Depression; Canine loyalty

People born in the Year of the Dog are said to possess a deep sense of loyalty, are unflinchingly honest, and inspire confidence in others. But how much do we know about our pets – especially the invaluable life-giving lessons that they impart every day? Here’s a collection of some nuggets from my personal notebook. These experiences have taught me how to stay on top of many situations – thanks to my service dogs. Although many of the pointers are primarily meant for people in wheelchairs, they could be helpful to the able-bodied.

Don’t let anybody put you in a box. Boxes are meant for things, not people and certainly not dogs! For a long time, everyone – including my family, some close friends, doctors and vets – saw my wheelchair as a major obstacle to my owning a pet dog. But to my then-eight-week-old Rottweiler pup, Vai, my wheelchair was not a hurdle but an opportunity to create new friendships. That was 10 years ago. He tore up the box that he was put into within seconds, hopped out of it and landed straight into my arms, licking me all over. My senior service dog inspired me to set up a training programme for dogs for the disabled – called Bivai Special Dogs.

Wheelchairs are cool. Vai and I got along so well that I was motivated to get two more dogs: an Alsatian, named Biman II, and a Golden Retriever, Soo. They have added to the fun! Their non-judgmental and unconditional acceptance of me and my condition have, in many instances, far surpassed the responses I get from human beings. For instance, my furry friends are extremely patient when waiting for me to get into my wheelchair so that I can take them for a walk or feed them. My able-bodied pal, Andrew, often finds himself in a fix whenever he pries my wheelchair away from me in order to get its tires pumped or repaired. Each episode sees my dogs howling in vehement protest. The moment my wheelchair is returned, though, all is well again.

Tread through life gingerly. Bathrooms can be hazardous especially when transferring from a wheelchair to a toilet bowl or shower chair. Canine eyes are always on the watch, scrutinizing my every move. If I drop my toothpaste or lose my balance, canine assistance arrives in a flash to retrieve the item or break my fall with a furry body support by my side. Get crazy once in a while. Having a Rottie or Alsatian for a personal escort gives me the freedom to walk/wheel in the park or stop at a lonely spot in my car with absolutely no fear.

The sky is the limit. This holds true, even for wheelchair users. I have driven long-distance to Ipoh and Penang before – those trips turned out to be among the most exhilarating rides I’ve ever had! Having three large dogs in the back seat is thrice the fun. At the same time, I have to be more careful on the road to prevent anything untoward from happening to them.

Angels are watching over you. Once I was involved in an accident along the highway in Templer’s Park. When my car hit the other car, I went into shock. My quick-thinking Biman II instinctively sprang into action. He started licking my face non-stop until I snapped out of the shock. My loyal dogs stayed with me in my car until help arrived almost two hours later.

Life goes on – memories will never die. Biman II succumbed to cancer when he was seven years old. I gave the green light to the vet not to bring him round after the operation, following the horrifying discovery. After he was gone, I went into a period of depression. What made me snap out of the depression was the realization that to continue to do so over a dog that strived to make me happy was an injustice to his memory. Six months later, I got another Alsatian and named him Biman III.

Love will always come back to you. I did not know if Biman III would accept me the same way his predecessor did. One week after getting the then-seven-week-old pup, something horrible happened. Allowing him to pee near an open field whilst I was seated in my car, the pup’s chain suddenly snapped and he broke loose. There was no way that I could get out (as my wheelchair was in the car boot) and run after him. As soon as he had finished, he took a quick whiff of the world outside. Then, turning around completely, he dashed as quickly as his four little paws could carry him and leapt into my car, indicating that this was indeed going to be a relationship for life.

Take things one day at a time. One of the most trying situations in my life was the time I discovered a nasty sore under my thigh. I was sent home by my doctor to recover; it took a dreadful six months. If I did not have my dogs, lying in bed and waiting for my wound to heal would have been a virtual death sentence. At the slightest hint that I was slipping into depression, my dogs would run up to me and lick my face continually until I switched my focus to them and was able to ward off negative thoughts. Biman III, now almost two years old and not so small any more, is simply amazing. He has “devised” a way to get me to play catch with him – whether I’m still in bed or in my wheelchair. He starts by getting hold of something, and then running out of my room and back again. All I have to do is stretch out my hand as if I’m trying to catch him – and he is off again. The game is repeated until he or I get tired. Aren’t dogs wonderful creatures?

I wish you all a very happy and meaningful Dog Year!

More thoughts on man and his best friend . . .    

The reason a dog  has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue. 

If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went. 
    -Will Rogers 

There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face. 
    -Ben Williams 

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself. 
    -Josh Billings 

The average dog is a nicer person than the average person. 
    -Andy Rooney 

We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It’s the best deal man has 
ever made. 
    -M. Acklam 

Dogs love their friends and bite their enemies, quite unlike people, who are incapable of pure love and always have to mix love and hate. 
    – Sigmund Freud 

I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult. 
    -Rita Rudner 

A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down. 
    -Robert Benchley 

Anybody who doesn’t know what soap tastes like never washed a dog. 
    -Franklin P. Jones 

If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons. 
    -James Thurber 

If your dog is fat, you aren’t getting enough  exercise. 

My dog is worried about the economy because Alpo is up to $3.00 a can. That’s almost $21.00 in dog money. 
    -Joe Weinstein 

Ever consider what our dogs must think of us? I mean, here we come back from a grocery store with the most amazing haul — chicken, pork, 
half a cow. They must think we’re the greatest hunters on earth! 
    -Anne Tyler 

Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea. 
    -Robert A. Heinlein 

If you pick up a starving dog and make him  prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man. 
    -Mark Twain 

You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, ‘Wow, you’re right! I never would’ve thought of that!’ 
    – Dave Barry 

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. 
    -Roger Caras 

If you think dogs can’t count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then give him only two of them. 
    -Phil Pastoret 

My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am.