A Tribute to Taj

by Dawna Sawatzky


"No more dogs." That had become my slogan. First our beloved 13-year-old Dobie died, and then her ungrateful successors ran away. No more dogs for us my husband agreed. "Why then was he reading this ad to me?" I wondered as I said, "No, I don't even want to hear it." "Well, it just sounded interesting. It is a 6 month old Dobie and they need to find it a good home" he read on. Well, we do have a good home for dogs, not exactly dog heaven, because they can't come in the house, but 5 acres fenced and jogging with my husband every night isn't bad. "No, I don't want another dog," I said, as I found myself dialing the number from the ad.

When we arrived at the dog's home, we found a beautiful estate. The fine-featured Dobie had a well-constructed pen, but the dog was ferocious - leaping, snarling, barking and growling. The lady of the house was terrified of her. We offered to take her out and walk her - why I do not know, apparently it hadn't been done in 6 months. The dog was mild, scared and meek. Even while we were saying we didn't want another dog and especially her, we bought her!

Taj (her name since I had just returned from a trip to India) was a pathetic dog. She didn't know how to climb stairs, snarled at everything, ran away at every change and won our hearts. Despite it all she proved to be smart and fairly trouble-free. However in three years she could never go jogging without being on a leash - she would run away and not return home for several hours. Her gentle, inquisitive personality made her a great playmate for our daughter's dog. They would play by the hour, giving each other face washings and barking at anything that moved in the woods.

When my husband came home from work both dogs would be at the gate ready for their jog. On Sabbaths we let them loose when we walked around our mountain property and Taj always bolted just when she thought we were going to put her on the leash and usher her into the back yard. The neighbors never saw her, we have no idea where she went, and she always returned at bedtime to sleep in her own doghouse.

My husband didn't think much of it when for two days she was dragging behind him while jogging instead of her usual tugging on the leash, Then it was Christmas with all the goings on that keeps people busy in their houses, especially when it rains. On Sabbath we went for our usual walk and Taj only went a little way. Our daughter, a nurse, figured this unusual behavior was cause for a medical evaluation. To our distress she found that Taj was on the skinny side, and wasn't eating - so that was why there was still food in the dog bowl the last two days!

After a trip to the vet, a lot of investigation on the Internet and a friend's suggestion we realized Taj had been poisoned. For a week she wouldn't eat, but drank gallons of water a day. This required round-the-clock nursing care with many rainy days and stargazing nights spent taking her outside since there was nothing wrong with her urinary system. Soon her drinking water was pink and medicine had to be given because the poison was causing her to hemorrhage. How I worked to save her. Force feedings every two hours, trips outside, cleaning up when the trips didn't exactly coincide with her upchucking or bladder needs.

Taj fought on, trying to keep on her regular schedule. On the last day of her life she was still fighting. Now a third of her usual weight she tottered down the road following my husband while he jogged and he had to carry her home. She got tangled in the weeds while walking in the yard and was so feeble she collapsed in a heap while crying to be untangled. Slowly she climbed the stairs, almost like the first time she tried, to get to her porch to sleep, but she couldn't stay. Somehow she knew this was the end and she seemed driven to explore the back fence once more as she stopped to drink and drink and drink anywhere she could find a little rainwater. After all these weeks of suffering, the poison was still present it outlived her. I cried.

I have often heard sin compared to poison, but now I have a fuller appreciation for it. Mrs. White calls smoking cigarettes a slow malicious poison. So is rat poisoning. Both kill, just at a different rate. Rat poison slowly takes away appetite by burning the organs of digestion, it increases thirst to the point of unbalancing electrolytes, and it thins the blood so that every vessel of the body has the potential of oozing. Appetite is gone. The outcome is death.

Sin also requires blood. The Bible says, "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord." Rat poisoning may have protracted suffering, unending medical care and a wasting death. But sin can be overcome. There is a remedy. What a wonderful thought on this very sad day when the freshly dug soil is piled high on our silent Taj! Will we recognize any dogs in heaven? Taj had a personality that made her a candidate. I wonder.

Copyright © 2000 - 2019 by Dawna Sawatzky