Sheeba was an addict. She was frothing, jelly-like foam on her muzzle, eyes rolling back. This was the third or fourth time she lay spasming on the ground, her head arcing back as if there was a steel spring located somewhere along her spine. She howled in what sounded like desperate pain and then lay still. She's going to die for sure, we all thought.
"Run and get the homeopathics," the mother yelled, "get lachesis, bring aconite, belladonna ... and arsenicum." Thinking to battle toxins with essences of poisons.
"Maybe she's been bit by a snake," the father shouted. There was no swelling, no way to look for a snake bite in her night gray coat in the dark.
"Push some salt down her throat," suggested the friend, "that's what they do to make dogs gag..."
Eventually, we just did the simplest thing and rinsed her mouth out with water from a forceful hose. Then we got her up on four wobbly legs and made her walk around. Back and forth, round and round, we walked this unpedigreed but patient loyal pet until her eyes began to focus and she was walking without crossing her legs.
We had found her by her voice, a six-inch scrawny black pup dropped by a stray, bawling in a drain, soaking wet and trying to climb out of the water, with a sibling that was ready to call it a day. As she grew, her fur changed to a grayish fuzz. We called her Sheeba. Orion called her Lagahou, a netherworld creature more spirit than form, silent but ever-present. Sheeba was the typical stray, always expecting to be abandoned, just grateful to be noticed. Her favourite pastime was chasing lizards, hunting toads out of their daytime hideaways in the smelly earth under the ginger plants. She would emerge with her muzzle foaming. She didn't kill the toads but seemed to want to get them in her mouth. We think she enjoyed the natural high!
If we had to characterise Sheeba, we would use words like independent, introspective, appreciative, self-effacing. For eleven years - without pups, because she miscarried her first litter and it was thought best to spay her after that unpleasant experience - she was the soul of devotion. She attacked no one and would lie silently by the door, groomed and licked and loved by the other dogs. She forever chased lizards (and iguanas) and licked toads. And in her final days, howled as if she were high - again and again, until we realised that there was no froth on her muzzle. This was dry pain.
May Sheeba's spirit live on, and help us to appreciate loving gentleness even in damaged creatures.