Gaby was not my dog. She was the offspring of a little rescue that had found her way to my mother some 15 years or so ago, heavily pregnant. So she literally spent her life, from birth, as companion to my mom and sister. They moved first from Polokwane to Centurion, then twice again within Centurion before coming to stay with us last year.
Gaby was there when my children were babies. She patiently let them tug and push and learn how to handle small dogs, as we had none of our own.
Gaby was there when we returned from our three years overseas, always happy to see us, yelping with excitement and stumpy little tail wagging furiously.
Gaby stood sentry to her mistresses, only ever barking at unknown visitors to the yard and faithfully obeying The Mom’s every command.
Gaby kept our yard free of the rats that plague Johannesburg, making short work of sniffing them out and killing those that dared stray into our garden.
When my mom moved at the beginning of September, Gaby stayed. She would stay with us until my mom had found an animal-friendly place of her own again.
She missed The Mom, you could tell. Still she woke up every morning happy and excited to see us, eager to please and obedient as always.
But perhaps that little tail wagged just a tiny bit less effusively? Those first few days, she’d come into the house and look for The Mom in the room where she used to stay.
Still, she ate her food with gusto and yelped in greeting when we’d been out and come back or friends came to visit. She barked at the rats that would scurry along the top of the high garden wall. She sniffed around the places she thought they might hide, ever vigilant and ready to dispatch them with speed and efficiency.
And then, on Friday evening, after a hot and uncomfortable day, she didn’t want her dinner. On Saturday, she hung lethargically around in her kennel, getting up only to drink water or to come inside in search of respite from the heat. She seemed to perk up that evening, when we got back from watching the rugby but not by much. And her water bowl was empty. On Sunday morning, she could barely stagger between her bed and her water bowl and I took her to the vet the moment their doors opened. By then, she’d begun to foam about the mouth slightly, and had had a very loose stool.
The vet diagnosed heamorrhagic gastro, most likely caused by the spread of a cancerous growth she found in in Gaby’s belly. She plied her with shots to ease her pain and combat the bug, sending us home with two antibiotics, more pain meds, a rehydration solution and a paste for binding her stool.
Gaby bit me twice as David and I administered her medicine – something I don’t think she’d done to anyone before in her life – her jaw clenched tight in pain. And as the afternoon wore on, her discomfort became increasingly plain. She lay still on her bed, just inside the door that leads out into the garden, getting up only for water when she could muster the strength to stand.
After a few more hours, she could no longer drink any water, either.
I stayed with her into the night and hoped that my being there was a comfort to her. She made two sharpish yelps in pain right near the end and I stroked her and whispered to her that we all love her and it’s okay to let go. And she did. At 01:05 this morning, I watched the light leave her eyes and she was gone.
Rest in peace, sweet little friend.