Last night Rex died.
We took him in 5 months ago. Our neighbors wanted to get rid of him and tied him to a post outside their yard next to the “road” in the hope that someone will take him in. Mind you, this is a road that sees at most a few horse-carriages a day and everyone here has more dogs then they need. We found him there and I suggested that we take him home and so it was. Until we took him in he lived most of his life tied in the same place – through hot summers and cold winters. He was also beaten quite a bit – so he was kind of messed up to start with. He was a very energetic dog and because he was tied he was also very excited. It took careful attention on my part to keep him focused and to walk him properly to his new home.
He took to us fairly well and we quickly became home (even though his previous home was 200 meters away). I enjoyed him. He had precise responses. Though he was very energetic he was also very gentle. At his most excited he could jump at me but touch me ever so lightly (unlike Indy who can topple me if I am not ready for her weight). However in the first days he was here, he and Andreea collided. The result was numerous bone-deep punctures in Andreea’s arm and our first visit to an emergency room in Romania.
That was when the seeds of the end were planted. Rex also became vicious once towards Andreea’s father who was visiting with us and he put on an unpleasant display of aggression towards Andreea a few weeks later. Both times I arrived in time to gain control over him. In reflecting on this second incident it occurred to me that Rex attacked Andreea for me … I was feeeling resentment toward Andreea at the time … and as I was processing those emotions, Rex seemed to act on them.
I came close once to being attacked by Rex when I was holding a stick to keep him away – he was used to getting hit with a stick (while he was tied and helpless to run away or attack) … so I learned that a stick pointed at him is not an option with him (a stick held in my hand, planted in the ground did work).
He needed clear and sharp leadership. I was very demanding towards him and he responded well. When I had to raise my voice to get his clear attention he would either run to his box (a temporary rain-shelter we setup for him when we brought him over) and sit down in it, or he would sprawl down in front of me in complete surrender (which was at times amusing, given how hard he was trying to contain his excitement). Andreea wasn’t able to provide him the clarity he needed.
The result was that Rex dominated Andreea. She was afraid to go outside. She would only go outside with me or if I first tied Rex down (which only made him more excited). When we both realized and clearly communicated to each other the intensity of the situation I suggested that we put him down. We did not have the tools to create a more balanced existence and it is not right that Andreea be fearful at home.
Andreea had a hard time with my suggestion, even though she agreed with it. She pondered it for a few days and then decided she wanted to try castrating Rex to see if that would moderate his behavior. She found a veterinarian in a nearby village that could come and with my help do the castration. Scheduling didn’t work out and that was delayed.
Meanwhile, another complication appeared. The same neighbors who wanted to get rid of Rex have another dog, Beethoven. He is treated pretty much the same as Rex was. He grew up to be a large and strong dog. During the last couple of months, whenever he got loose he would come looking for Rex and attack him. Rex met him with his own viciousness but was never the instigator. It was always Beethoven attacking Rex. The village veterinarian recently came by to vaccinate the dogs against Rabies. He told us that Rex’s behavior had improved drastically … that Rex was the dog he most feared when doing his rounds in the past (and there are plenty of larger and mean-spirited dogs in our area). I managed to very carefully separate between Rex and Beethoven a few times. It was an unpleasant task and it frustrated me that I had to collect other people’s mss.
Yesterday our neighbors slaughtered their pig. In the evening they invited us to join them so that Andreea could enjoy some of the freshly cooked meat. As always, all three dogs joines us for the short walk … and actually led the way. As we headed down we encountered Rex and Beethoven at it again. It was cold, dark and I was tired of this and decided to let them resolve the situation on their own.
This time Rex didn’t survive the attack. This morning Levente came by and told us that he saw Rex’s corpse next to our neighbor’s gate. Andreea felt his death (without knowing clearly that was what she was feeling) while we were there last night. She suspected something was wrong when he didn’t appear this morning. He was probably already dead when we left our neighbors last night. We probably passed just a few meters from him on our way home but didn’t see him in the dark (it was even colder and darker and we were focused on getting home).
Andreea has met his death with sadness and gratitude. She thanked Rex for understanding the situation and for bringing it to a resolution. She feels free again … a huge relief for her and a return to a more natural order of things for Bhudeva.
The ground is already frozen solid and it is nearly impossible to bury him. Rex’s body was also already frozen solid. Levente (on his way home) tied a noose around him and dragged him off to an open hill where the foxes will have a feast on his remains.
I am reminded of the words of the Indian chief in the closing pages of Lila. Rex was a good dog.