Monday, July 15, 2024

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A Love Story

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The ones who are lucky enough to have loving parents or a parent knows what unconditional love is, and the one who has a child or children know how it feels to have unconditional love. I have an amazing mother and I know what unconditional love is but this one was so different, so unexpected and I believe something very special and I was the luckiest person to have the chance to experience that love. In a world where people choose hate over love, a world where people kidnap other loved ones, and others choose to kill kids, and people go through horrible pains that I can never imagine… I wanted to share something that has love, happiness, and sadness in it.

Today I want to share a love story with you. A very different love story that only those closest to me knew and may be somewhat understood. It is about a character who not only showed me how unconditional love grows but also saved my life several times, who was there in my worst and best times, and who taught me how to be me.

His name was Cesur, he entered this girl’s life fall of 2006 and left this girl on the 7th of December 2019.

So, the story starts in Istanbul, in an architecture company with custom manufacturing facilities. A girl working for his father, who is having difficulty fitting in anywhere in every part of her life. This girl knew loneliness better than anything even in a room full of loved ones. This girl who had so many pets over the years, never just hers, never taken care of, has never been fully responsible. Always a family pet loved very much but with shared bonds. A girl who wanted kids but never really a partner… A girl who has more questions than answers. A girl acknowledging, that she was still living with her family and having their family dog with an impossibility of having that experience of sharing a private love that belonged to her. Never thought she could find a friend who would love, listen, and care for her without any boundaries and expectations other than love.

At the same time on another side of Istanbul, there was a dog born, whose mom has passed away as well as most of his siblings… A cute but average stray dog, who was being taken care of by people within the street but had to deal with experienced stray dogs, fighting for his food with his little paws and baby teeth. Never knowing he would be loved above everything else, never knew there were soft and warm places to sleep, never guessed food was something he could easily have, and never dreamed hugs and kisses were a daily thing.

Somehow a coincidence, in the middle of these two souls’ despair,  it has been said that it would be good to get a dog to protect the building, while strays were doing well protecting the building, they had no access within the building, and they were too grown up to adapt to the factory rules. So, the girl talks with the chauffeur of his dad about finding a stray dog to raise as a guard dog for the facilities. The chauffeur says there is one within the street where he lives, and he is sure it will be a very large dog. They agree on the dog, so the dog is brought to the company the next day.

It is small, somewhat cute but a very ordinary stray, with kind disproportionately big ears. Employees are gathering to welcome this little thing, with his baby hairs still on his back. Sort of dirty beige colored, small but a tough guy. So, they put some food in front of him while about 8-9 large men and the girl gathered around him to see if he had a good appetite. This little thing starts growling at everyone trying to protect his food from everyone, he is guarding that is what he was brought to the place for, so good start for his new career. They laugh, and the girl asks the foreman, as he is the eldest to give him a name, the foreman says “Cesur” meaning brave in Turkish, he says this because even in this tiny size he had no fear of showing his teeth to them. They all laugh and agree.

There is one rule, the girl will be the only one that will be giving his food, but she will not be boned with the dog other than that and the employees will take care of him while she provides for all the expenses. She asks them to build a house for him as soon as possible, and everyone agrees on the rules.

Within a few days, she hears about the plan to cut the dog’s ears to make him more violent, and she takes a stand and threatens everyone. Her exact words are “If anyone cuts the dog’s ears, I will cut yours and this is not a thread but a statement” … That ends that talk. About a week later, she drives to work every morning slightly earlier than her father, later than some of the workers, it is a rainy day and the dog is tied under a small tree looking sad and disappointed. The dog house is still not made, and the dog is being closed to the shed every night. She flips.

She is not supposed to flip, she has no place for a dog in her heart and her life. But this thing, this ugly little thing is constantly staring at her…. So, she makes a call and brings the dog inside the office, places him under her table, puts her water and food on the side, and arranges a spot within the building for him to sleep at night. During the day the dog stays under her table, never very much interested in anyone else, his head is always on her feet, and he has to touch her, during the night he sleeps in a cozy area with lots of blankets and pillows.

Another week passes and the dog is coughing… The girl is experienced in dogs, so she wonders if someone gave him a bone… No nobody gave him a bone. The dog is taken to the state veterinarian around the corner, the vet says to give it a couple of days, he probably ate something… A few days pass by, but the dog is still coughing. She takes the dog back to the vet. He looks at him and says; “listen, it is a stray, there is an obvious problem with his lungs, probably because he doesn’t have an immune system, and he will die, just go find another stray, there is no point of spending money on him” … She is shocked, there is this little thing, looking at them with sad eyes, and this man who is supposed to love animals is just ready to let him go because he is a stray.

