Does a dog have a soul?
Tak Tak was ten years old. And he passed away yesterday’s morning in Hong Kong, in the loving arms of my parents. The news has darkened my day, no doubt. But the emotional impact is nowhere near to what my sister and parents have experienced. On that very morning, my sister flew back from Singapore to Hong Kong. She asked if I wished to come along for the ‘funeral’, and for the support. I wish I could. But with the deadlines upon deadlines at work last Friday, I buried myself into the mountain of unending tasks and meetings instead. It helps not to think about it. It hurts when I think about how my parents and my sister feel. And it sucks when I cannot be with them.
If I remember correctly, ten years ago, my mother and sister were convinced that having a dog to accompany my father would keep him active and happy in his retirement days. So they bought Tak Tak when three of them were in Hong Kong. By then, I have already moved to Singapore for six years. Tak Tak had added a lot of joy to my family. One day when he was still a little puppy, he broke his leg badly. To go through a surgical operation would cost much more than to replace him with a new puppy. But how do you put a price tag on a living being? Even on the last day of his life, his medical bill came up to HK$800. So Tak Tak had gone through an operation and a long and painful recovery process when he was still a little puppy. I think perhaps all these misfortunes, pain, and loss is part and parcel of life that bonds people together, reminding us that there is a higher force somewhere. Hence we love. Hence we smile to love. Hence we weep to the love departed.
I do not have much opportunity to interact with Tak Tak. I was looking forward to playing with him this October when I will be home in Hong Kong. Tak Tak was a smart dog, a joyful dog, and a dog well loved by everyone – strangers and friends alike. On one particular day, in year 2009, our family took Tak Tak to a park (click here for the relevant blog entry). That was a rare day when the entire family was in Hong Kong – my parents, my sister, my brother-in-law, my wife, and I – with our dog outdoor. The day is so rare that I cannot recall another day like that day. It was a happy day, a special day. Tak Tak was dashing from people to people. I was busy taking pictures. And I am glad that I have put up a photo collection, completed with a journal. Because that helps to keep the memory alive. Memory fades. Words and pictures stay.
Through my eyes as a quiet third party observer, my sister’s immediate response to the situation has touched my heart dearly. She packed and went, dropping everything she has when family has to come first. I feel ashamed that I could not do the same. My mother’s calmness to the whole situation reminds me how great a mother she is. And my father, I would not have thought that he is so much affected by the loss of his dog. Moaning his loss so very profoundly, I was surprised. If my father loves someone, he never shows. In fact, he often shows quite the opposite. In this episode, I see my father in a different light. I see my family in a different light.
According to my mother, in the morning before Tak Tak passed away, he was unable to get up, or open his eyes. But he knew my parents were there. He knew my sister was on the phone. And he responded in a subtle way. On the previous day before Tak Tak passed away, he could not walk. So my parents carried him to see a veterinarian. Tak Tak had a heart condition. After an injection, he seemed well. Well enough to get down to the ground and walk home with my parents. According to my mother, in that particular day, Tak Tak was in joy to see my father and her walking together, in the outdoor. He was a happy dog. And he died with a smile.
Does a dog have a soul? Wherever you are, thank you for all the loving memories and thank you for being with my family all these years. You are and will be missed.