Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Faithful Companions - Japanese Dogs Display Ultimate Loyalty

There have been over 23,000 people either missing or dead from Japan's earthquake and tsunami to date. As the world has watched and held it's (collective) breath, there have been a few miraculous rescues...but far fewer than hoped for.

One of the stories that seems to embody the nature of these stalwart people is of a Japanese dog that refused to leave his injured friend behind. In the last few weeks the YouTube video of this news coverage has become increasingly popular.

It shows Japanese rescuers coming upon two dogs, wet, dirty and shivering amidst massive wreckage. They had been caught in the tsunami and though one appeared unharmed, the other was thought dead until it raised its head. What is so endearing about this pair, is the faithfulness of the healthy dog. Even as rescuers approached, the dog would run to them but then trot back to his injured friend, sitting by his side (sometimes on his face), letting the world know that he would not leave - a loyal companion to the end. Both dogs were rescued and by all reports the injured dog is making a complete recovery.

This week our aging dog, Pokey, suffered a personal tsunami that brought us face to face with the potential death of our own faithful companion. 

With her 16th birthday just one month away, Pokey picked up a nasty bug that caused the most violent intestinal expulsions imaginable. Then she started throwing up. After four days of this she was exhausted, but seemed to be on the mend. She was eating well again and her intestines appeared to be back to normal. She had a good weekend, begging for walks, food and attention.

But Monday morning Peter woke me up early. Pokey was disoriented, struggling to stand, unable to walk and in significant pain. Spasms wracked her stomach and she moaned with each one. Her breathing was labored and erratic.We couldn't understand the sudden change and had nothing for her pain so made a quick trip to our vet. Although we hadn't seen him in over two years, our vet has seen Pokey grow up from a tiny pup. He doesn't mince words and isn't in the profession for the money - he has often given us "extras" for no charge. He just really loves animals.

After he checked her over, got her to stand briefly and asked a few questions, he told us it was most probably a long-term chest cancer that had suddenly exacerbated overnight due to her coughing. There was the potential she had an intestinal bleed as well. The tests to confirm these diagnosis would cost about $600. He didn't recommend them. He didn't even recommend us putting her down. He said we were looking at palliative care and gave us some liquid pain relief. She might only last a few days, but some dogs rallied and we could have her for a few weeks, maybe a month...

Pokey has always been a trooper so we weren't ready to give up on her. By the next day she was walking on her own, climbing stairs (though very slowly) eating a whole bowl of food and then pooping on our kitchen floor. Pretty much back to normal. It is giving us the chance to pet her a lot, tell her what an amazing dog she is (we have to shout it because she is quite deaf), and enjoy these last days or weeks or maybe even months, with our ever loyal friend.

It's given me the chance to remember some of her 'greatest moments,' so I'll share one with you. From the time she was a puppy we began the training process. It included all the typical things - sit, stay, speak, down, shake-a-paw, treat, car ride and even bunny, mouse and gopher (she is part Basset Hound). But since we lived opposite an off-leash hill, we wanted her to be outside on her own without charging across the road every time she saw another dog. So we began making her stop before she crossed a street. EVERY street. Sometimes she even mimicked me by looking both ways for cars, before looking up at me for the go ahead. We often wondered if all this work was really getting through...

One day I was at a neighbour's house for tea. She lived just down the street but right across the road from the end of our block. I had told Peter when I planned on being back home. 
The only way I can understand what happened next is to believe Peter had an attack of temporary insanity. He let Pokey out of our front door around the time I said I would come home, and told her to go find me. Now Pokey could track me anywhere! One time she had eluded Peter and followed my scent through a London Drugs store, to the amusement of both patrons and employees.

I was completely oblivious to the time, just enjoying the conversation with our neighbour, when the phone rang. She picked it up and promptly handed it to me. 
A frantic Peter shouted, ''Where is Pokey?''

''What do you mean, 'Where is Pokey?' She's with you, of course,'' I replied.

''I let her out 15 minutes ago and told her to find you,'' he sheepishly admitted.

''You did what?'' I shouted back. ''She could be anywhere!''

I gripped the cordless phone and walked to the window facing the other side of the road. There was Pokey sitting patiently, staring at me through the window. When she saw me looking at her, she began frantically wagging her tail, but never moved from a sitting position. By now my neighbour was laughing loudly. As I dropped the phone I could hear Peter, in the distance, shouting, ''What's happening? What's going on there?''

I slowly walked out the front door and down the steps. Pokey's tail was wagging so fast it was a blur. I looked down one side of the road and then the other. And she did the same. Once her eyes were back on me I yelled, ''Good girl!'' and told her to ''Come!'

Pokey got an extra special treat that night (while Peter was 'in the dog house'). Ever since then we have been able to trust her outside, on her own, with no fear of her crossing the road. 

Even in her debilitated state, she is showing me how much she enjoys life - a good meal, a slow walk down the street, licking snow, tracking bunnies and a good night's sleep. Now we have to trust that she will let us know when she has sucked all the marrow out of this life.

The YouTube video can be viewed at: 


  1. Doris,
    My heart and thoughts are with you. We now have wonderful Timber, but we lost lovely Sandy with terrible pain in her in 2008 and it does hurt so. I am praying for you and Peter and Pokey. Remember that the ark (which was a type of Christ) carried Noah, his wife, sons and daughters-in-law (8 souls) and how many animals?
    How many animals?? So perhaps you can guess what I am thinking from there. Also remember that we return on white horses, that is ... horses! Check out Revelations chapter 4 and see what is closest to the one who sits upon the throne...four what? four what??? ...beasts! All of creation groans and travails waiting for Him to return.
    Conclusion? Pokey will soon be very happy if Pokey leaves here. I have no doubt of that. My prayers are with you as you suffer this pain, but it is born of love. My prayers are with Pokey that Pokey does not suffer too much and gets well or gets best ...
    Sharon Sargent

  2. Thank you so much for you prayers and words of comfort, Sharon. I have been thinking of Revelation and the animals mentioned there...I too, think Pokey will be very happy in the end!

  3. I've often wondered about that myself. I figure if lambs and lions are lying down together that there must be animals on the 'other side'!!
    Sure glad Pokey's rallied and you have her to enjoy (and spoil) for a while longer. The world is going to be a little less bright when she leaves it.
    (Love the story about her tracking you!! What a dog!! :)

  4. What a lovely reflection, Doris!

    I recently read a piece by author/pastor Randy Alcorn, where he was responding to questions about heaven. One person asked if our pets would be there.

    I really liked his answer...that although animals don't have souls and can't know salvation, God created them, and as part of His good creation would likely have a place there. If our special friends gave us such joy, would God, in his infinite love for us, not want us to experience that joy again?

    Alcorn is quick to point out that while the Bible does mention animals in the "new heaven and new earth," it doesn't mention pets at all, so that part is just his own theorizing! Makes sense to me, though!

    We had a very special cat when I was growing up...Garfield...who we always said was more people than feline! I'd love to see him again one day. Who knows...maybe I will! :)

  5. Thanks Joy and Kelly for weighing in on this topic. I agree with what Randy Alcorn said, but we will never know with 100 per cent certainty who awaits us on the other side, until we get there. Knowing God's infinite love for us, He's got some amazing things planned. I know I will be surprised by what heaven is actually like, and yeah, I'd love to see Pokey one day again...