She is upset but not ready to give up, same day she takes off from work, straight to a private vet. They make films and do checkups. The verdict is here. He is very sick. His lungs are half full, and it is because he didn’t have enough breast milk from his mother. He doesn’t have an immune system in place. Even with the best care he has a 50/50 chance of survival. The treatment is filled with serums for a month, a special shot that needs to be done for a week, and vitamins, but he cannot go out, can’t get wet, or cold, and needs regular checks. And one of the problems is the shots he needs; they need to be brought especially as nobody uses them. She is crying, but the dogs are unaware and happy with all this new attention. While walking out of the vet that little dog picks one of those chew bones bigger than his size pulling it on the floor… She caves and buys it… She is in love with this little ugly thing now, how did that happen… She does not know, but she knows he needs to survive. He chose her because he knew something she didn’t know.

For the next six months, the dog is carried outside to pee or poop, he knows how to let her know, he learns every rule very fast, and not interested in disobeying. He now walks around in a sweatshirt and goes out with a jacket. He is going through very strict training but not a violent one, somehow there is easy communication between the girl and the dog. The girl’s mother finds a contact to bring the shots. All the pills and drugs and shots and serums are given religiously. There is a very special place made for him to stay on weeknights as he can’t be brought home, a customized space where he sleeps warmly, and even a night lamp so he won’t be scared. And on the weekends, she made a deal with a vet near her house where he spends the evenings and days with her…

In the coming weeks, he learns to sit on a chair next to her chair, he only eats what she eats… 6 months later he is thriving, he is playful, and he is a grown handsome boy. All confident, feeling very safe. But their world is about to change as she decides to quit working with her father… She doesn’t know what to do with him but he will not be left behind. He comes home with her. Her mom knowing their bond couldn’t let them separate. He is not allowed on other floors in the house but in her suit on the top floor. He is the best-behaving dog on earth. Every rule he is fine by, he sleeps on the bed with her now. He puts his head on her bum and sleeps with her. He wakes her up with kisses. He goes out with her, he rarely waits alone for her, and it is okay when he waits cause her smell is everywhere and he knows she will always come back to him. He is loving to every person in her life. He sort of takes over everyone’s hearts.

A house with wood stairs that creak in every step, and stairs that no household member ever managed to move quietly, he manages to do that one night at dinner time, only to quietly come downstairs by the door to be able to see the girl… He has to see her, so he can protect her at all times, that is all he wants to do anyway, he has decided that is his job, and he is very happy with that.

There is something different about their relationship. She has her bad days due to her bipolar, where she is aggressive towards walls, where she cries a lot. He knows what to do, he jumps on her to stop her every time, and he cuddles her every time she cries. He becomes a companion, not a pet, he becomes an emotional support dog without realizing it. He comes to work with her every day, always keeping an eye on her. He does pull some shenanigans like taking off through tricky roads to escape, just take a look around but always comes back as he is good at finding his way around. He loves stealing food, he knows that is the one thing no one will ever get upset at him for. But he never damages anything, never hurts anyone. He does growl at people who make the girl uncomfortable but he never bites anyone. He doesn’t like playing catch the ball, see finds it stupid, be he loves wrestling with her, and belly rubs that is more of his thing. He is not interested in chasing cars, or cats for him these are all pointless.

He becomes this large dog 45 kg, with dark golden color. He has grown into his ears now which gives him a soft look, even though he can look very vicious when he wants to, and he has proven how strong and scary he can be over the years. His curling big tail with a white spot in the end sort of like a fox… He has a touch of a Japanese Akita in him, both with his look and character, but no one knows. He is a gorgeous-looking dog now, that ugly duck turned into a swan. This is what Mom calls the results of care and love…

He is beautiful when they go for walks on the seaside, people pull her to ask what his breed is. None thinks he is a stray. It is not favorable to have strays in Turkey, pure breeds are preferred, she is annoyed by this most of the time but she makes a joke out of it and calls it a “Sokit” and that people should get info from their vets. “Sokit” is from two Turkish words “Sok” is short for “Sokak” which means stray, “it” is a slang way of saying dog in Turkish… She usually wonders what would their face be like if the vet got it. One man offers her money to buy him to train him as a rescue dog, as he realizes how intelligent he is and how good he is at finding things. He keeps raising the price, till she finally says it would never happen because she would not bear to be separated from him.

Years pass by, and every time the girl travels to London for work she always thinks how much fun he would have in that country. She can’t take him to certain places in her city, and it is a hassle with all the people bothering him when they are out, she is a bit scared of the stray dog groups as he is never scared of them… Also, a lot of people are scared of him, maybe he is too big now.

