People say that money can't buy friends. That's not true. I bought one for US$ 45. She was supposed to be Tom's friend, not mine or my daughter's, but his. She was our present to him; a man in need of a friend. We named her Fiera, the ferocious one, a deliberately-chosen misnomer for a dog who, from the day we took her out of the SPCA, had a permanent expression of bewilderment, as if the world was a never-ending pinata bursting open just for her. She was the nervous type, she peed if she was excited, if she was nervous, if she was happy, if she was upset. She used her bladder as a means of communicating with the world. And she communicated often.
Fiera and Tom developed a strange friendship. As a puppy, he would take her flying in his helicopter and she would stay put in the copilot's seat, looking straight into the control panel, mesmerized by either his ability to whisk her up in the air, fly her over Disney World, Gatorland and Old Town, all those out-of-reach places for a dog that was supposed to have been euthanized the day we adopted her, or by the whirring of the engine which seemed to have a hypnotic effect on her. Whatever the reason, she, like Tom, felt at home in the helicopter's cockpit. I'll never know if the way she wagged her tail (in circles, like the blades of a helicopter, rather than side ways) had anything to do with Tom, but I have never seen a dog wag her tail in circular motions.
She was part German Shepherd, part Rhodesian Ridgeback, part scaredy cat, and partially human. She was for all intents and purposes, Tom's baby and in the process of having a baby in the house, she also became our unruly friend. A friend that never got used to be out without a leash, a friend that couldn't do a single trick, a friend that never quite understood that a squirrel is faster than a dog, a friend that barked for no reason, and trapped live bugs that she couldn't get out of her mouth. She protected us, amused us, annoyed us and was a part of our lives for eight years.
But yesterday, I took her to the vet and asked him to euthanize her. She had rectal cancer and the external tumor had connected with the one in her stomach. We didn't even know dogs could get cancer. We thought cancer was something that happens only to humans. But it happened to The Ferocious One. She was confused, had stopped eating, and was in visible discomfort. We don't let friends suffer, if we can help it. So we did, what we had to do. We decided her fate.
After talking to the veterinarian, Fiera and I had a few minutes alone and I thanked her for being such a good dog, for having been a good friend to Tom when he desperately needed one, for guarding us, for being just about the silliest dog on earth and for never failing to get a smile out of me even in my darkest hour. Then the vet walked in and I knew it was time to let Fiera's body rest. He told me to hold her face close to mine, to look into her eyes and to whisper things to her, to make sure she felt loved, which I did. He put the needle in, and she gave me one of those puppy looks that she always did and in seconds she exhaled in my arms. It was quick and painless. They wrapped her in a biodegradable bag, then in a blanket and they put her in the back of my car.I drove home with my dead friend, grabbed a shovel and dug a hole in our back yard. I went to Home Depot and bought fresh soil, mulch and a little plant that gives blue orchids. And just as I was about to walk back in the house, I wondered if there was a way to know whether or not animals have souls, whether she was the reincarnation of a different being or if she will ever make it back to this transient world as a different living being. And since I didn't have an answer, I thought it smart to cover all of my bases and assume that Fiera did have a soul which, presumably like a human soul, lingers for a while. I buried her surrounded by wine bottles, so she doesn't forget that the people who loved her so much, also loved wine.