Eight hours after my 12-year-old Lab was immobile, but showed no signs of being in pain, we took him to the vet yesterday. Doctor’s answer wasn’t new. Calvin’s Hip Dysplasia has begun to bother him more, and I should ensure that he doesn’t exert himself.
My dog, Calvin has been on pain management since he was six. His body must now be cursing me for filling it with numerous tablets everyday. But, I only hope, that with those cataract filled eyes which once used to twinkle, and with that heart which still brims with unconditional love, he could see that he is loved as ever.
As the memories of Calvin’s recent struggle with Hip Dysplasia continued to linger, I began reading The Art of Racing in The Rain by Garth Stein. The narrator is a dog named Enzo. His life’s also controlled by Hip Dysplasia.
Page no. 2 carried this passage:
I’m old. And while I’m very capable of getting older, that’s not the way I want to go out. Shot full of pain medication and steroids to reduce the swelling of my joints. Vision fogged with cataracts. Puffy, plasticky packages of Doggie Depends stocked in the pantry. I’m sure Denny would get me one of those little wagons I’ve seen on the streets, the ones that cradle the hindquarters so a dog can drag his ass behind him when things start to fail. That’s humiliating and degrading. I’m not sure if it’s worse than dressing up a dog for Halloween, but it’s close. He would do it out of love, of course.
I knew I had started reading a book that I really wanted to. A book that seemed to talk to the heart.
From the very beginning, Enzo tells us that he is not a regular dog. He is philosophical and sagacious. And, he has a penchant for several things under the sun. Racing, watching TV, Mangolian legends among many. Raised by an up-and-coming car-racer Denny Swift, Enzo, named after Enzo Ferrari, is an integral part of his torn family. He also acts beyond his canine-abilities at one or two junctures just to thwart his master from making wrong decisions. It might come across as a cliche, and sometimes, a bit preachy too, but since the time he started relating the story, he told us that he is not ordinary. So, I wouldn’t want to want to think any other way. 🙂
Enzo shines at explaining the limitations of the communication between his humans and himself. When people around him ask for his opinions, and pour their hearts out, all that he can offer in return are gestures. But some grand ones. As they still fail to understand his methods, his heart sinks. At places like these, my heart sank too, for the helpless dog that is so full of thoughts.
His reflections on human absurdities are first-class. The clever dog has some strong opinions about the common, yet expensive mistakes that humans commit.
Learn to listen! I beg of you. Pretend you are a dog like me and listen to other people rather than steal their stories.
People are always worried about what’s happening next. They often find it difficult to stand still, to occupy the now without worrying about the future. People are not generally satisfied with what they have; they are very concerned with what they are going to have.
The human language, as precise as it is with its thousands of words, can still be so wonderfully vague.
As Enzo accompanies Denny in a long battle and a lonely life, the dog makes many an observation about his master’s indomitable spirit. He does extol his virtues. However, it is not mere hero-worshiping. Several life-lessons are subtly packaged in his opinions.
Lock the sun in a box. Force the sun to overcome adversity in order to rise. Then we will cheer! I will often admire a beautiful sunrise, but I will never consider the sun a champion for having risen.
To live every day as it it had been stolen from death, that is how I would like to live. To feel the joy of life, as Eve felt the joy of life. To separate oneself from the burden, the angst, the anguish that we encounter every day. To say I am alive, I am wonderful, I am. I am. That is something to aspire to. When I am a person, that is how I will live my life.
Such a simple concept, yet so true: that which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny. Be it through intention or ignorance, our successes and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves.
Enzo harbours a dream to live a human-life (No! I didn’t spoil it for you). He wants a thumb that would let him hold Denny’s collar when he is crestfallen, and a small tongue that would allow him to comfort his master again with his words. On the other hand, he pities the kind of deplorable lives humans lead. On such occasions, he asks himself if he is ready yet, to live a life that is full of trials and tribulations. For all we know, Enzo would make a better human being with all his wisdom. And that’s really saying something.
The analogy that Enzo employs to explain life is racing, which is a foreign theme to me. But, with his deep-dives, I have now got an acquired taste for the sport. After Diana Wynne Jones’s Dogsbody, The Art of Racing in The Rain moved me immensely. I kept shedding buckets of tears, adjusted my glasses, and received incredulous looks from my dogs. 🙂
Enzo observes Denny’s struggles at close-quarters, and he provides a fly-on-the-wall perspective, which is heart-wrenching and enlightening. It’s a book that I see myself reading again. The duo’s story is a tribute to our memories of our pets, and a demonstration of some beautiful values like friendship, hope, loyalty… They remind us that these values are not overrated.
Enzo is as endearing as Hachiko, and as brilliant and brave as Denny Swift, his hero.