My dog passed away on 26 October 2017. He was 15 years old.
Before I met Momo, I had no idea how much I could love a dog. The first time we met though, I think he wanted to kill me.
I was visiting my then-girlfriend, now wife’s home for the first time. They’d chained Momo, and for good reason, as he went wild the moment he saw me, snapping against his shackles, barking and snarling. It was the first time I’d ever been so close to a German Shepherd, let alone an angry one, and I was scared — if that chain broke, I thought, I’m a goner.
I didn’t blame him then, and I don’t blame him now for his aggressiveness. My in-laws needed a guard dog after their house had been burgled; that’s why they had Momo, and that’s what he’d been trained to do — protect the family.
The chain held, and I lived to feed Momo his dinner that night. The morning after, Momo was cautiously okay with me. It took a while for the both of us to warm up to each other, but we became as tight as brothers over the years.
Even now, it’s hard to think about all of this without a fissure splitting my heart. But when I think about him, it’s the happy times that I remember the most.
The time he snatched a piece of duck (his favorite) from my wife’s hands. The time he ran away from his own puppies (and we put one on his head while he froze, stock still). The time we unleashed him at an empty park, and he chose to just sit down and be with us.
One memory, in particular, stands out. One day, when we reached my in-laws’, I saw another strange German Shepard inside. It was one of Momo’s sons visiting, grown up a year old, big and handsome. But I wasn’t sure if he was going to be friendly or not, as we hadn’t seen each other for a year, and to him, I was a stranger entering the house.
As I slowly approached him, I noticed that Momo was by my side, and he stayed with me as I walked towards his son. It was the smallest of gestures, but I understood then that Momo would always be with me, that he would never let anything harm me, and because of that, I didn’t have to be afraid.
The decision to put him to sleep was one of the worst we ever had to make, but I believe it was the best of cruel mercies. Momo was very sick, and he was only getting worse, not better. He had become frightfully skinny; I was feeling bones I’d never felt before under his fur. He couldn’t walk at the end, and he was clearly in pain.
But most of all, I could see it in his eyes. Momo had a few serious illnesses in the past couple of years, which we feared he might not survive. But each time, he still had the fight in him, and he managed to come back. This time, I didn’t see the same fight in his eyes at all, and we knew — I think he did too — that this was it.
I’m extremely grateful that we had our time together, and at the ripe old age of 15, we had more than our fair share. When you love a dog, your entire world changes.
The both of you form a bond at a deep, primal core. He sees you and knows you, you see him and you know him. But it has nothing to do with words, or intellect, or something that you can measure or prove. It has everything to do with instinct, feeling, and knowing, without a doubt, that when you look into his eyes, someone, not something, is looking back at you.
So. Thank you, Momo, for all the happy times we had together. I love you so much. I hope you are free from the pain and suffering of your old bones now. See you out there, my brother.