Tuesday, April 09, 2024

Hachi - The gentlest soul I have ever seen

I'm not exactly sure when my attraction to Golden Retrievers began, but at some point along the way, I decided that if I were to own a dog in the future, it would definitely be a Golden. Once, I even came across an ad for Golden Retriever puppies and reserved one, but I couldn't proceed with the purchase because my landlord vetoed the idea of me having a puppy when I was living alone. During my teenage years, I had a pet that was given to me as a gift. However, at that time, we had no idea how to properly raise a puppy, and she ended up being completely untrained.(The reason why you should never ever 'gift' a pet to anyone..) That was my only experience with a pet dog until then. Once I got married, Ram's family had 7 dogs, and he was also feeding many more on the streets. So when I told him about the Golden Retriever story, he said we would have one. Additionally, I felt more confident about having another pet because of his expertise.

However, once we moved to Bangalore, I saw news about lab-released beagles, which was the largest batch at that time. These poor creatures had been kept in solitary cages, subjected to daily drug testing. The release from the labs was a significant shock to their bodies and minds. When they emerged, they lacked confidence, were anxious, and knew nothing about the world outside the laboratory walls – soil, grass, stones, leaves, or sunlight were all foreign to them. Rehabilitation was a challenging process that involved gradually exposing them to the world, patient socialization, and dealing with frequent setbacks. We were so heartbroken listening to the story that we felt compelled to adopt one. Despite being with us for six months, Diva remained fearful and anxious. However, she seemed to improve when we took her back to our hometown and introduced her to our other pets. Seeing her struggle to adapt to human interaction and learn how to be a dog, we decided to adopt a second dog. By then, I was also aware of the issues within the breeding industry and had resolved to adopt from a shelter. When we approached the counselor and expressed our preference for Golden Retrievers, they were uncertain if a breed-specific adoption could be arranged. But, just a few weeks later, they informed us about Hachi, who had been abandoned by his previous owners. Hachi, around 3-4 years old at the time, immediately stole our hearts from the moment we first met him. Despite being abandoned, he exuded an undeniable warmth and trust.

Once he came home, we thought he might dominate Diva, but the total opposite happened. He was always the gentle one, even when Diva stole his food, bed, or snuck in while we petted him. It wasn't long before Diva started observing Hachi's behavior, and began trusting us. Hachi's gentle nature extended beyond the humans in our home. All cats and kittens seemed to instinctively trust him, finding comfort and playfulness in his presence. 
His ability to connect with others, regardless of species, showcased the depth of his empathy and compassion. A couple of months ago, we had a fully paralyzed dog named Amy, with very limited movements. Hachi, who suffered from arthritis, found it difficult to get up, especially in colder months, and usually required assistance. However, one day, when he seemed to have improved slightly, he got up on his own, walked up to Amy, and lay down next to her with his paws on hers, probably to comfort her.

Hachi was everyone's favorite, despite the competition from the many four-legged species we shared our home with. He had a fan following in the neighborhood we lived in; he was adored by groomers and veterinarians alike due to his friendly and obeying nature. Just as Hachi was everyone's favorite, everyone was his favorite too. We also felt he might have been searching for his original owner in all the people he met. It's often said that dogs become heartbroken when separated from their owners. Despite his love for people, he also made sure to give space to those who didn't like dogs or were scared of him due to his size. How he understood it instinctively was just amazing.

He loved car rides, which was a blessing for hodophiles like us. The moment he saw us packing, he would be all charged up and ready to go. We often wondered why someone would give up such a fine dog like Hachi, and we joked that the only reason might be his never-ending love for food.

But as life often unfolds, our time with Hachi was not infinite. He had various health issues which finally claimed his gentle soul, leaving a huge void in our hearts and home. He was with us for over 7 years, and it has been 3 weeks since he passed away, yet we still feel a profound sense of loss and sadness. Sometimes we wonder, while he was literally a dream pet one could ever have, were we the best family he could have gotten? Would it have been better for him to be in a family with just one dog so that he could receive all the attention? Did our move back to Kerala limit his options for receiving the best treatment? Did our elder care responsibilities limit the time and attention we could give him in his final years? However, we won't get any answers to these questions, and they will linger forever in our minds.

As we bid farewell to our beloved Hachi, we hold onto the legacy of his gentle spirit and unwavering love. Though he may no longer walk by our side, his presence will forever be felt in our hearts as we cherish every precious moment we had with him.

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