Seven years ago, my dad picked me up from school one day, and casually mentioned that he saw an ad for Shih Tzu puppies over at one of the nearby bakeshops he frequented. Before this point, I’ve begged for a dog for so long, but was always shot down because my brother has asthma and other people at home has a sensitivity to animal fur. I was curious why he mentioned it, and prompted him for more information. I knew this was my big chance, so I begged if we could get a Shih Tzu puppy.
I did a lot of research. I told my family that a Shih Tzu is hypoallergenic, kind, good with kids, and extremely lovable. I also promised that I would handle all the care for this puppy, and would be totally responsible for it. My little sister was about to turn 3-years-old, and I stressed that growing up with a dog would be a good experience for her. (The secret weapon was using my little sister as a reason, haha!)
Miraculously, I convinced them, got approval, and we called the owner to reserve a puppy.
I first met Archer on the second of March in 2014—months before I would start attending university. At that time, I was 16 years old. It was a hot, sunny afternoon, and we stepped inside the bakeshop. There were two Shih Tzu puppies—one was brown and white all over, and the other one was white with brown ears (Archer’s sister, Amber!) The owner, who graduated from my high school and the college that I would then attend, told us that the brown one was named “Archer” because De La Salle University (whose mascots are a green archers) won the UAAP Championships that year.
I didn’t bother changing his name. I thought it was perfect and that it fit his personality! With happy hearts, we brought Archer home—not knowing how much of an impact this small, quiet dog would make on all of our lives.
We hit it off immediately! Best buds right away. He slept in my room, I would bathe him, we’d play every day, and he’d follow me around. There were good days and there were bad days. The first time he got sick, I was so worried. I felt like a bad human for Archer.
Throughout the years, we’ve shared memories together: mundane days when we’d just lounge around; exciting days, when we’d go out to a little road trip; scary days, when he got dog-napped and when he mysteriously got trapped on the roof; sad days, when it rained too hard or when the fireworks were too loud; and happy days, which was almost every day that I got to spend time with him.
He became my anchor and my rock. I learned how to be more responsible. I learned to be kinder and to take breaks because of him. I learned to make sacrifices and actually care for something other than what was expected from me. I learned how to take care of myself better because I knew that he depended on me.
I learned how to be a better person because of Archer. He brought me so much joy and comforted me on my dark days. He’s the only one who can calm my anger, make me laugh, and cheer me up in record time.
He was the best dog I could’ve ever asked for.
Three months ago, I brought Archer to the vet to check a specific concern, and the vet told us that he had a bacterial infection. It was nothing abnormal, and other dogs do get it. If it would get worse, he’d have to surgically remove it. He prescribed medicine first to try to get rid of the infection naturally, as a surgery for a dog his age is not advisable. After finishing up the first prescribed medicine, I went back. His infection did not shrink nor go away. We tried another medicine. It didn’t work. Eventually, we decided to remove it surgically—because he was already seven years old, precaution must be made. He needed a blood test first. We didn’t know it at that time, but his bacterial infection was the least of our worries.
The CBC revealed that his platelet and red blood cell count was too low. Archer didn’t act unusual at all, so this came as a surprise to everyone. He’s been diagnosed with auto-immune disease. The vet immediately prescribed medicine to help increase and stabilize his platelets and red blood cells. I gave him his medicine everyday, but nothing happened. His body didn’t accept anything. We tried different options. In the middle of the dosages of his new medicine, he suddenly developed a fever. He wasn’t moving all day, would refuse to eat or drink anything, and just laid on the bed. I felt slight panic, but tried not to show it. The next day, I brought Archer to the vet, where he got admitted and had to stay at the vet.
His condition improved for a day, only to come crashing down the next day. The vet called me and told me that he needed a blood transfusion, ASAP. I was worried—this was our last resort, after all. I headed back to the vet to pick him up to bring him to the blood bank/other vet. He looked so happy to see me. His face brightened up, his tail wagged like crazy, and his big brown eyes sparkled. Suddenly, he didn’t look sick at all.
When I dropped him off the blood bank to get admitted again, I hugged him tight and told him to be strong.
We all tried our hardest—Archer, most of all. That was the last time I saw Archer wag his tail at me.
One month ago, Archer passed away. He passed away on a Sunday morning at the blood bank. His body couldn’t accept the transfusion. I was supposed to see him on Monday and bring him back to our vet. It usually takes three days for a dog to stabilize with a the blood transfusion—Sunday was the third day. The blood bank called me that morning and told me that “he didn’t make it.” I felt my blood turn cold and my body go numb. I can’t be hearing this right, right? I asked clarify it what he meant by “didn’t make it” and I was bluntly told “he died.”
As soon as I hung up, I felt it all crash down on me. I told my family and we all cried together for a while. I couldn’t dilly-dally, because I had to go and fetch his body. I wanted to give him a proper goodbye. On the way there, I told our vet what had happened, and he gave me a call. He gave me kind words, and told me that all of us tried our best. I didn’t feel angry or disappointed—I just felt heartbroken.
A few months before, I thought about a small possibility of something like this happening, so I prepared for the worst and researched on possible ways to give Archer his last farewell. I didn’t know that my research would be put to use so soon. I knew that I wanted to keep Archer near me, so I chose to have him aqua-mated/bio-created via Pet to Nature Philippines. It was the most gentle and eco-friendly way for his remains.
As I booked for Pet to Nature to pick Archer’s body up, I stayed with him. I petted him for the last time, told him that I was proud of how hard he fought, scratched his ear for the last time, and just looked at him for the last time.
The past month has been rough. Every time I think of him, I can only feel grief, extreme sadness, and loneliness.
There are times when I would ask myself if Archer really existed or if he was a figment of my imagination. It’s so hard to believe that in just a span of a week, my best friend of almost eight years was gone.
It’s so hard to accept that the proof of his existence is just in photos, videos, his old things, his urn, and unreliable human memory. I’m so sad and frightened to forget him. How can I forget him, who has done so much for me?
The tears come and go. Some days, I laugh with my family when we talk about his silliness. Most days, I bust out crying out of nowhere with the smallest of things I never knew would become triggers. (Just yesterday, the trigger was the softness of my stuffed toy, haha.)
I don’t have any regrets or “what-ifs” because I know that we all did what we could. This is just a sad case of genetic sickness and poor timing.
My poor, sweet dog.
For a while, nothing could calm me down. I would move around like a zombie and cry like a leaky faucet. I can’t even listen to music with lyrics about friendship and love, because I listen too intently to the lyrics and end up crying some more (this blog post is full of crying, haha.) The only thing that eventually calmed me down was art. I ended up writing letters, painting, drawing, and journaling about Archer. I try not to distract myself with work and push down these feelings, because I know it’ll just get harder for me in the long run.
At this point, I try to focus my energies on caring for what Archer left behind: his partner, Luli; his children, Pepper and Oreo; and his friend, Matt-Matt. We’ll all miss him and his quiet companionship. He was and always will be a good dog.
Thank you for everything, Archer.
Rest well, run free, be happy.
Until the next blog post,
P.S. If you’ve read this far, thank you so much for sticking with me. This was incredibly difficult for me to write, but I wanted to write about it to honor his memory and to have a little reminder of him whenever I go to this site.
If you’ve been reading my blog for some time already, you probably knew of Archer from some of my posts (he makes a cameo once in a while.)
Losing a loved one is never easy and everyone has their own way of grieving. I was able to pick myself up slowly because I talked to my friends and family about it. The more I talk and write about Archer, the easier it gets.
I’m still not okay and I frequently burst into tears (night times are the hardest, haha), but I’m getting there slowly.