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One of our readers, Masood Hasan, from Pakistan, contacted me today with some wonderful thoughts that he put to paper after the tragic loss of Coco, one of his 14 year old Springer Spaniels. Here is his story:
A Sense of Loss
by Masood Hasan
It is never easy to write about loss particularly when it is personal and private. I have struggled for days now, torn between two conflicting emotions one to keep whatever one is feeling, private and out of sight and two, to choose the other option of sharing the pain. It is quite likely that I have, not unusually, made the wrong choice but sometimes you feel you owe it to the memories that reside deep in the heart and emotions that should be shared.
Last week we lost a dear and loyal friend, not a two legged one of which there are not too many good ones but a four legged one. Our Springer Spaniel Coco known to all who visited our home, died tragically. It was an accident that could have been so easily prevented. We were traveling out of the country and heading back when this happened. There was nothing we could have done. We were not even there. In a land that generally despises dogs and treats them cruelly, the death of one more is no big deal. As the popular argument goes, people too are dying needlessly. The implication is obvious. For me this does not lessen the suffering of those who are wholly dependent on us, as dogs are. Rather they should be cared for more because they have no voice or advocates. But it’s a lost cause. I know that.
Our four-legged friends, who try and coexist in this capricious world entirely and totally depend on us to help, nurture and look after them. We may despise all animals and more so, dogs which are reviled for dubious reasons, but that is a personal call and a personal choice. There is no law in life that makes it mandatory to keep and love pets but those of us who do, who open their hearts and lives to them, have every right to protect and cherish them. To most people, they may be animals fit only to be kept at a distance. To many others, they are loyal friends and companions, constant in their love, devotion and fidelity, emotions that you cannot credit many people with. To those who have felt the emotions and the bonds that tie the two species together, the experience is one of joy and fulfillment that many other relationships cannot touch. Such people, from sheer experience will agree that while we whirl up and down on the human scale, having our highs and lows, often betrayed and abandoned by those in whom we place our complete trust, your canine friends would never do that. We may abandon them but they won’t abandon us and whatever blows or perks life may chuck your way, you can be guaranteed unfaltering love, consistent devotion, complete trust and utter loyalty. To be greeted like that, day in and day out, is a very special privilege. You don’t have to love dogs as I said but if you haven’t, you are the loser.
Of course love is not without its frailties. It was Rudyard Kipling who famously advised not to give your heart to a dog to tear and many of us have paid that price largely also because their sojourn on this planet is tragically short. For a dog to perhaps cross ten years in human terms is rightly considered extraordinary and if they do, aging undeniably as we do, these are but bonus years. For us,Cocoand Brandy both arrived in this world within the space of a few minutes and when they came into our lives they were but a dozen weeks old. They arrived at one of the most difficult times of my life and together we weathered the storms big and small. They both were inseparable and extraordinarily full of love – happy at the sheer joy of being alive and although this is no land for dogs, they remained content and fulfilled. Our children grew up with the two around them. When the grandchildren arrived, they in turn maintained the pattern with them. As if they understood instinctively Coco-Brandy were patient and loving, never a snarl, never a growl, never an upturned lip. The children tumbled over them, climbed on them and pushed them around, laughing and shouting. The pets seemed the least fazed. It was great to see the children beginning to understand the need for caring for others, a lesson that is invaluable in this troubled journey of life.
As for me, I came from a family that was not pet-inclined but my wife was and so I kind of adopted the spirit and began to love them perhaps unwittingly. Over the years, as one experienced difficulty in getting out of sofas with any agility or grace or the occasional limp and stiffness all part of the rolling years, I saw the same in my two companions. Thus aging along withCocoand Brandy was something that I saw as yet another bond. At the age of 14, one knew that their hourglass was running fast. The sharp eyes were now misting over, the absolutely amazing sense of smell beginning to wear thin, the agility giving way to little hobbles, signs that old people recognize all too easily, but we were doing well. We were fit. We were good. Now the house is quietly empty, the routine of over a decade turned asunder. I watch with growing concern as Brandy restlessly paces the rooms searching, searching and searching. For two friends who were once inseparable, it is a sad parting and the one that’s left behind cannot comprehend.
But in our twilight years, loss is a recurring theme. We are losing the thread, watching many friends graying and looking old, burying those who are gone and aware too well that this little stay on the blue planet draws to its irrevocable end. Looking atPakistan, how many of us are not assailed by the depressing thought that there is loss everywhere? In matters of behavior, in dealing with one another, in the conduct of business and living, there is but loss. Fled are the values that many of us grew up with. These are now laughable romantic notions, the stuff of nursery rhymes. Decline and loss are the new signboards that are going up everywhere. There is a sad decline in the way people think and interact. In Pakistan , this starts from the top to travel down or starts at the bottom and work its way up, who knows anymore and what does it matter? In either case, all it leads to is deceit, hypocrisy and falsehood. Those hanging on precariously to any battered principles pay a heavy price. Honesty once a virtue is now a huge liability like a contagious disease people want to stay far from. In personal terms the last decade has been a loss too, burying three brothers one after another, Khalid Hasan the last to go and dear friends like Shabbo once of the Foreign Service and Hammo that irrepressible cricket character. The loss of the ancestral home inSialkotyears ago and the loss of that city that bears no resemblance to the one where we grew up are facts that are hard to understand or accept.
But while I know little, I do know that there is a doggy heaven. There must be. There has to be. And I know one slightly unkempt and mischievous brown chocolate furry ball, with twinkling eyes is frolicking about, paws in the air and a juicy bone at hand.