Welcoming Death

Irina Echarry

Photo: Caridad

A few years ago there appeared a funny looking black and white dog on the first floor of my building; he seemed to be looking for company.  Ivet welcomed him into her apartment and gave it an original name: “Oh!,” perhaps owing to the surprise he caused her when she saw how comically cute he was.

Later his name was changed to “O,” like the vowel, though Ivet’s father called him “Pipo.”

The dog has lived with all of us for more than 13 years.  He has survived the parvovirus, distemper and a few years ago overcame a skin disease that made him seem even older.  Sometimes he chokes and experiences convulsions, but then they pass.  Due to the skin problem he has a smell that obliges almost everyone to keep their distance.  Despite his treatments, he isn’t recovering and every morning he seems a little worse.

Little by little his owner has grown more detached, though she hasn’t stopped loving him.  The problem is that she works, and on the weekends she travels to another province to see her boyfriend.  Nonetheless, constant and close contact with O is maintained by the rest of the family: Ivet’s mother, a nephew and especially her father, Roly.

Everyone knows O from his walks with Roly, who people now call the “Lord of the Springer.”  Roly believes that his Pipo will never die.  He carries him up the stairs so the pooch doesn’t get so tired, and explains sympathetically saying, “It’s just that he’s an old boy.”  It’s difficult to accept the death of a loved one.  The dog has only a little time left; Roly simply doesn’t realize that.

As O can barely walk and his choking more frequent, the suffering is increasing, the stench is becoming worse, the neighbors complain and the house is never being completely clean, the owner decided to sacrifice him, but Roly prevented her.  Instead, he took the dog to a farm property where he works as the night watchman.

Roly even brings O food in the afternoons, and on alternating nights they sleep together.  When anyone suggests sacrificing the animal he begins to raise his voice insisting that he is not a murderer.

I would like to know what “Oh!” thinks, far from the pampering of the house in the middle of a farm.  There are other dogs there, but they don’t know him since he has to remain locked in a little improvised “house,” sick and dying.

Roly continues his walks with “Oh!” as death lingers about the old boy.  Maybe Roly, like the animal, distances himself from the world so that he can gradually die, alone.