Thursday, October 01, 2015

An Angel Called Maxi

In the company of an angel on four legs

This week, two international day events are taking place a few days from each other. Today is the 25th anniversary of the United Nations International Day of Older Persons. 

On Sunday, pet lovers will be getting their furry and feathered friends together to celebrate World Animal Day on Oct 4. 

My column today touches on both topics.

S. Gopalasingam, 82, has been a dog owner for over 30 years. His first canine was a German Shepherd named Jackie.

Gopal had always wanted to get a dog but his wife, A. Anjiee, was not comfortable with the thought of having one in the house. However, she changed her mind when their house in Shah Alam was burgled.

So in came Jackie, at eight weeks old. At first, the pup’s bedroom was in the garden. However, he was so adorable that by the third day, he was “promoted” and allowed to sleep in the couple’s bedroom.

Gopal and Anjiee weren’t the only ones who were blessed to have a four-footed angel around. Their neighbours were equally enthusiastic about the pup.

Jackie not only kept the home of his loving new family safe from prowlers, the fierce fellow also barked at any suspicious characters in the neighbourhood.

Jackie was the perfect companion for the couple. He shared in every activity in the family. He even had his own special mattress in the bedroom.

Jackie became even closer to Anjiee when she developed a heart problem and needed a bypass surgery.

Anjiee and Gopal were devastated when Jackie suddenly died of a heart attack after 10 years. Initially, the couple decided not to get a replacement. However, when Gopal realised how heartbroken his wife was – and it was beginning to affect her health – he decided to get another dog for her.

In galloped another German Shepherd named Maxi, who was barely five months old. The canine wasted no time in assuming his new role. The smile on Anjiee’s face confirmed that Maxi couldn’t have been a better choice.

Through his playful antics, Maxi kept Anjiee cheerful and motivated about life and the challenges before her.

With Maxi around, Gopal could confidently go to work, knowing that Maxi would be the best company for his wife.

The German Shepherd helped Anjiee to forget her worries as she took the dog for walks and fed him.

When Anjiee suffered a stroke in the early hours of the morning, it was Maxi who woke Gopal up and led him to his wife who was sprawled on the bedroom floor.

Gopal visited his wife at the hospital every day, until she passed away. Whenever Gopal returned home, Maxi would head to the passenger side to check if Anjiee had returned.
Therapy dogs make great companions for the elderly. Photo: TNS
Therapy dogs make great companions for the elderly. Photo: TNS

Today there is another Maxi in Gopal’s life – Maxi II. (Maxi died after an unsuccessful surgery to remove a growth in his body.)

Maxi II is a Golden Retriever who was given to Gopal a month after Maxi died. Gopal says Maxi II is now his best friend and companion.

Gopal was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 50. But he keeps himself fit through regular exercise and diligently follows the diet prescribed for him. He never misses any medical appointments. The secret to his good health is his dog, he says.

“By looking after Maxi II, I am motivated to keep myself from ending up in hospital – and I have my Golden Retriever to thank for that,” says Gopal. He looks after Maxi like a son. He cleans his eyes and ears, cuts his nails, brushes his fur regularly, and bathes him.

Gopal takes Maxi II for his yearly check-ups and vaccinations.

On the current rabies outbreak in the northern states, Gopal points out the importance of taking preventive measures, no matter which part of the country you are in.

Maxi II is always on a leash when they go for walks. He is never left to roam on his own outside the house.

“I think the Department of Veterinary Services and the local councils are doing a great job of handling the rabies crisis and they need our support as dog lovers,” adds Gopal, as Maxi II jumped up and licked his face.
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