Believe it or not, I used to publish personal posts here about my family, pets, hobbies, etc. But I found it less and less possible to do that because so many people want to invade the privacy of my loved ones in inappropriate ways. But tonight I’ll make an exception for someone special.
My 11 year-old Labrador Retriever, Gede, is in failing health. She’s a yellow Lab, with the sweetest, kindest disposition. Never met anyone she didn’t like, especially if they had a treat for her. She was a little smaller than the average Lab, so our breeder gave her to us because we wanted a dog whose disposition and size wouldn’t overwhelm our kids (when we had them). We got her when she was eight weeks old and we could hold her as a tiny ball of fur in one hand. By the time she was mature, she’d been so well trained (which wasn’t just due to a good trainer, but rather Gede’s incredible quickness and smartness in picking up her lessons) that we could walk her everywhere without a leash.
My wife’s uncle, who’s a great joker at heart, came to visit and offered her one of his highest compliments:
That dog doesn’t know she’s a dog, she thinks she’s a person.
I remember when we brought our first son home, at the dog trainer’s suggestion, I put the baby’s cradle down on the floor and then let Gede enter the room. She proceeded to come over to sniff and lick our son, who probably didn’t relish the idea. Little did Gede know, but she’d have to share us with the newborn. But she was such a kindly, gentle dog that she never held anything against anyone. You could step on her foot, the babies would try to ride her as if she was a pony. She suffered through it all with great dignity.
She has the most soulful brown eyes and if a dog can think deep thoughts she did. Maybe they weren’t deep in the human sense but she had so much soul. A Great Dog Soul.
But now her abdomen is filling with fluid and she’s in great discomfort. She may have an adrenal tumor or end-stage kidney failure. We don’t know. But our vet tells us that so much fluid in a dog’s abdomen is a sign of something seriously (meaning, terminally) wrong. So we plan to put her to sleep tomorrow morning.
My wife keeps saying: “She’s my baby,” because we got Gede before we had our first child. In fact, her name means “first-born” in Balinese. We’d spent our honeymoon on Bali and met a young boy visiting a temple who’d been so irrepressibly happy and joyful to meet us, sticking out his hand in a very western gesture of friendship, that we named our dog after him (probably not a great honor in Balinese culture, but we meant it so).
So tomorrow she will be gone. But we will not forget.
As I was making these sad plans today, I heard the following radio show, Two Enemies, One Heart, on KUOW here in Seattle and it changed my disposition entirely. It is the story of two men, one Iraqi and one Iranian, who met on the battlefield during the Iran-Iraq war. The Iranian saved the Iraqi’s life and did so almost at the cost of his own. Both of them ended up at different times as prisoners of war. One imprisoned for 17 years and the other for over two years. Both suffered immense deprivation, one lost a fiancé in a bombing and the other came home and couldn’t find his wife or child whom he’d left behind to go to war.
Both of them, unbeknownst to the other, ended up migrating after their respective lives filled with horrors, to Vancouver, BC. The Iranian, in despair after escaping from Iran and not knowing how to deal with his new-found freedom in the west, attempts suicide. By some absolute miracle, they both end up in the waiting room of a clinic which provides therapy for torture survivors. Through tentative chit-chat and then rushing questions and wild gesticulations, they come to understand that they are long-lost brothers in arms. That is how the Iranian saved the Iraqi’s life during the war, and the Iraqi saved the Iranian’s life after the war.
This is a truly brilliant piece of radio journalism. Not only do I strongly recommend it–I’d say the only reason not to listen is if you’re the happiest, best adjusted human being in the entire world. If you’re not, then you need cheering up and this will make you realize that the human species is truly capable of greatness, especially in the midst of the absolute horrors that we can inflict on each other.
And if another reader here says a word about how primitive Middle Eastern culture is I might just ring their necks (but no, that would violate the spirit of this story)–or force them to listen to this. These two men have hearts big enough to encompass an entire world.