Once upon a time, in the tantalisingly tropical setting of Malaysia, nestled a captivating coastal town - Malacca. There, my partner Michelle, our little gem Jade, and I rented a house in Klebang Besar's Jalan Pantai Emas. Michelle, with her Australian roots, had been living with our friend Linda, a quintessentially Singaporean lass, before Jade was born. Linda, fed up with the everyday humdrum of life Down Under, started contemplating a dramatic shift in scenery.
Numerous phone calls later, the decision was made. Linda was coming to Malacca to live with us. Not alone, mind you. Accompanying her was her dachshund, Max. A character in his own right, Max was as integral to Linda as her very own shadow. The bond was rather moving, a testament to true, unconditional devotion.
Ah, Max! A dachshund with a soul as rich as the sunsets over the Swan River. Born in Bassendean, he was not just your run-of-the-mill, loyal and protective pooch; he was a character all his own—stubborn yet resourceful. There was an inexplicable wisdom in his eyes, as if he knew the neighbourhood's secrets, the unspoken lore of the backyards and alleyways. He was the vigilant guardian of his own patch. And don't let that gruff exterior fool you; inside beat the heart of a romantic. Just watch him gaze at the moon or become utterly entranced by a simple butterfly fluttering by. Max wasn't merely a dog; he was Bassendean's four-legged sage, teaching Linda, every day, the beauty to be found in the simplest things.
With her heart set on bringing a bit of cowboy culture to the tropics, Linda arrived in Malacca with a vision of teaching boot scooting to the locals. However, her plans didn't quite hit the mark, and she found herself at a loose end. Sensing her need for a bit of direction, I put in a word with my business partner. As a result, Linda found herself with a part-time gig at his furniture store in Malacca. Things seemed to be looking up once more, or so we thought.
However, the course of life seldom runs smooth. Following a dust-up with my business partner, Dr Sudha, I found myself relocating to the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur. A new home in the suburbs, a job with a bottled water company, and proximity to a rubbish room that would turn the stomach of a seasoned dustman. But, as they say, onwards and upwards. All except Max, that is, whose mantra was ‘sideways’, for Max, the discerning dachshund, was always aware of the rubbish room's stench, and he made it abundantly clear. Walking on the other side of the corridor, the look on his face was a picture worth a thousand words. I think he was a philosopher in a fur coat. It's not just that he turned his nose up at the smell of rubbish; it's as though he was making a statement about the decay of modern values.
Linda's job prospects in KL didn't quite pan out. Before long, she was heading back to Australia. Max, now a sprightly old fellow, stayed behind. Whether he was to rejoin Linda later, or she was to return, I can't quite recall. Regardless, I was now Max's custodian.
A business trip cropped up, taking me away to Sabah, on the island of Borneo, for a few days. Enter the local vet, a lovely lady with a soft spot for dogs and a particular fondness for Max. She agreed to look after Max in my absence.
However, life, as ever, has a cruel way of throwing curveballs. Whilst in Sabah I received a call from the distraught vet. Max had peacefully slipped away in his sleep. A trickle of blood from his nose suggested a possible haemorrhage. Although we were saddened, and as the tears flowed, I reassured her that it was not her fault and that Max was simply old, around 80 in human years. His time had come.
The toughest call, though, was to Linda. Her grief transformed into anger aimed directly at me, and it was volatile. “How could you leave Max alone?" she wailed. "Poor Max died with a stranger,” she lamented. That guilt was a bitter pill to swallow, and her words, sharp as daggers, cut me deeply. Linda shut me out for a whole year.
Even today, decades later, I feel that hurt, but why? Did I do something wrong? Life has a peculiar way of testing us, doesn't it? Sometimes, despite our best intentions, the tides turn against us. Yet, through it all, the memory of Max, the discerning dachshund, lives on, reminding us of the extraordinary bond we can share with our four-legged friends.