By Wayne Chan
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
“If you’re feeling stressed, give Ally a hug.”
That’s what my wife Maya said to me just before she left to go overseas and visit with her mom, who lives in Taiwan.
Whenever one of us goes on a trip, business or otherwise, the other stays behind to watch our kids. We are the parents of 21-year-old triplets, two of whom are autistic.
She knows that our daughter Savannah, along with being autistic, also has some obsessive/compulsive impulses. She knows that the last few years has been a challenge. And she knows that try as I might, I was reaching my limit in just how much more I could take of some of her non-stop obsessive behaviors.
So, Maya said, “Just give Ally a hug. Hold her tight.”
Ally, the one she suggested I hug, is our 12-year-old golden retriever, and that suggestion was made exactly one week ago.
Yesterday, when I noticed that Ally had suddenly become very sluggish, with no appetite at all, I took her to the emergency veterinary hospital. After some tests, I was told that Ally has cancer, that she wasn’t a good candidate for treatment, and that her time with us would likely be short. She was suffering.
After some discussion with the vet, we decided that we would leave Ally at the hospital overnight, where they could make her comfortable and stable enough to wait for Maya to come home the following day, so that they could say goodbye.
I came home from the hospital after spending half the night there. In my mind, all these thoughts of Ally rushed through my mind, that she’s been the most patient companion you could wish for, that all she really needed to be content was to sit beside me while I was working on my computer, and that tomorrow, that would all end.
The common refrain you hear is that it’s just a part of life, and that certainly is true. But, understanding that reality doesn’t really make things any easier.
This afternoon, I drove to the hospital to see how she was doing. After seeing her weakened condition yesterday, I expected her to be laying on her side in one of the hospital kennels, without the energy to look up at me.
Instead, as I got out of my car, I heard someone call out my name, and I turned to see a friend of mine who often cares for Ally when we are away. He was sitting on a patch of grass on a blanket with Ally, who appeared to be warming herself in the sun. Her head raised and she looked at me, as if she’d been waiting for me to arrive. She even seemed to be smiling.
After a few minutes of gently caressing my old friend, I talked to the vet, who told me that the drugs and fluids Ally had been getting overnight helped her regain some strength. We could take her home.
I’m sure I’m not the only dog owner who attributes any number of human feelings and thoughts to our dog. I have no idea why she does some of the things she does. I don’t know if she sits next to me—is it because she likes my company or if it’s because I have a box of doggie biscuits on my desk? In the end, it doesn’t really matter because her companionship, her ability to put me at ease, and her unconditional acceptance of me as her friend is all too real to me.
In the span of 24 hours, I had gone from facing a sudden goodbye, to being blessed with a bit more time to show how much I love my friend. I’ll take Maya’s advice, give her a hug, hold her tight, and be thankful that just this once, I can be the one to comfort her.
Wayne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.