Sumokong's Shadow

Love and Loss in Lush Landscapes


Peter Pickering

3/8/202412 min read

Parichad is a remarkable woman residing in the lush landscapes of Isaan, Thailand, where tradition blends seamlessly with the vibrancy of modern life. Fourteen years earlier, she experienced a moment that would forever alter the course of her life: she brought home a tiny, whimpering bundle of joy – a Thai Bangkaew puppy she lovingly named Mr. Sumokong. In the local dialect, his name carried weight and charm, a fitting tribute to his burgeoning spirit.

This was no ordinary puppy. Sumokong, or Sumo as he affectionately became known, was a sight to behold with his striking fur – a tapestry of black and white, with hues of brown weaving through like delicate threads, giving him an appearance reminiscent of a cross between the beloved border collie and a husky, yet distinctly unique. His eyes sparkled with a mix of mischief and wisdom, a magnetic allure that drew people to him.

As Sumo transitioned from a playful, clumsy pup into a majestic, robust dog, his bond with Parichad deepened. The streets of Thailand, alive with their myriad sounds and scents, were their playground, and they explored every corner together, forming an unbreakable bond. Sumo wasn't just a pet; he was Parichad's shadow, her guardian, her confidante. He embodied loyalty and faithfulness – virtues deeply rooted in Thai culture – and became known in their community for his protective nature.

Despite his protective instincts, Sumo's heart was as vast as the Thai landscapes, filled with love and warmth. He greeted friends with enthusiastic barks and a wagging tail, and he was known to comfort Parichad on her blue days with his head resting softly in her lap, his presence a silent, steadfast support. He was more than a dog; he was a testament to the power of companionship, a living reminder of the unspoken bond between humans and their four-legged friends.

Through the years, Parichad and Sumo became an emblem of enduring friendship and mutual respect. In Sumo, Parichad found not just a pet, but a soulmate, a protector, and a slice of home. Their story is one of unconditional love, a narrative that transcends language and species, nestled in the heart of Thailand's breathtaking scenery. Sumokong, with his unique blend of colours and species traits, was not just a Thai Bangkaew; he was Parichad's faithful, loyal, protective, and loving companion, a treasure in the story of her life.

Amidst the poignant narrative of Sumo's life and eventual passing, there lies a surprising and somewhat miraculous twist. One unforeseen day, Sumo, along with Parichad's other dog, Dinky—a petite Maltese-Shih Tzu cross—somehow managed an escapade that defied expectations. This unexpected adventure led to the arrival of NooDee, a singular puppy that combined the grandeur of Sumo with Dinky's delicate features. The logistics of their union were baffling, given the stark contrast in their sizes; the very physics of it left Parichad mystified. Yet, love and nature often write their own rules, unfettered by human logic.

NooDee emerged as a testament to this unlikely match, a beautiful dog that inherited the best of both worlds. She possessed the robust stature and protective instincts of Sumo, coupled with the gentle, loving nature of Dinky. However, NooDee's birth was not without its trials. She was a large puppy, much too large for Dinky, who struggled through the birthing process. The situation was fraught with tension, a delicate balance between life and death.

In this critical moment, Parichad, ever resourceful and nurturing, rose to the occasion. With no formal veterinary training but guided by a profound connection to the animal kingdom and an innate sense of understanding, she became Dinky's and NooDee's unexpected saviour. The delivery was arduous and fraught with danger, but under Parichad's careful ministration, NooDee was born, a single, extraordinary pup that survived against the odds.

Now, NooDee stands as a living legacy of Sumo, three times the size of her mother but carrying the spirit and heart of both her parents. Her existence is a bittersweet reminder of the cycles of life, of unexpected joy emerging from the shadows of grief. In NooDee, Parichad finds not only memories of her beloved Sumo but also a continuation of the love and companionship that has always been a cornerstone of her life. NooDee's presence is a testament to the enduring legacy left behind by Sumo, a legacy that continues to unfold in the most unexpected and wondrous ways.

As time unfurled its relentless passage, Sumo, once vibrant and full of life, began to feel the inevitable weight of his years. His once-agile movements became laboured; the spirited jumps and boundless energy that characterised his youth now lingered only in memories. The signs were subtle at first, but soon undeniable – Sumo's age was catching up to him, most notably in his hips. The robust limbs that had carried him through countless adventures, that had sprinted through the lush Thai countryside and leapt with unbridled joy, were now betraying him, worn from the years of faithful companionship and endless devotion.

