“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring--it was peace.”
― Milan Kundera
Our baby Mylo died this morning. We'd just celebrated her 13th birthday a few days ago. After waiting patiently for us to sing her Happy Birthday, she happily wolfed down her cupcake, quick as lighting. I shared the video with my cousins and my little niece was so captivated, she watched it three times over.
My sister Sheena saved Mylo from a newborn litter at a friend's home. When her friend first told her that she was giving them away, Sheena begged my dad to let her bring one home. He was totally against it. That necessitated a clandestine drive (mum got involved) to the other end of Singapore. Amongst all the little ones running around, they spotted a tiny, coal-black furball with 4 snow-white paws.
The best part? When Sheena had to leave for the US, it didn't take long for my dad to become Mylo's #1. For the rest of her days, he was the one doting on her, bringing her to the beach and throwing her endless dog treats (much to the annoyance of my mum).
Since I was little, we had pets in the house. These included:
hermit crabs (brought home in a bucket of sand & seawater from a beach holiday)
2 hamsters (my mum brought home 1 each for Sheena and me)
1 black & 1 white rabbit (Prince & Snow White)
3 kittens (Reebok, Adidas & Nike)
1 cat (Jinx)
a small green bird that flew into our house with an injured wing that my dad nursed back to health
But no one turned our house upside down like Mylo did. She went from being an adorable puppy to a rambunctious little devil, biting all the wooden furniture and chewing up all our shoes. She had a terrifically loud bark that you could hear down the whole street.
Most people who saw her were afraid because she looked like a fierce guard dog. She grew to be big, strong and lean with a glossy black coat. Her ears were like super sensitive satellite dishes. Even when she was lying on the ground seemingly relaxed, they would be on high alert - two sharp black triangles that perked at the slightest disturbance. In reality though, she was a "scaredy cat" as my mother often remarked.
As she settled in, we learnt more about her personality. She was terrified of 2 things: tall people and thunder. At the first rumble of thunder (or the sight of a tall stranger walking in the front door), she'd run to hide under the furniture. During thunderstorms, she would come up the stairs to find us in our rooms.
"She was separated from her mother too early," my mother remarked. "That's why she's so anxious and scared."
'Dogs are our link to paradise...'
Reading the quote above made me smile in spite of myself. Maybe Milan Kundera had an angel for a dog, but Mylo definitely had a jealous streak. Our next-door neighbours had two dogs who were always playing in their driveway. Whenever my dad went to see them at our common wall, Mylo would insert herself between my dad and the wall, to put some distance between them.
One afternoon, a friend came over to visit with their baby. At one point, the baby was passed to my dad to hold. Mylo wouldn't have it and barked to show her displeasure at this small intruder.
Mylo loved snacks. She knew my dad had a soft spot for her and her favourite thing was to follow my dad every time he went to the shoe cabinet because that's where he also kept her treats. My mum often told him off for literally "showering" her with dog treats. "Just give one or two is enough!"
At our dinnertable, it was strictly no dogs allowed. My mother taught Mylo to sit outside and wait till after my dad said grace for the food. She would then walk over to Mylo with a handful of rice or pappadum. If she took too long, Mylo would bark once as if to say: "Hey! I'm over here!"
On other days, when we were having Western food and there was no rice or pappadum, Mylo would be silent. "She knows there's no rice because she can't smell it," my dad (the Mylo Whisperer) sagely explained. Sometimes Mylo would test us by deserting her station and wandering in to the dining room. My mother would eye her warily as she inspected the carpet for crumbs. When she inevitably got too close and started sniffing at the table, she'd get a few yells and shoos.
The signs started earlier this year. She developed a cough and at the vet's, we were told that she had a weak heart. Every meal after that came with medicine. The realisation of her mortality softened us, especially my mother who had her breakfast everyday on the front porch with Mylo at her feet.
"No more Mylo waiting for her pappadum," my mum said softly at lunch today.
Mylo's other great love was the sea. Nothing excited her like realising my dad was getting the car ready to take her out. She took great joy in swimming and splashing in the waves, then running back to shore and rolling in the sand like it was the most luxurious exfoliating bath scrub.
She lived 13 years and I feel so blessed that we got to have her in our family.