Eventually, one day they decide to move to London, and it is a discussion to take him with them… It is not a long one but a discussion. Of course, his papers are ready before everyone else. He has to take off a day before them but arrives the same day in London. She is panicked when she lets him go, as she is worried, he will get scared and feel left alone in this strange experience. On the other hand, he is very confident about jumping in the cage, not that he has ever experienced it, he just knows she would never do something to hurt her, and he would never let him go, as he would never let her go.

They manage this travel, and when she goes to pick him up from his checkout point, she waits anxiously, on the other hand, he is the most comfortable dog that comes out of the place. He even makes sure to say goodbye to everyone before greeting her. It is like he has always been there.

The girl and her mother are trying to adapt to this new life, new rules, new house, and new environment. He dedicates himself to taking care of them. Goes everywhere from Camden Town to all the parks. He knows Swans are unnecessary animals unlike most British dogs, he is very comfortable with tubes, and escalators, in one try he knows how to get on them and jump off them. Even the tube workers are impressed with him. A lot of kids pet him, always with permission, and every time a kid approaches, he just turns into a statue to make sure they are not scared of him. He now chases squirrels but still doesn’t go out in the rain without his raincoat. He expects that to be put on before leaving the house on a rainy day, and doesn’t like puddles. He now knows it is his job to protect the girl and her mother. He also knows she is having difficulty so he needs to be with her every minute.

He is in full control of the household, goes to bed with his family, and makes sure that they are watched over every night and kept safe. No one is allowed in the house unless someone from the family permits it. He now walks around without a leash unless it is a very busy area. He gets treats from Starbucks, he gets Christmas gifts, and he is living the life dreamt on behalf of him by the girl. He makes the bedtime calls in the evening, he takes long walks in the park.

He gets to meet with her nephew, gets to see her adapt to British life, have new friends, and routines, and gets to see her have confidence and calmness in her life. He knows she has a handle on things now. And he is getting old, but he is good at not letting it show. He has some lesions on his body, and he is losing a bit of fur… When the girl sees that she panics, and it takes a while for the vet to take them seriously enough. Eventually, he has a wound in his back leg that doesn’t go away, which alerts everyone.

The vet sends them to a specialist who tells her that probably the wound will not go away even with the best care. He knows he feels tired, it takes longer for him to walk, he doesn’t like running as much as he used to, and it is difficult to jump on the bed now. She is aware and scared. They go to the specialist he is very brave, and the vet says he is probably half Akita and the other half is a mix of a German shepherd, Husky, and Karabas. He suspects two things, one is a possible illness that most Akita’s get and he might lose most of his pretty coat, and the other one is a very very very rare kind of skin cancer. He says it is a very low chance but a chance. He does some tests, gets some samples… They wait for a week…. The longest week of her life.

The girl gets the call, sitting across the Christmas tree, he is with her, and he knows what is going on before she does, he is not scared, but he knows she is, so she needs to know it is okay and it will be okay. The vet tells her it is unfortunately a rare kind of skin cancer with zero chance of survival. He says he probably has 3 to 6 months to go. She does a quiet scream mixed with a cry. He was having difficulty accepting and talking. He has his head by her leg and as usual, he is calm, waiting for her to accept the reality. The vet sends them to another specialist who says they could try chemotherapy to add a few months to it, but they are not allowed to sleep together, she is not allowed to touch him without a glow during this time… She knows that will kill him more than the cancer.

They have been together since he was a month old. They overcame his illness, her breakdowns, and breakups, and they didn’t let anyone hurt the other one. They celebrated together, they cried together. People came people go but they have been together forever. She was not going to let him go, she knew there were always ones that could beat the odds. Plus, the plan was for him to break a record and live longer than any other large dog. That was the deal they made… That was the agreement and he was breaking it.

After a family discussion, it was decided that they were going to choose an alternative therapy with vitamins, CBD oil, steroids for cancer, and honey for his lesions.

Three months after she started his treatment first things were the wounds in his leg that healed up through daily treatment. He became more active, he was back to his old ways, stealing food, jumping on the bed, and running around. They even passed the 6-month due date, 7 months, 8 months, 9 months, 10 months… She was now sure he was getting better or at least he was going to get better like always… It wasn’t the first time a vet made a mistake; it wasn’t the first time he beat the odds. Plus, she knew when they were together there was absolutely nothing they could not overcome. That was their thing. The glass was always half full and bananas were to share…

Then he started losing more fur, wounds started to come back more and faster, and he started to get more and more tired and sleepy… He now sleeps on his pillows instead of the bed with her. He still put his head by her side when they set down together, but he was tired. He now did not want to join every walk, and he now preferred shorter walks. He had given her time to get used to the idea. He tried his best for her… But the time was getting closer…

She had a business trip, and she hated leaving him, especially this time she did not want to go when his dog sitter called her a day before they returned and told her he was no longer eating, and throwing up if he tried… She knew… They came back, he couldn’t welcome them back downstairs by the door, so he chose to wait upstairs by the stairs for them. She hugged and kissed him… But she knew. He was in pain but he waited for her. He wasn’t going to let go without giving her a chance to say her goodbyes.

