the least presence (except through the Internet) of individuals on the same wavelength as me—might be making me, little by little, insensitive to the very idea of human companionship.

Today, Sophia looks great, particularly since I've forced her (through a restricted diet) to lose weight. But this splendid appearance cannot hide what is going on inevitably inside her body. The problem is that we can't really know the exact nature of what is taking place, except through disturbing signs such as her noisy breathing and, these days, a running nostril. The local veterinarian (who's a friend in whom I have the utmost confidence) has told me bluntly that there would be no point in trying to analyze the situation more deeply, since X-rays (necessitating general anesthesia) might not reveal anything of a significant nature. Even if we knew exactly the cause of Sophia's problems (which became apparent last September, at about the same time that we acquired Fitzroy), it would be out of the question to imagine any kind of surgery. For the moment, I'm relieved to learn (from the vet) that Sophia's health problems are not related to a dental infection. So, she's probably not in great pain, even though she might be discomforted from the presence of something, in her upper nasal region, that might be designated (in spite of our total lack of knowledge on its nature) as a tumor. For the moment, in spite of the recent flow of jelly-like mucus from one of her nostrils, there are no indications whatsoever that it might be a malignant tumor. That's to say, it could well be junk tissue that is simply building up and occupying space in her head. In any case, she is now under a shock treatment of antibiotics and cortisone. That will enable me to judge her reactions. But I'm perfectly aware that this treatment must be designated, in all lucidity, by an ugly adjective (which appeared, a week or so ago, in the context of my dear departed neighbor Françoise): palliative.

Meanwhile, as I said a moment ago, Sophia's inevitable decline is something that will be terribly hard to accept. She has become, for me, the spirit of Gamone, and a kind of wise canine alter-ego. Besides, in all of English linguistics, there are few greater marvels (with due respects to William Shakespeare) than the case of those three magic letters DOG which, when spelled backwards, give GOD.


  1. William,

    You will know when she is in pain, when enjoyment has gone from her life. When that time comes you will miss her deeply, easily as much as you would miss a close human companion.

    In the meantime, enjoy every moment of your time together :-)

  2. Annie: As you say, if Sophia were to lose her enthusiasm for companionship and walks and food and barking at outside noises and odors, then it would be a dire warning. Fortunately, in the context of her current problems, this is not the case. She is reacting well to the medication (antibiotics and cortisone) in the sense that she no longer makes a noise when breathing, and her nostril has stopped leaking. To make sure she swallows the various pills, I wrap them up in a slice of cold sausage… which is a tiny note of pleasure in Sophia's daily routine as a patient. Since her weight has dropped to below 30 kg, there is no danger of her eating too much. Incidentally, I'm tremendously pleased to see that I've at last succeeded in controlling this weight factor, which was a problem for years... due to my failure to act firmly about her feeding.

    I detect another small change in Sophia's behavior: she seems to steer clear of Fitzroy's non-stop attempts to get engaged in boisterous romps. This may merely reflect the fact that Sophia has become aware that Fitzroy is no longer a playful pup, but rather a big athletic male dog. Sophia realizes, on the one hand, that she has nothing more to teach him. On the other hand, she has no apparent desire to become an adult partner of Fitzroy. So she spends a lot of time and energy asking Fitzroy, as calmly but efficiently as possible (with a few barks and snarls), to please piss off and leave her alone.