I was supposed to blog about my birthday week, but this is a more pressing matter, so the birthday post will have to wait a bit. Pardon the length of this entry — I just want to pay a tribute to a friend.
I have always been afraid of dogs, so when my brother and his then-girlfriend-now-wife brought you home, I wasn’t sure what to make of you. I was afraid you’d bite and chase me around, which was the reason I thought I was a cat person more than a dog person. But you were a sweet (and fat) little bundle of joy, and you immediately warmed up to all of us when you first arrived at home. I wasn’t sure, but I thought I could probably learn to love dogs after your first day at home.
I remember that time when you first got sick. I remember reaching into your cage to pat you, and you leaned to my hands because you were feeling weak, and for the first time, I felt genuine worry for you. I was afraid you’d be like the last puppy we had, who lived with us for two weeks before finally passing on my birthday. You were more of my brother’s dog than mine, but I have grown to like you then, and I couldn’t imagine you leaving us too soon. Thank God you got well.
Let me see if I could remember how you are as a puppy: you like snuggling into little corners, hiding from us so we’d have to look for you and chase you around. You were friends with one of our old cats, and I remember my brother taking a video of you trying to play with that poor cat who was trying to get away from you. You liked digging around the garden, and every now and then, we’d find you trying to chew on a rock you have claimed as your own. You liked baths, but only if my brother gives it to you. On my 21st birthday party, I had to put you away from the visitors and you kept on barking. I thought you were barking because there were strangers at home, but it turns out, you just didn’t want to be alone. You quieted down when I went there, and I found it really funny when some of my friends decided to sit near you and you sat like the good dog you are.
I remember that time when you were bigger, and you tried to run outside of the house. I remember the glee on your doggie face, as if you were screaming, “Freedom!!!” until my you saw my brother and you ran back and then got a good smacking from him. I cringed when you cried, but after that you never ran away from home, and whenever you had that moment, you always came back.
There was this time when you played jokes on me and my brother — he told you to stay, to not run to where the cats because you just like tormenting them. You stayed where you are, watching us leave, and the moment we turned, you upped and ran to torment the cats again. I remember that moment because I don’t think I ever laughed about it so much, and you had that mischievous look on your face that I can’t forget.
Remember that flood in 2009? I thought I would lose you that night. I’m sorry we couldn’t bring you to our neighbors, and I saw how you tried to follow us even if it meant swimming in the flood. I could hear you all the way from the bedroom of our neighbor’s house where we evacuated. I was worried about you the most, you know. I was so ready to find you lifeless and floating the next day, because I knew you didn’t sit still on the table, and the rains weren’t stopping and you kept on crying. The next day when we finally went out, I tried to find your body. But then I heard some splashing, and we saw you. You were alive, and your leash got roped around one of the trees. I was so relieved that you were alive, and you were the first one we set free the moment we can cross. You were wet, and scared and shaking, but you were alive. The next night when we had to sleep at our neighbor’s place again, you kept on crying and I hated it so much that we had to leave you alone again. But we never left you on purpose, Batman. If I could, I would’ve stayed there with you. The next day, when we had to go to the condo to sleep over, I remember whispering to you: We’ll be back, okay, so be good. And I’d like to believe that you were good that night, that you believed that we would be back for you, and you are safe with us just as we are safe with you.
There was a time when you peed blood, and I swore I didn’t want to go to work because I was so scared that I’d go home and find you gone. I remember whispering to you to wait for me, to fight, to not die yet. And you didn’t. You lived. It turns out it was just a urinary tract infection of some sort, and you lived, and I knew then that you were living up to your super hero name. You are Batman the Batdog. You were a fighter.
