Pancho, our family’s loyal companion of 15 years, faced with a long and painful decline after a long and happy life, was put to sleep today. He’s been such a big part of our family for such a long time, it hasn’t really sunk in yet. However, I think it’s the little things that I’m going to miss most: when I lived at home, he used to sleep on the rug beside my bed; later, when I visited during holidays, he would move from his hallway pillow to my bedroom rug at some point during the night, so he was always by my bed in the morning.
We originally got him when we moved from Vancouver to Tokyo and realised that our crazy whippet-pointer-lab-etc cross would be absolutely miserable in a large Asian city (we gave him to friends with a farm in the interior of British Columbia). Pancho was our “cat” and our “compact dog”, the only natural-born Canadian in the family apart from my dad. He became known to the shopkeepers in our neighbourhood, and was taunted by the gigantic Tokyo crows. He accompanied us on weekend trips to the lake district around Mt. Fuji, where my sister and I would race him down hills on our bicycles, and then take turns bundling him into our jackets and riding along the roads between the rice paddies, with his head sticking out under our chins.
He managed the move to Hong Kong admirably. He loved running along the beaches in Repulse Bay and Stanley, and in the country park around the reservoir at Tai Tam. He joined us on weekend hikes up the hills of Hong Kong island, even at the height of summer, when he would collapse, panting, in any shade he could find if he got too hot. He picked up the habit of hunting small birds, much to the consternation of our wonderful (and very Buddhist) Thai helper, Tum, who utterly adored him. On the other hand, he once saved the life of a frog by barking at a snake that was about to eat it (whether this was a case of gallant bravery or general dimwittedness is perhaps a question best left unanswered).
As he became older, he became a wonderful curmudgeon. You could have set your watch to his demands for walks — never noisy, but always insistent. And, once on a walk, he had very definite ideas about where he would go, exactly how long he would go there, and when it was time to go back.
I was not there for his last move, to Singapore, but visited last summer and saw him in high spirits, exploring the lush botanical gardens, and revelling in the wide open grassy spaces. At home, he still had his annoying habit of blending into the carpet, which frequently led to him getting punted across the room. He still loved sembei, the Japanese rice crackers, though having lost many of his teeth, they could prove hard to chew. He still acted like he was on crack after a bath, when he would race around the house with his ear to the floor, responding to the slightest movement by rocketing off in the opposite direction. He still proved entirely susceptible to tummy rubs, which would send his legs into spasms.
And every morning when I woke up, I still found him sleeping on the rug beside my bed.
Pancho, we will miss you.