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Losing my Children’s Dogs

February 6, 2012

If you are like many people, you have a sad story of a dog dying when you were a child.  Mine was a wonderful German-Shepherd named “Gretel”.  I liked the story of Hansel and Gretel and named my first puppy after Gretel.  I would spend hours planning with my beautiful dog.  I loved her very much.

Then she got sick. It was a prolonged sickness.  The vet said that he thought it was “distemper”, but we just saw the life slowly fading away.  I remember one day that I was so upset that my dog was dying I asked my Mom if I could keep Gretel in her air-conditioned bedroom.  Back in the 1980’s air-conditioning in the Philippines was an expensive luxury, so we only turned it on rarely.  She let me sit with my dog in her air-conditioned room all day.

I will never forget the next morning when my Mom came and told me that Gretel did not make it through the night and had died.  I was so sad and cried.  I quietly went downstairs and saw my Gretel’s lifeless body at the front entrance way.  I was overcome with grief.  My dad, however, was engrossed in the TV only a few feet away.  He never saw me sitting with my dead dog.  The Boston Celtics were playing in the finals and he wasn’t going to miss a moment of his favorite team for a dead dog.

Together, my brother and I, dug a big hole and buried the dog in the back of our house.  We made a little grave for him.  Gretel was such a wonderful dog at a great time in our lives, my brother and I subsequently named every German Shepherd we have owned over the last thirty years “Gretel” as well.  I still have Gretel’s dog collar today, some 30 years later! Only recently, did I find new names for my German Shepherd dogs, because my wife and Cambodian friends couldn’t pronounce the German name “Gretel”.

The reason I am telling this story, is because two of my kid’s dogs just died.

We have three dogs at our house.  One is a German Shepherd (my favorite dog) and then a friend of my wife gave us an English Spaniel.  I didn’t care for the little floppy dog, but my kids sure did.  They loved her.  They called her “Ruby”.  Then my German Shepherd and English Spaniel decided to get married (as my kids would say).  “Jade” was born as a mixed German Shepherd and Spaniel dog.  She was kind of cute, but had way too much energy.  She was as big as a German Shepherd, but had droopy floppy ears.  She was mostly black.  A funny looking dog, but my kids loved her.

Last week, all of a sudden Jade started having diarrhea and vomiting.  We called the vet and they started Jade on medicine, but late at night she died.  Noit found the dog early in the morning and wrapped up the body into a rice sack so that the kids would not see the body of their precious Jade.  As the kids were coming down to breakfast she quickly moved dog outside the front of our house, next to a tree.  A few minutes later, the vet arrived to remove the dog’s body.  But the dog was gone.

No, it did not rise from the dead.  It was really dead.  The body was stiff and starting to smell.  You see, our house is right between a large squatter settlement and a dog meat market.  The poor squatter’s scavenge through everyone’s garbage constantly looking for anything of value.  This morning they found a dead dog.  Their either ate the dog itself or took it to the dog meat market where they could get $10-15 per dog.  (Dog stealing is actually a pretty serious problem in Cambodia, because many Vietnamese who live here love to eat dogs and poor people eat it as the cheapest meat.  However, nearly any Cambodian would find eating dog disgusting.  I think anyone on earth would find eating a stinky dead dog absolutely repulsive.)

But the story doesn’t end there.  The next day, our German Shepherd went down.  He wouldn’t move.  We called the vet immediately and he came and put the dog on an IV fluid and gave several injections.  He suspected either an intestinal disease or poisoning. The next day, the German Shepherd seemed much better and back to eating normally to everyone’s relief.

However, the following day, the English Spaniel named “Ruby” started vomiting.  Immediately we called the vet and he came.  He now was really suspecting poisoning.  He gave several injections and told us to keep giving the dog sugar-water to try to keep her hydrated.  Unfortunately, Ruby didn’t make it through the night.  My daughter Anna was especially close to Ruby.  Ruby would follow Anna everywhere.  We worked to remove the body of the dog before the kids woke up.  I didn’t want my kids to have to experience their wonderful pets dead like I did as a kid.  This time, we were very cautious of where we put the dog because we didn’t want anyone to try and eat our kids pet!

We put the dog’s body in another rice sack next to the car so that we could take it out of the city to dispose of it.  After we set the dog’s body down (which no one would know was a dead dog), we went back inside to get the car keys.  In under five minutes we came back and the dog’s body was gone again!  The squatters got the dog again for food.

Why did I tell you this story? Obviously, it is a shocking story.  The reason why I decided to put it up on my blog was to highlight to all the readers of digital media that poverty is real.  No one thinks eating a dead smelly stiff dog is yummy.  The only reason you would eat a dead dog (who died of a sickness of poisoning) is because they are so desperate it seems like a “blessing” to find a dead dog.  The government in Cambodia estimates that about 30% of people don’t have enough food to eat.  30% might be tempted to take a dead dog as food.  I don’t want my kids to know that someone ate their best friend, but I think we would all benefit from being reminded that there are very poor and desperate people who need help.  Jesus would want us to help them.


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