08 Feb

In memory of Feefee

Guest post by Ayza Omar, a graduate student of Broadcast Journalism at Columbia.

FeeFee was always smiling or whining. She was barely ever serious. She also had a short fuse. Her spurts of anger were obvious from her mad dash to the gate, teeth bared, legs splayed and a low guttural growl that made the bravest of guests perch on the balls of their feet, ready for flight.

She was eight when I last saw her. Having given birth to a litter of three beautiful puppies, she was still more playful than her kids.

I would give up, out of breath with sweaty brow, well before she tired out. I would marvel at this tiny animal’s forceful energy. She would turn sharply, breaking the circle she would be weaving around the garden chairs in her game of ‘chase me’ and dive in front of me. Planting her triangular head and whiskered white ears over her dainty paws, she would then proceed to ogle at me with her big brown eyes, an endearing expression that can be best described as pouting.

She barely got sick. But when she did, it would change her demeanor. She would lose weight; her skin would sag; her eyes would go dull; her whippy tail would lose energy and she would start to sigh a lot.

She developed a fungal infection in her ear that, despite rigorous treatment, worsened with time. It developed into a burning skin disease that made her lose her hair and her appetite. She would fight the debilitating pain by sprawling on the wet grass in the dead of winter. The frost apparently numbed her suffering.

My sister Muni and Ami, horrified at the sight of Feefee sprawled in the cold, uncovered and shivering, would drag her back to her kennel, at times locking her in. Thinking, the poor souls, that they were doing what was best for her. Little did they know this was the last thing she needed.

When the disease started to spread from animal to human, Feefee’s vet raised the alarm; “hospitalize her at once and see a skin specialist for yourself!” he ordered.

Muni and Ami took Feefee to the local veterinary Hospital, the only available option. The University of Veterinary Animal Sciences is the oldest (125 years) and largest veterinary care hospital in the Punjab. But that doesn’t make it the safest. I’ve done reports on the place, and although the place has improved considerably, the conditions in which the research animals are kept are deplorable and inhumane.

She was there for three days and two nights. A phone call from the hospital broke the bad news on Saturday. Muni took the call. ‘You’re dog has expired- we’re sorry.’

What does one say at that point? I can imagine Muni standing in Ami’s doorway, phone receiver in one hand and the knife from chopping vegetables in the other, mouth ajar, eyes bulging and then what? What does one say to some indifferent, probably bearded Pakistani lab assistant who is busy picking his nose and examining his find on the other end of the line? How does one kill the messenger when the messenger is some one so deprived of empathy he can’t tell a loss of a loved one from the loss of a dirty green booger on a laboratory floor?

Poor Muni must have felt so alone in the world at that point. I wish she didn’t have to take the call and find out that way. I wish I were there. After our first dog died, Lassy the graceful and beautiful Alsatian, I had closed up and refused to cry. In the process I unintentionally left Muni out in the cold. She loved Lassy like no other. Since then, I promised myself I would never do that again.

But I’m here, some 10,000 miles away from where my family silently grieves… How do you comfort each other on the phone? How do words suffice for the yawning gap left in your home?

I remember we compared the two dogs; Lassy was the graceful, older and more mature one with a heart made of gold, and Feefee was what we lovingly called “Gawar,” or the uncouth one. She never learned how to indicate she wanted to go; I failed in potty-training her. Our training sessions on the terrace with the aide of sugar balls only resulted in two things; Feefee bouncing off the walls with the sugar rush and developing the habit of pee-ing just when someone would pet her.

I also failed miserably at teaching her how to fetch. Feefee would chase after whatever you threw her way, catch it, chew it, attempt to mutilate it and then leave it a few feet further away from where it landed. She would return to you with a gleeful smile as if to say, ‘Now you go get it.’ And so we would. It soon became our special fetch game- in reverse.

She preferred meat to milk and hated bread. The roti that we fed her with the choicest offal had to be broken into tiny pieces otherwise she would completely disregard it, leaving it for the birds to pick on in the morning.

She had the habit of picking her favorite pieces and walking away with them. She never ate directly out of her bowl. She loved ice cream. She loved tearing things up into tiny bits. Yes, even the morning paper.

And then Feefee had her bad days; when she just wanted to be left on her own. She’d dig herself a hole somewhere in the corner of a flower bed and lie there, curled; the look in her eyes distant and cold. Times like these she would growl if someone came near her. She wouldn’t even let me close. And then, just like that, she’d come bounding out, with that cracked smile of hers, black lips spreading from ear to ear, and embrace you as if to say ‘I’m sorry!’

Feefee was the most communicative dog I have ever come across. She would come hollering at you, demanding to be pet and played with. If you refused, she’d lie on her back and wave her feet at you, emitting a bark-like noise that sounded halfway between a pleading ‘come-on!’ and an admonition.

If you still refused, she’d sit back up and talk to you between a yawn that made her sound like a complaining child who’s denied candy. And if that still didn’t melt your heart, she’d hurl herself at you, planting her tiny padded paws on your knees and squeak until your ears hurt and you just gave in.

Feefee was a great watch-dog. She barked her head off at the smallest provocation. She woke the house up when a burglar jumped into our lawn. We called the police but the man managed to get away before the cops got there.

