Anyone of you ever had to say goodbye to your loved ones? You will identify with me.
I was forced to say goodbye to many in my life, including my own parents.
But it still hurts: Abdullah is my Livestock Guardian Dog, an ancient Kangal breed that originated in Turkey. He has been with me since he was 6 weeks old and now he is 11-year-old. He is old, in dog-years, finally the time has come. Yet, what is hurting me the most is the peace and quietness of him.
He had not said anything, had barked even not once since he has fallen ill. Not that he was ever chatty. He has always been quiet, loving, dutiful, and stoic. Yet so much I wish he would bark, demand something of me, complain to me of something. But no! Instead he is quieter, even more peaceful, and even more loving than ever before.
Sensing he is terminally ill, he is weaker everyday and time is near, I ask for his forgiveness for if I ever had been harsh to him or had not fed him more of his favorite stakes, he just raises his head and looks at me with his tearful eyes. I cry out like a child unable to contain my own mind, my heart fills with a pain that is so deep seated cannot be explained by me. My mind is so mournful, I go back to state of mind that I was feeling when I lost my mother while in my residency training years.
Abdullah with his compatriots Erdogan and Snowball have as much credit in making my ranching and framing operation successful as much as I can claim it for myself. Together, they have kept the chickens, ducks, goats, sheep and Zebu, a form of miniature cows of Indian origin in the ranch safe. These critters were all prime targets of predators by urban coyotes, raccoons, bobcats and raptors before this trio of LGDs took over. As soon as Abdullah and Erdogan became eight weeks old, the predation came to zero, I have never lost another critter to predation. Snowball, another LGD breed half Anatolian Shepherd and half Great Pyrenees joined them one year later.
I am about to lose one my best buddies in ranching now.
I knew outdoor working dogs, Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGD), like Abdullah, or his buddies, fellow sergeant-in-arms, Erdogan, and Snowball do not live as long as indoor dogs. So last year I brought two more puppies, one Great Pyrenees, Solaiman, and another Kangal, Pascha, to be trained by Abdullah Erdogan, and Snowball while they are still able bodied. And training they did they do to the new puppies. Both the puppies are now one year old and had turned out to be another pair of livestock guardian dogs par excellence.
In my life as a physician, I deal with life and death every day. I am used to making painful human decisions torn by limitations and ethics. Getting the two new puppies and training them by the trios in advance was part of this well planned succession plan of mine. “So ready I am”, I thought; yet so very wrong I am in reality. Now that the time had come for Abdullah, I find myself totally at a loss, utterly unprepared. I am so weak, so vulnerable, such a cry baby to face the demand of time.
My heart is bleeding, I have a deep hole in my heart, I am overcome by the melancholy that had made home in the deepest part of my soul.
My first dog Bobby appeared rather miraculously in my life when I was 9 year old who gave me my life’s vitality back when as an internal refugee in Bangladesh war of independence all my siblings and I were about to die from bloody dysentery that we contracted staying in the village without safe drinking water or proper sanitation. We were bedridden for many months from the blood loss and anemia that followed.
In my adult life, Abdullah and his comrades gave me the work of nature, the work that I do to thrive, the work that I do to find a purpose to life. His name Abdullah literally means Servant of God, and he has been a God sent emissary to me just as Bobby was in my childhood. He has been the antidote against my physician burnout.
Never did I ever know silence, quietness and peacefulness as Abdullah demonstrates in his deathbed could be so painful, disquieting so melancholic to me. I think it is an experience totally beyond being a human. I think being a human itself is so tormenting.
Animals are much better in tune with nature and the real world. They have a sense and a mind that keeps them in peace, in acceptance, in harmony which we humans have lost. Animals like Abdullah are happy no matter what nature throws at them, they never complain, they just work with what they have for the moment. Wishing no more is a quality that we humans have lost from our nature.
This is why my Abdullah is so much in peace, even in the face of a terminal disease he is happy, he is content, he has no complaint, while I am, a human, still looking for an answer with an heartache, not consolable.
Abdullah makes me think about not only this life but also our afterlife. Are we going to meet again? I so wish we do. Is there a heaven or a hell? And if there is, then “All Dogs go to Heaven”? How about humans? As a human I always wish there will be a heaven and my wish of heaven is a great communion of whole community of humans, animals and all the spirits together living happily ever after…….Abdullah, I will see you there. Please keep me with your soul for ever and I will do the same, I promise.