The painful passing of Maya who was more than my dog

Oxytocin is a chemical the brain secretes when someone you love crosses your path. It is what makes your stomach flutter and heart drop. This ‘biological trick’, however, is not only confined to us, humans. The flow of oxytocin has been reported in animals as well, especially in dogs.

When your dog looks at you, they feel a strong flow of this ‘love chemical’ that drugs their brain and turns us the best in them to the best you can ever have. They feel the same way you do when you see our crush or someone you are in love with. Basically, your dogs are truly in love with you. For those who have dogs in their lives, it is obvious. For me, Maya, my 10-year-old dog was the epitome of this love.

When I wrote about Maya in my previous article, she was waiting for her wheelchair. A puppy mill survivor, she was suffering from hip dysplasia which was slowly limiting her movements. This is her story.

Her story that needs to be told.

After months of anticipation, her wheelchair finally arrived and after mild adjustments, she could finally support her body and go for walks. She absolutely adored her walks. (It is very difficult to find a wheelchair in Nepal and if you are looking for one I recommend siting handiccapedpets.org.) However, after few weeks, her front legs stopped supporting her weight and she couldn’t manoeuver the wheelchair.

Hip dysplasia is a cruel condition. It takes away the mobility of dogs and their pride when they lose control over their excretory system. And believe me, Maya was one proud dog and hated it when she soiled herself. There are many people who opt to euthanise their dogs under such circumstances. For me, it was not an option at all. I was going to fight for her to the end.

A few months after the wheelchair gave up on her, I decided to build a wagon for her and after reusing my daughter’s stroller, she got a nice wagon for evening strolls. I remember her looking around in awe after months of confinement.

Dogs are always accommodating to our way of life. However, their innate nature guides them through the kind of decisions they make on an individual level. Each dog is different, with particular characteristics and glitches and her own share of weirdness. My decision of not putting Maya to sleep was also supported by her tendency to never show pain.

She never whined, except on very few occasions when she was in excruciating pain. As her urinary bladder ran out of space due to the collapse of her hip joints, she developed a urinary infection which progressed to an infection in her uterus, thereby resulting in a continuous flow of blood and pus from her vagina. At one point, the level of infection in her blood rocketed. I asked the vet if her condition was painful. It indeed was agonising.

In the wild, the wolves and the wild dogs (the ancestors of today’s dogs) refrain from showing that they are injured or in pain because the pack abandons the weak members.

Maya knew that I would never desert her, but she was doing what her instinct was telling her to do. Many dogs do not have that comfort in knowing that they will never be abandoned. In all the species that I have come across and have known of, humans by far are the most heartless of all, without a doubt.

It indeed takes a cold heart to throw away a family dog. However, I am certain of one thing, the families who throw their dogs out refrain to do that on specifically one day, Kukur Tihar.

Kukur Tihar was about a month away when I knew that Maya was slipping away. A week before Dashain, she started having difficulty in breathing. She was gasping, completely dehydrated and barely responding to anyone. The only time she lifted her head was when she heard me calling her. I called the vet and he looked at me, not daring to say what was on his mind.

I asked my friend, a homoeopathic doctor for animals and a healer, to carry out a healing session on Maya. My friend told me that Maya was having a hard time leaving me. I felt the same way. After a while, she started getting better and I whispered in her ear “I hope I get to celebrate your birthday this year. That is all I wish for right now.”

Her birthday was on Dashami. She looked at me and licked my face.

When people talk about love, they tell stories of Romeo and Juliet and Laila and Majnu. For me, dogs are the bearers of unconditional love. There is no love greater than that.

I hope that whoever reads this will turn to their dogs and actually be an audience to the relentless flow of love and appreciation that they have for them. I hope that reading Maya’s story and her ability to give back selflessly will touch hearts and you, the readers, as the witness to this story will create stories of your own with your dogs and with the ones who are nameless on the streets.

I hope that the love and respect for these magnificent creatures will grow not only on Kukur Tihar, but every single day of their lives.

Maya’s story reminds us that love of dogs that conquers all; every challenge, all difficulties. There is not even a single instance when Maya didn’t listen to me. I had asked for one last thing from her, my wish to celebrate her birthday this year.

Like always and for the last time, she didn’t let me down. A day after Dashami, Maya quietly left us.

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Shristi is an animal lover, a writer and a dance enthusiast. She's been campaigning for animal rights more than a decade. Also a fitness instructor, Shristi is a believer in equal rights for humans and animals alike. She is a mother of two-year-old girl, the fuel that ignites her soul.

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