She hated cats. She could bring the peace of an afternoon siesta to a crushing halt with her vicious, berating barks. We’d come out groggy eyed to find a smug looking feline, sitting all puffy on a ledge. Thoroughly amused, the cat would watch a hysterical Feefee go black and blue from flinging herself at an eight foot high wall again and again.

Feefee’s bark was far bigger than her. She sounded like a monster from the other side of the gate but was shockingly small framed. When we went to Khunjerab, I left five-month-old Feefee in a friend’s care. Their she would routinely terrify guests on to beds and chairs with her barking. Only when she would emerge, her tiny body jerking with the force of her barks, would they climb down, embarrassed and thoroughly amused at the sight of the little creature.

I remember when I brought her home the first time. She was only three months old and flee ridden. The vet said she wouldn’t make it if we didn’t get the flees off her soon. She was weak and scraggly. After many days of scrubbing, plucking and washing, Feefee radiated like a white cotton ball. Two sparkling hazel brown buttons for eyes and a small black and wet heart for a nose were the only markings on that bundle of white.

It was cold out on the terrace, so I’d smuggle her into my bedroom-not accepted practice in my home. She’d snuggle under the bed and wet the carpet in at least four different spots by morning. The routine ended one night when Ami walked in and sniffed the air suspiciously. Before I could cook up a convincing story about a window left open, Feefee came ambling out from under the bed and peed at Ami’s feet.

We thought of calling her Reema and other random names. I kept calling her Meera, unintentionally, of course. Eventually, it came down to Feefee because somehow it fit perfectly.

Now Feefee is gone. She died alone on the cold floor of a shady hospital ward on February 6, 2010. None of us were there to help her. None of us were there to hold her tiny paw as she slipped out of consciousness, one last time. I feel more responsible than anyone else. I brought her home and I should’ve seen her out. Somehow that thought will never let me be.

For what it’s worth, Feefee, you will always be our favorite girl.

One thought on “In memory of Feefee

  1. I am a Pakistani student at McGill University, and over the past few weeks, I have been missing my dog, a beautiful pedigreed, black and white, female springer spaniel, Smoochie, way more than anything else in the world.
    She got poisoned about three years ago by eating some fertilizer that our jack-ass of a gardener (who she HATES) left behind, and Alhamdolillah, I found her in time to rush her to the hospital. It was a very close call though, as it was around 1 am and I had decided to make a trip to the kitchen for a snack.
    Smoochie’s favorite hang out spot is right outside the kitchen door, from where she gets maximum coverage of anything and everything that goes around in the boundaries of our house, and the most important part, the kitchen of course. So I found her groggy and frothing and panic stricken called up the vet describing her state and so he told me she was showing signs of poisoning and that I had to rush her in. My parents who were out for a dinner at the time, rushed back, driving through all the red traffic lights, and since the doctor didn’t have his emergency kit with him to come to our house, we rushed to the clinic with him and got there just in time to give her strong life saving drugs. Poor thing had to undergo those vaccinations for seven consecutive days. So that incident messed up her liver and made it very easily susceptible to almost anything.
    Despite being an outdoor dog, Smoochie is VERY clean, and the only time she ever had ticks/fleas was when we brought her home the very first day at 5 months old. After her poisoning though, ever since the past two years now, she gets diagnosed with tick fever. The vet tells me that this can happen even after years of there ever being a tick or flea on the dog.
    Smoochie is almost 8 and half years old now, and is obviously not as active anymore. When she was 2, she developed some infection in her ovaries and eventually, we had to get them out. It really saddens me because she could have beautiful puppies.
    (I’m rambling on and on and on but I really miss her)
    So I somehow ended up on the PAWS page on facebook, went on to the website, and found your article. It’s 5:30 am and here I am, bawling my eyes out reading your beautiful piece, (just the thought of having to go through this is too much for me to handle) missing my baby back at home whom I will be seeing in 14 days InshAllah, but I can’t help but feel sad and lonely, and upset with myself for leaving her back at home thousands of miles away.
    I am a crazy animal lover, dogs in particular, but very very very sensitive. I have grown so attached to Smoochie that now that I think about the inevitable future, I get pangs of fear in my stomach as to how I will deal, specially since I’m sitting so far away from home, just like you. When I was 7 and older, my favorite TV show was ‘Adventures of the Black Stallion’ that would air on Star Plus (before it turned into a tasteless Indian soap/crap-show-throwing waste of satellite signal). I would record it on cassette and cry till I ran out of tears each time something happened to the horse. I remember one episode it fell into a ditch and that was the end of the world for me. Same thing with E.T. before he goes back, and is found lying in a puddle unconscious. My parents would tell me none of it was true and that “E.T. and the Stallion are sitting in their homes right now, perfectly healthy and blah..” haha.
    Lately Smoochie’s tick fever has been reoccurring and doesn’t seem to be going away completely. She’s losing her appetite, and becoming slow, and all I can do here is worry about her. Mama keeps on telling me she’s fine, but I doubt that sometimes.
    I can only hope and pray you are getting by without too much pain and sadness. I do not know you, or Feefee, but being a dog lover, and being away from mine, I can somehow feel exactly how you must have felt or are feeling.
    I really wish and pray there is a dog heaven up there, and Feefee is enjoying herself a stress/pain free life.

    Meera.

Leave a Reply