You weren’t the friendliest dog — in fact, you were quite fierce. If back when you were a puppy, you craved company, when you were an adult, you chose who you want to be with. You were always so nice to us, but strangers — even non-strangers, really, like our neighbors — you barked and bared your teeth like you were warning them. Your presence always made me secure at night, and I was never afraid of being alone at home because I know you would defend us with your life. There was this one time one of the movers befriended you when we were moving back to the house, and I was so surprised to see you follow him without any resistance. I wish I had taken a photo of that, because it proved that you weren’t a bad dog — you’re just choosy. :)
There were times last year when I would go home feeling sad because of something. I always make sure to greet you before I go in whenever I arrive, and at that time, I spent extra time with you because I wanted to feel better. I knew you couldn’t possibly understand why I was sad then, but it’s like you felt I was sad and you tried to make it better. I remember thinking how I felt better after I went in, and how I told myself that I will go to you whenever I feel bad about something, if only to feel loved because you loved us, right?
I remember that last week with you — you were sick, but I thought it was just one of those flu things that you always got over. I knew you were getting old, but I knew you were also a fighter and I didn’t think you’d say goodbye to us this soon. It wasn’t until your son Grumpy died that I saw you didn’t look so well yourself. You looked tired, old and thin. When my brother said that it’s a distemper virus going around and when I read about it, I almost didn’t want to go out for my birthday. I was scared that I wouldn’t see you when I get home. That Ate Clarissa would tell me you died when I was out, and she had to bury you without me seeing you one more time. I asked you to wait for me, to wait until I get home, and I was relieved when I heard that you seem okay.
When I got home, you stood up, and wagged your tail at me. You let me touch you, and you didn’t bark like you normally do, but you stood up and wagged your tail, like you were glad to see me. I wish I stayed with you longer. I wished I had taken your photo then, and I had let you lick my hand. I wish I did, because I didn’t know that it was the last time I would ever see you alive. But I guess you knew, because I don’t think you would’ve done those things. I guess it was your birthday present to me, to let me see you almost normal one more time before finally leaving.
Two hours later, I awoke to frantic knocking and Ate Clarissa telling me that you were gone. I ran down, and went to you and there you were. You were still warm then, but you weren’t breathing. Your eyes were open, and I couldn’t stand staying there because I didn’t want to see you like that. I didn’t cry, up until I finally told someone else that you’re gone. I watched Ate Clarissa bury you, and then I went back up to sleep. I couldn’t deal, and when I woke up again, that was the first thing I remembered. Not my birthday, but that you weren’t there anymore.
It feels strange at home now. I stayed inside almost all day yesterday, partly because I was tired and partly because I didn’t want to look at the empty space where you used to be. I was almost okay, until my mom arrived. I waited for the barking from all the dogs as I went down to open the door for her…and then I remembered: you’re not around to welcome us with your joyful bark anymore. I’ve been trying to write this post all day today but I kept on stopping because the tears just come and I didn’t want to cause a scene at the office. But I dreaded going home, knowing that you wouldn’t be there to stand up and bark, and welcome me and make me feel better.
The house is so quiet without you. I know we have other dogs — your sons and daughters — and I love them and they love us too…but it’s not the same. They’re not you. They’re not the same dog who survived the flood, the same dog who jumped and tried to kiss me one afternoon after I had been gone for only a few hours. They’re not the same dog who stopped eating just to welcome me home after a long day of work. They’re not the same dog who has the highest jump, or the dog that often ate our mail and never stopped barking at my best friend even if he’s been here several times. They came from you, but they’re not you.
I miss you, Batman. I’m so sorry that we didn’t help you get a fighting chance against this. I’m so sorry that we weren’t able to bring you to the vet, to make sure you had complete shots and all that. I’m so, so, so sorry that you died in pain, and there was nothing I could do about it. I’m sorry I didn’t play with you longer. I’m sorry that I didn’t take longer walks with you, or that I forgot to bring treats when I said I would. I’m so sorry for not being the best human to you sometimes, because I was too busy with my own life.
It feels so silly grieving for a pet, but every time I see a photo of you, I feel like a part of me has been hollowed. Thank you, for the last seven years of being with us. Thank you for your love and loyalty, for being the best guard dog to everyone at home. Thank you, Batman, because I learned to love dogs because of you, even if no other dog will ever compare to you. Thank you for your birthday gift — for waiting for me, for welcoming me, for wagging your tail one last time before you finally went. You were a good dog, Batman — the best I have ever known.
I love you Batman, and I miss you so, so, so much.