Valentine's Day means nothing to me, but this Thursday I'm going to give my pet dogs, Khiew Waan and Nong Dao, some red roses to thank them for the unconditional love they have given me over the years.
Khiew Waan already got a Chinese-style red top and matching collar that she wore to welcome the Year of the Snake, on Sunday. According to Chinese belief, one shouldn't go to hospital on New Year's Day but my dog had to in order to have a saline drip, which she takes every other day to help her kidney function.
At the not-so-tender age of 14 (that's 75 in human years), my beloved Khiew Waan has heart disease and was recently diagnosed with TCC (transitional cell carcinoma) of the bladder, which has her frequently straining to urinate all day.
The family vet, who has treated my pets since they were little puppies, once told me that dogs teach us a lot about life. With their shorter life span, they show us the natural process of kerd, kae, jeb, tai (birth, ageing, illness, death) that also applies to human beings.
Fifteen years ago, I was blessed with a barking quartet. Besides Khiew Waan and Nong Dao, the other two members were Enzo and Mae Dao.
A handsome Alsatian, Enzo will always be remembered for his loyalty and unconditional love for his masters and even his trainer. He went to boarding school in Pattaya and when we visited him he was very happy to see us, but we noticed how his eyes would follow his trainer wherever she went.
Other fond memories of Enzo include how he growled at me when he saw me with a black mud mask on my face because he probably thought I was a burglar. He's also remembered for his courage fighting liver cancer without undergoing treatment. After the diagnosis he lived for about two more months. One night, I saw how he didn't lie down to sleep and instead sat the whole night in the same pose as a sphinx, as if to suppress the pain.
The day after he was taken to the clinic, where in his last moments, with all his strength, he lifted himself for a last hug to say farewell to me. My darling Enzo passed away at the age of 11 (70 human years, being a larger dog).
Mae Dao lived till the age 15 (80 human years), and she's a great example of both motherly and unconditional love and she didn't want to depart this world because of her daughter, Nong Dao.
They were strays in a park before we gave them a home. Mae Dao was an excellent mum, always caring for Nong Dao even though she was no longer a puppy.
Due to ageing, a failing kidney function took her life, and during her last days I saw how she was always looking at her daughter, who didn't really care much about her mum, whereas Khiew Waan was jealous about all the attention I gave to Mae Dao. Khiew Waan now has to combat the tumour in her bladder, which she has been doing for some two months.
Her case demonstrates that in life the toughest battle happens within oneself as her body has to fight back its own cells, the epithelial cells lining the bladder that are causing the tumour.
So far, the medication has stopped its growth but long-term use of NSAID puts her kidney at risk, and so a saline drip is needed to help with her kidney function.
Based on Buddhist belief, her vet views that the chao kam nai wane (persons with previous deeds on others) is setting obstacles in the treatment. Whatever harm we did to others will shadow us in life, which follows the law of kharma.
As a four-legged fighter, however, Khiew Waan won't give up and is adapting herself to living with the tumour. Yes, man's best friend can indeed teach us a lot about love and life.
Kanokporn Chanasongkram is a feature writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.
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- Writer: Kanokporn Chanasongkram