Donald is dead now. He passed away peacefully. It must be two years ago, I have never remembered dates when bad things happen. I suppose it would be different had he died at Christmas and no, before you ask I don’t know what I was doing when Kennedy got shot, or Reagan or John Lennon come to that. Death at Christmas must be awful for everyone left behind but a sure way to be remembered for several generations. No danger we’ll forget Donald any time soon though, but like a half-finished jigsaw we’ll never know his full story. I think he was in his late sixties. He never said and I never asked. By the time he went his limp was very pronounced, he had become more difficult to understand, his throat was making him sound so gruff and in any case he was happy to sleep away the days. He snored like a dodgy tractor. In his own room at night he wouldn’t disturb anyone but when I was in the study during the day I’d sometimes find it difficult to concentrate. About a year before he died he reckoned he saved my life and I was happy to give him the benefit of the doubt.
The thing about Donald was he was an ornery bugger. Well, since I had known him anyway. He wasn’t the first down on his luck we had taken in and nor was he the last but he certainly had the biggest character. We don’t do it for the money and we wouldn’t be given any even if we asked. I’d like to say we do it for love but that sounds a bit creepy. I think trauma affects people differently and he’d certainly experienced a bit but couldn’t talk about it to me. The bits I had pieced together were not pretty. You read about the injustice in Family Courts today but Donald’s like never got any protection. He was just a few weeks old. His mother was in no state to stop them when they came for him and then later his brothers and sisters, none of which apparently he ever heard of again. God knows what happened to his mum. I thought I saw one of his brothers one day a few years back but by the time I could cross the road to ask if they were related he and the women he was with were already out of sight.
And then what? Adoption or foster parents, it might have been one or the other or both but without any records there is no way to tell. Difficult to imagine it could happen in a first world country today but I bet there are still Donalds out there. By the time we came across his case it was clear it had affected his mental makeup. He was sharing with Sadie in a half-way house when we made the decision to take him in. They were so obviously close that we offered her a place as well. Our kids having already fled the nest we had plenty of room. I don’t know how they met and why she had stayed with him or him with her come to that. Occasionally we’d hear the arguments as he got kicked out of his bed in the middle of the night and often she wouldn’t allow him near her. She could be a right bitch, although never with us. For his part he never complained if she tagged along. He largely ignored her which most of the time was easy, for even today she spends much of the day in a yoga-like state letting the rest of the world wash around her, untouched and seemingly uncaring unless our routine is disturbed by visitors. Like me she loves peace and routine.
If you measured character on a scale of 1 to 10 Donald would have been an easy eleven, so much larger than life, while Sadie is a three or at the most a four. In many ways Donald, when he wasn’t snoring, was excellent company. He knew when to leave you alone but I enjoyed just having him around, our walks to feed the ducks at the local lake or sharing afternoon tea. Somewhere along the line I believe he had been in a very dark place. Unlike Sadie, who was never known to refuse a few fingers of a G&T he never accepted an alcoholic drink all the time he was with us. I thought he must be on the wagon. Whether his initial attempt to impress was ‘short man’s’ syndrome I’m not sure but it wouldn’t surprise me. If you didn’t know him you might take him for a bully but for him swaggering into a room was all show and no punch. He would flinch at the slightest mishap or sudden noise or if I unexpectedly raised my voice. If he didn’t want to do something he willed himself into being invisible and hated that he could never fully succeed. He was pretty short-sighted but never wore glasses and had a pathological hatred of the medical profession, especially after finally having his teeth fixed.
All the years he was with us he was never any trouble, just the opposite really. At first our daughter was a bit nervous of him being around but she got used to his presence and came to accept him as one of the family, even buying him Christmas presents. She was as cut up as we were when he passed away. Anyhow, the day he ‘saved’ my life was like many another in Summer, swelteringly hot and dry but with a light afternoon breeze. I had opened the study window. The air conditioning wasn’t all that clever as it would either cool upstairs or down but not both simultaneously. The study is at the back of the house on the ground floor. I suppose I shouldn’t have opened the window. Donald had joined me while I was working at the computer and he was pretty relaxed, sitting legs crossed on the futon sofa under the window. A sudden gust of wind, a thump and the next thing I know is Donald is sharing the sofa, eye to eye with a male lion. The guts he displayed that day were unbelievable. I don’t think he could ever have been so startled and yet so brave. In an instant he was on that lion and giving it all hell even though the lion was twice his size.
For a small previously abandoned Chihuahua, Donald was simply magnificent. He had the heart of a lion and certainly had no idea on that day his lion wasn’t real. It had never moved in all the years we’d had Donald and when it landed next to him how was he to know it wasn’t a threat to his master. I am so glad I grabbed the camera and filmed him in action. My hero Donald. May he rest in peace.
Donald can be viewed recreating his act of bravery at