She called the vet to let them know it was time. He had a few more very painful days ahead, she couldn’t bear him going through that pain, so she set up the day and time to let him go to sleep, as it was suggested by the vet.… It was the hardest decision she ever made. The hope though even with an obvious picture, the hope doesn’t disappear. She thought just maybe he was upset about her leaving for the work trip, maybe the next morning he would be better.

They slept as usual upstairs. Him on his pillows by her side, and she put her hand by his side so he would know she was there. The next morning, he refused to come off his bed. Even though her brother came to visit them, he refused to go and say his hellos… She kept going up and down having difficulty sitting still. She grabbed a banana. She knew if he had some banana, that meant they were all wrong and she could cancel everything and they could move on from the nightmare…

He said no to banana…. He said no to banana… He said no to banana…

She sort of asked him to come downstairs, so they could all sit together before taking the trip she didn’t want to take… He did come downstairs, slowly and obviously in pain but how could he say no this his companion? How can he let her down? …

They sat downstairs together; time stood still for a while… Then the time came for them to take one last trip. She went upstairs and took the blanket they slept on together. They placed that in the car. He refused any help and walked slowly and bravely to the car. He didn’t let anyone help him other than her. He got in the car they drove to the Vet. When they arrived at the vet, they opened the

door, set together watching people walk by waiting to be called in…

They called them in. He slowly gets off the car again only letting her touch him. They put the blanket down on the floor, she set down and he laid on the floor putting his head on her legs close by her belly like always… She hugged him.

She told him, he was the best friend she ever had, he was the best thing that ever happened to her, he was the one who taught her what unconditional love is, he showed her what she can be and how she can be… She thanked her for every day he loved him, she thanked her for fulfilling every promise he made her, and she thanked him for being him and choosing her…. She told him it was okay, even though for her it was not.

She heard her mom say from the back “It is time”. Her mom knew she couldn’t make that last call. How could she, why couldn’t they just sit there forever just like that like always?

He slowly fell asleep in her arms, his breathing slowed down, body got heavier, she could feel his full weight now and heard that last breath… She just couldn’t let him go, while her brother tried to pull her away, all she could say was; “How can I, if I let him go, I will never be able to hug him again…”

Yet she was pulled away… She slept the next 48 hours hugging his bear… Hoping he had his blanket with him…

4 years later, today writing this article the girl still cries after him. His ashes are still by her bedside, decorated with his vest. His leash and raincoat still standing just in case one day somehow, he comes back. She still hugs his bear, and thinks about him every time she takes a bite from a banana… Now and then she feels like his head is on his lap and he is still with her. She lost her best friend and she knows this will be the one thing she will never overcome… A side of her heart will always be his, always broken, till one day they meet again.

We, my love, will never forget you…. Finding you hidden in places peaking at us, we will never

forget how you would get cranky and start mumbling when it was bedtime and we didn’t want to go

to bed. We will never forget how you stole an entire KFC box at a house party and walked around

with the bucket proudly, or how you stole the special cheese every time my mom made it, to a point

she gave up and we never got to taste it. We will never forget how you would be chattering around

if we were too lazy to get out of bed, especially at me chanting with my mom. I will never forget

how you got drunk on hazelnut vodka and walked in slow motion an entire night. Or steal and

eat all the hazel nuts I collected; I will never forget how you sneak near people pretending that

you want to be praised and end up stealing their food. I will never forget how you swallowed half a

lemon and I ended up waiting for two days for it to come out while freaking out that we would end

up at the vet. I will never forget how once you fell on your tail while trying to grab the ball from two workers, and came crying to me and sat on my lap pointing at your tail. I will never forget how we played hide and seek at home and how good you were in front of a professional camera. I will

never forget how much you hated showers and would make me drag 45kg of you on the floor. I will

never forget how caring and protective you were. I will never forget how you jump on me every

night all excited to cuddle in bed to the point of kicking me off the bed…. Millions of memories you have left me… Under my desk is empty, my lap is empty, glass is no longer half full….

In memory of Cesur

2006-2019

The most dedicated and loving dog ever lived

You will be missed forever.

Please do not buy pets from your local adoption centers or street. Don’t ever leave them behind as they would never leave you behind. A pet is the best companion and the only one who will never judge you and will always love you with all your flaws.

Merve Bayindir

With all my love till next time.

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