There is a story to tell that I have not blogged about yet, though it happened last year. It is the sequel to the blog I wrote in June of 2018 called “Companion on the Journey.” In the spring of 2018, my little Miniature Pinscher, Nellie, was diagnosed with a hole in her heart after an x-ray revealed that her heart was three times its normal size and was crowding her lungs. I refused open-heart surgery for my 17-year-old companion, as I thought it was too much for her tired little body to handle. The doctor then recommended that she not run or jump or even climb stairs – as if I could stop her from doing all those things without putting her into a tiny crate! We did make some changes in that I now carried her up the stairs to my bedroom at night to sleep in her bed next to mine. I also carried her down again in the morning for breakfast.
That was followed by the macadamia nut incident that I described in my earlier blog. Late last summer, an ultrasound scan revealed a 3-centimeter mass on her liver. Once again, I refused surgery and chemotherapy for my tiny friend, wanting her to live out her days with some quality of life, as my mother did after her cancer was discovered. We might have had a few extra servings of buttered popcorn – one of Nellie’s favorite treats – in those last weeks of her life. Finally, in October, Nellie developed an illness from which she could not recover. For weeks, she suffered with no clear diagnosis and no quality of life. She could not even get up to eat. After daily trips to the vet, daily intravenous infusions of medication, and no discernible improvement, I was faced with a difficult decision: My work would take me out-of-town for three weeks, Nellie’s regular sitter was also out-of-town, and I had no one who could take her to the vet for more treatment. With a heavy heart, I realized that the time had come for me to let her go. So, on November 8th, with me by her side and tears streaming down my face, the vet gave her the injections that ended her life.
The veterinarian asked me if I would consider donating Nellie’s body to Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Veterinary Science. I agreed and signed the papers. He gave me some time alone with her – which was a miracle, considering how busy that university’s veterinary clinic is – and I sat and cried buckets of tears. Then, I got up, went home, collected all of her things, including food, pee pads, blankets (washed), beds (washed), collars, leashes, etc., and , with the help of Ms. Wararat Chaisuk, my assistant, brought them back to the school and donated them all to the school. They thanked me for my contribution and said they would share them with those who could not afford to purchase such things. They then informed me of two things: 1) As a body donated to science, my Nellie now had a new title: “Big Professor.” I laughed for the first time in a long time, for she now had a higher rank (in a country where that is important) than I have ever had in my life: “Big Professor” at Chulalongkorn University, the top university in the nation! They also informed me that, once a year, the university arranges a cremation ceremony for those whose bodies have been donated to science. They would let me know when that ceremony would take place for Nellie.
Yesterday was the day. I dressed in black and headed out early to Wat That Thong in Bangkok (see thumbnail photo below) to participate in this ceremony for Nellie. I had never been there before, but the taxi driver had no problem finding it. I was joined by two close friends of Nellie: Ms. Wararat, my assistant, and Ms. Benjamas, Nellie’s regular sitter. When I signed in, they could not find my name or Nellie’s on the list, but had me sign below and then gave me a program of the events of the day (see thumbnail photo below). We were escorted by students of the Faculty of Veterinary Science to an air-conditioned room and given a seat. We shared our favorite stories of Nellie as others arrived and signed in. At 10 AM, we were welcomed and various faculty and students at the Faculty of Veterinary Science thanked us and told us how important it was that our pets had been donated to the school for students to study. Four Buddhist monks then chanted scripture and prayers. They took a group photograph of all the owners of the pets who had been donated to the school. Then, lunch was served to everyone.
It was during lunch that the most unusual thing happened. Since I was still wearing my airboot and the Thai people are so worried about the elderly (yes, I am one of those) and those with infirmities (yes, that, too), it was impossible for me to move around without several total strangers offering to help me or holding my arms as I walked. To create less of a disturbance, I asked Ms. Benjamas if she would take photographs of the banner announcing the event and the hall next to us where the bodies of the pets were (see thumbnail photos below). She did more than that. She found the bodies and looked for Nellie’s and could not find it. She asked those standing by if they knew where Nellie’s body might be. That initiated a search. After Ms. Benjamas returned to sit with me, the Associate Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science came to see me. (Not difficult, as I was the only foreigner present.) He reported that, after a review of the documents and checking with others on staff, Nellie’s body was NOT among those to be cremated that day. Apparently, she still has valuable information to impart to students at the school, so they extended her teaching contract for one more year. She will be cremated next year. So sorry for the inconvenience. Could I return next year for her ceremony?
OK, this whole process took several hours out of a Saturday, but this is one proud mama! My baby gets to teach for another year at the most prestigious university in Thailand! How could I be disappointed in that? We left cremation ceremony at that point (three hours into it) and went to a Starbucks close-by where we sat and shared more stories of Nellie and her life in Thailand. All in all, it was a great day.