On thursday night, February 9th 2012, our dog, Leão (portuguese for lion), died.
They suspected that he had liver cancer, but, even so, the exploratory operation shouldn’t have killed him.
But it did.
The life of a dog in Portugal is not always a happy one – we acquired him from our neighbours (from whom we bought our house), when they wouldn’t assure us that, if we didn’t take him, he wouldn’t be put down.
They say that, about 10 years ago, he just walked into their garden one day, and just never left.
He wasn’t very good at being a dog – no-one had taught him to fetch sticks, to play with balls, or to walk around the fields with you.
He wasn’t very good at being a guard-dog – he often slept through people arriving, and he was scared of Land Rovers. I have a sneaking suspicion that, had we been in danger, he’d have done what was required to protect us – but, thankfully, he never had to.
He wasn’t very good at doing what he was told, no matter what language you used. I suspected he understood a lot more than he let on, but, basically, if he didn’t want to get up, he simply wouldn’t. And, at 60kg, he usually got his way.
Whilst his understanding of us was open to question, we got to understand him pretty well – his eyes would say “it’s time to go for a walk”, and we would – as soon as he saw the lead he’d dance around in circles, and run up and down, and his tail would wag furiously, and then he’d go and sit at the gate, waiting patiently while we got ourselves together. It wasn’t the exercise he craved, but the smells – I swear he could tell just with a few sniffs who had been past, when they’d been past, their age, sex, and quite possibly, what they’d had for breakfast.
When we got him, about 4 years ago now, he’d never been inside a house – but when the hot weather set in, we would let him inside downstairs (we live upstairs) – but, unlike the other dog, he always asked if it was OK. And, whenever we went to the toilet (which is downstairs), he’d flash a look as if to say “is it OK if I stay here?”
He had several withering looks – if he was near my workshop and I fired up a power tool, he’d flash a “do you really have to? – people are trying to sleep here” look – he loved to sleep.
To sleep and to think.
But I know not of what he thought, just that he spent a lot of time thinking.
We’ve buried him in the garden where he spent most of his life – I’ve hung his collar over the grave on an olive branch – the small amount of work I did I did with hand-tools – he wouldn’t have liked the noise – we’re going to plant a tree, but it’s not the season. It’s finished only with tears.
It will be many moons before the pain passes – everywhere in the garden are the patches he made for sleeping – under the pampas grass in the winter – under the hydrangea in the summer – and the patch out in the fields, where he’d wait, staring at the road, for our return.
He had, I think, a decent life, but not a good end.
R.I.P Leão – ? → February 9th 2012.
-- "Do not speak – unless it improves on silence."