Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thank You Vai For The Many Great Years

MY best buddy died on the 13th of this month. He was in my arms when I said goodbye.

Today is his birthday. Had he lived, he would have celebrated his grand 13th birthday.

Most people consider 13 to be an unlucky number.

However, spending all those years with my buddy, my Rottweiler, have been by far the best years of my life!

Vai came into my life at a time when I was at the lowest.

Even though I was a disabled activist I still found it hard to fight away the bouts of depression when I was at home.

To put it in a nutshell, I was very angry with the world, in most cases, for choosing to be blind towards the needs of disabled persons.

In my activism work, I was even shouted at by some people – even a pastor, would you believe?

All I did was to campaign relentlessly for disability rights such as the inclusion of ramps, wheelchair-friendly toilets, jobs for the handicapped, etc, so that people with disabilities can have a higher quality of life wherever they are.

I just couldn’t see why some people simply couldn’t understand that.

I would spend long hours in my room and stare at the walls. At such times, I frankly saw no reason to wake up in the mornings.

That all wonderfully changed with Vai.

I got him against my family’s wishes. They thought I could never keep a dog because I was in a wheelchair. It turned out to be the best “stupidest mistake” that I had ever made in my life.

Vai, at eight weeks old, was the exact challenge that I needed to overcome my depression. He became the “morning reason” I needed.

My wheelchair was no longer an excuse. I had to feed him, bathe him and clean up after him. Whenever, I did these things, it was just Vai and I.

I had to learn to trust him; and he me.

As far as I know, he is our country’s first service dog. I trained him to be one with my late grandmother as my assistant.

He learnt to pick up all sorts of things for me from the ground: my mobile phone, car keys and even open the door. He also taught me to laugh and have fun.

He would snatch my watch away and then insist I put up a chase. At other times, the cheeky fellow would bring me a dead lizard or a live cockroach as a “gift.”

His antics helped me to gradually focus away from my disability and my problems and onto him. As far as he was concerned, it’s people in wheelchairs who are normal.

Vai gave me the courage to go out for walks with him in the park. He was an excellent bodyguard both at home and in my car.

Once he even saved me from a bunch of road bullies. Some boys walked threateningly to my vehicle – until Vai decided to stand up in the backseat to show himself.

He was chief actor in my service dog movie sponsored by the Rotarians. The video made a profound impression on local councils that assumed that Rottweilers were killers.

After watching it, they decided to scrap the ban on the breed.

If Vai, as a local ambassador for Rotties could talk, this would be his message: “There are NO bad Rottweilers; only UNTRAINED OWNERS!”

Vai, together with his partner (an Alsatian I got a month after) inspired me to set up a service canine training programme called Bivai Special Dogs. It was launched by Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir in 2001.

The Rottie has touched the lives of many disabled people who came in contact with him. Many readers of this column have also been inspired by his adventures featured here.

More lately, Vai was instrumental (he is really founder) in setting up Petpositive, a national animal-assisted therapy (AAT) society of which I serve as president.

We hope to have an AAT centre in our country soon to carry out Vai’s legacy. Not just with dogs but all types of pets to comfort disabled and elderly people.

Some people tell me they never want to have dogs because of the fact that they will die one day.

With Vai, he leaves behind only wonderful memories. I can’t imagine living without the marvellous years he so generously gave me. It was all my privilege to have shared my life with such an angel of a dog.

I sobbed like a child as he slipped away in the late evening. All I could say was thank you Vai for making my years with you the happiest that I had ever known.

Vai was euthanized at Segar Veterinary Hospital in Kuala Lumpur where he has been receiving treatment since a young dog. He was diagnosed with cancer.

He was under the care of Dr K Sumithra Nair until his final breath. There was no charge for his treatment.

The End


Tootee@ Tuty Liana said...

My tears drop down when i read your statement here. I can feel your sadness,,how i was suffering the similarity like yours but it was different..mine its blind feline that i more focus & train him to be independent.

Pets are really therapy, the reason to make person to be more patience & more responsible incharge to be happy.

I'm sorry for your lost & i know u really love him madly deeply.


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful dog.... I have pets myself and yes they know everything about you and do what they can to make it better. I hope you heal soon. God bless.

Anthony SB Thanasayan said...

Thanks Tootee. It's amazing how we can share our emotions together even though we love different pets.

For me, it is better to have loved than not to have loved at all . . .

Anthony SB Thanasayan said...

Thanks Anonymous. I think the healing has already started.

Anonymous said...

Vai is indeed a legend, i have been reading about vai from the time you got him and only through ur articles, yet a strange connection and i felt so sad when you told me you put him down and again tears while i was reading this article. What a dog.. my mum used to say that all dogs go to heaven, wherever Vai is i bet he is looking down at you and saying the exact same thing "His life with you were the best" :)

Anonymous said...

I just couldn't help feeling so sad when i read yr article on vai, as i have just earlier read yr article on guardian angels n i hv been following your column for a long time..

i am sure he is at doggie heaven now..
Be strong for yourself and for soo and biman too..
God bless n i will pray for vai.

Thomas said...


I shall always remember Vai. My fondest memory of him was him resting his head on my shoulder all the way to me to your house.

I shall always remember his gentleness the first time I patted him eventhough it was the 1st time I met Vai

I shall always remember him.

Thomas Low

Anonymous said...

Hi Anthony

Am sorry about your loss. My condolences. It is hard to let go of a pet what more after so many years. I recently had to put my dog down too after 16 years. Painful but memories of the time spent together lives on. Take good care of yourself.



Anonymous said...

Read so much about vai, feel I almost know him.
Can imagine your pain and am really really sorry for your loss.


Mr. Smith said...

Oh, why make me cry again.
Each time my pet dies, the entire family cries. It's painful, real painful when you lose a canine friend and family member.

My dog died one month ago and till today my wife begins her morning by staring into his picture and recall the love he gave us.

To human beings (who hate dogs) please be reminded that dogs can teach you how to love.
I still cannot stop crying as I write this.
Yes, dogs go to heaven.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anthony,
So sorry to hear about the demise of your friend, your helper. I feel your pain and I admire your courage to let Vai go so that the pain will be no more. I hope all works out well for you.

God Bless
Jane George

Anonymous said...

Hi Anthony,

I am a reader of your articles since inception and has been very touched by all stories of your dogs from Biman to Vai.

Anyways, I am writing a short mail to share your deep loss of Vai, understood the great pain of parting with such loyal friends. Am sure that Vai had a great life of love and care with you.

Be strong and well done to all the effort you have given to the disabled community through your work for Pet Positive.

All the best wishes.


Anonymous said...

Am so sorry about your loss. I have always had dogs as pets from my childhood days. MY last dog was with me for 13 years. He was much loved by all in my family and the day he died, was such a horrific day for all of us. I have 2 sons but Tino was my 3rd son. A pet lover knows how the loss of a pet affects I know what you are going through. The pain will ease and I am sure your other pets will help you through these hard days.
Take Care and stay strong.