Tribute to a Faithful Companion: Foxy

Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

We laid him to rest in the back garden, where he liked to roam from time to time. He looked at peace, lying on his side, with his eyes and mouth slightly open. I plucked the single red rose that there was in the yard and placed it on his body. We said a little prayer and then covered him with the earth.

About two months ago Foxy had developed a wound in his posterior. It came to our notice when we saw some drops of blood where he had walked. With him in my lap we drove to my vet friend’s surgery not far away. He was found to have a shallow ulcer that was teeming with maggots. They were all removed one by one, the wound cleaned up thoroughly and a liquid antiseptic squirted into it. I would have to make the application daily until the wound healed, and this is in fact what happened.

Unfortunately a few weeks later the wound got infected again and there was fresh bleeding. When we took him to the vet, the wound had deepened and needed to be cleaned up of maggots again. However, it had turned into a cancer. The antiseptic treatment was repeated, and he had to have another wound toilet about ten days before the end came.

I was rather surprised that the wound had turned cancerous so quickly. It was not a cancer that spreads to the rest of the body; nevertheless it was serious enough that it troubled him to the extent that there were days on which he would turn away from food. Two days before he went he had shown no interest in the chicken pie that I used to bring for him from the bakery in the morning on going to get bread for myself. On the eve he had vomited a few times, dark brown material, and did not eat at all. He would get up with difficulty, walk a few steps listlessly then lie down, which is how I found him when I got back in the afternoon.

He did not seem to be in pain though, as he lay there quietly, curled up in the verandah. I let him be, and when I went to see him again as it was getting dark, he had moved a little distance away against the wall, to a spot where he liked to enjoy the afternoon sun especially when it was cold. After patting him I picked him up and put him in his room on a clean sheet: he never had a kennel – it was whole room that he occupied. I closed the door as it was rather chilly, and looked forward to seeing him up and about the next morning. Instead of chicken pie, I got him a genoise – he had a sweet tooth too. Alas, my poor Foxy never got to enjoy this last meal: as I opened the door, he was lying lifeless. At first I thought he was sleeping, but soon realized he had passed away when he did not respond to my whistling.

He was all of 16 years plus, which in human years was apparently about a hundred years, so I was told. Means he was nearly centenarian, a pardada, we used to joke. Save for that last illness on the whole he had been in good health for practically all his life, although we had noticed that he was getting a little thinner and weaker in his hind legs during the last year. We gave him doggie supplements regularly, for I am given to understand that dogs tend to suffer more from joint problems.

In spite of that, he could put up a good little fight with the newcomer Simba when the latter would trouble him, especially if he tried to poach on Foxy’s food. Foxy took longer to eat because he would chew slowly, I suspect because of trouble in the jaw joints, whereas Simba cleaned his bowl in a jiffy and then would try to have a go at Foxy’s share – which of course the latter would resent with a growl! I never interfered though, letting them sort it out between themselves, which never took too long.

Foxy came to us when he was a few weeks old, a gift from a nurse in charge of the operation theatre in a private clinic. He was a cute fox-terrier, white fur with scattered areas of black, and brown ears. For several days initially he was fed on milk and roti, which he relished even later as he grew up. Over the years he turned into a very nice, playful companion especially for his true master, my son Ajay. His favourite place was in Ajay’s lap, and as he curled up there he would be stroked and patted constantly in obvious delight. He would follow Ajay around the house, and to his room, sleeping or sitting on the foot rug at times as Ajay either slept too or would be working at the computer.

After Ajay left for his studies, Foxy would come looking for him from time to time in the house and even his room. He must have realized at some stage that the master was not around. I am not too much of a one for dogs, or any pet for that matter, but since I had custody of the little fellow as a legacy, along with Wolfy, a German shepherd, I certainly had to do the honours. They were well looked after, and whenever I would come back and find only Wolfy in the yard, I knew where to find Foxy: either on a sofa in the living room or on the bed in the spare room downstairs. Afterwards, he would even find his way to the guest room upstairs and curl up soundly on the bed, sans ambages!! I must say this did not please me too much – but he was master of the house too, and I could only restrain him so far as it were!

Ajay had been gone one year before he came for holidays, and I will never forget that day when he arrived from the airport in the morning. I had locked Foxy in his room in the backyard so that he would not run out as the gate opened to let the car in, something which he used to do a number of times. But that morning, we had hardly got in when he started to bang against the door of his room and barking non-stop. As I had expected, Ajay just shot out of the car and rushed to the back, and within seconds the fellow had jumped into his lap and was all over him, licking and being cuddled.

For the rest of his holidays, Foxy would not leave Ajay even a moment when he would be at home. He would be next to Ajay’s chair in the kitchen as we sat for our meal, and would also have morsels put in his mouth as we ate. On one side Mr Foxy, on the side Mr Wolfy, as we used to tease them at the sight of this trio enjoying each other’s company. What lucky guys, to be loved and cared for so much. I even used to feel J! I was completely ignored by the dogs, but Foxy in particular, during Ajay’s holidays and I told him as much one day, ‘this fellow is a namak haraam! I am the one who takes care of him all the time you are away, and when you are here but for a few days he won’t even bother to look at me!’ Faithful to the Master, you see…

Whenever we would have visitors or would visit close relatives and friends who knew him, ‘how is Foxy?’ was a regular question asked. He was almost an institution around the house.

As I mentioned, I am ok with dogs as long as they stay where they belong: outside, with only occasional forays indoors, within sight – although this was not always the case with Foxy. Nevertheless, he was a good sort, mostly well behaved, and a good watchman until his later days as he slept most of the time, looking like a little baby despite his advanced age.

Simba has felt his loss too, but it is a week now, and he seems to be getting over it, as we have too, for that is the way of life isn’t it. When I informed my vet friend and those who knew about Foxy, they commented that he had certainly lived a long life, and this was indeed a consolation. Now he lies in the lap of nature, in a corner of the yard that was his domain: he never had to shift houses as we had to. Methinks one could not get luckier than dear old late Foxy.

* Published in print edition on 8 July 2011

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