Parichad, ever attentive and deeply connected to her four-legged companion, noticed these changes with a heavy heart. Each slow, pained movement of Sumo's was a stab to her own soul, a reminder of the merciless nature of time. She watched as the once indefatigable spirit began to fade, replaced by an exhaustion that no amount of rest could cure. Sumo, her guardian and friend, was growing old, and the realisation filled her with a poignant blend of love, gratitude, and an impending sense of loss.

Refusing to let Sumo suffer in silence, Parichad took action. She became his support, both physically and emotionally, as he had been for her over the years. She gently lifted his weakening back end, aiding him to stand when his own body refused to cooperate. Every step he took was a testament to their bond, a shared journey that neither of them was ready to end.

Understanding that Sumo's dignity and independence were as important as his physical health, Parichad invested in a special harness designed to support his hindquarters. This harness became more than a tool; it was a lifeline, a means of preserving the quality of life for her cherished companion. With its help, she could lift Sumo with ease, ensuring he could still enjoy his daily rituals and the simple pleasure of being outdoors.

Sumo's Legacy: The Power of Unspoken Bonds

Their walks, once filled with the sounds of Sumo's excited barks and the sight of his tail wagging like a flag of joy, had now transformed. Each outing was marked by a slower pace, a time for reflection, a moment to savour the gentle bond between human and animal. Parichad became Sumo's steadfast ally in his battle against time, assisting him in his every need, ensuring he felt loved and cared for in his twilight years. The roles had reversed, and she was now the guardian of his legacy, helping him navigate the autumn of his life with grace and dignity.

Throughout his vibrant life, Sumo had always found solace and security at night in the comforting presence of Parichad, sleeping by her side upstairs, a silent guardian even in his dreams. This nightly ritual, a cherished end to each day, symbolised their deep bond and mutual affection. However, as the relentless march of time continued, the once effortless evening ascent became an insurmountable obstacle for Sumo. The stairs, a symbol of their shared sanctuary, now stood as an impassable barrier, a reminder of the cruel, inexorable nature of aging. Parichad, witnessing the decline of her beloved companion, was faced with a heart-wrenching dilemma.

The thought of abandoning their shared routine, of leaving Sumo alone downstairs while she retreated to the solitude of her room, was unimaginable. Fuelled by love and an unyielding sense of duty, she resolved to carry him, night after night, cradling him in her arms with a strength born of devotion. Despite his considerable size, which made the task no small feat, she bore the weight willingly, a physical testament to the depth of her care and the lengths she would go to ensure his comfort.

But time, the ever-unforgiving force, continued its quiet assault on Sumo's once formidable frame. Each passing day brought a subtle erosion of his vitality; the vibrant spark that had once animated his every move dimmed, leaving in its wake a gentle soul trapped within a failing body. It became heartbreakingly clear that he could no longer support himself, even for the simplest of tasks. His once powerful front legs, symbols of his strength and independence, now refused to bear his weight, leaving him lying listlessly, resigned to his fate.

The house that had once echoed with the sounds of his boundless energy was now filled with a poignant stillness, broken only by the occasional whimper from Sumo's resting place. These soft sounds, a stark contrast to his previous vitality, were like whispers of a life that was slowly, inevitably slipping away. Parichad watched over him, her heart heavy with the knowledge that each day brought them closer to an unavoidable goodbye. The vibrant companion who had once filled her life with joy was now a quiet presence, a reminder of the impermanence of life and the unspoken pact between human and pet: to provide love, comfort, and dignity until the very end.

Enduring Love: Parichad's Final Devotion to Sumo

Parichad was so attentive and caring. She turned him regularly so he wouldn't get sores, and she did everything she could to keep him comfortable. By now he could no longer go outside to the toilet so Parichad had to clean him. Sumo would whimper often and cry out, and Parichad knew he was suffering. But her Buddhist beliefs would not let her take his life. She loved him deeply and was determined to show him the same love and devotion he had shown for her all those years and make his final months as comfortable as possible.

The inevitable was approaching, a truth Parichad had come to accept with a heavy heart. She had watched Sumo's steady decline with a mix of love, dedication, and silent grief, understanding that their shared journey was nearing its end. The bond they had formed over the years was immeasurable, and the thought of losing him filled her with a profound sense of impending loss. Yet, amidst the sorrow, there was a silent acknowledgment, an unspoken understanding between them that the time was drawing near.

Then, on a day that had started like any other, Sumo slipped away. It was a moment both peaceful and profound, marked not by the sounds of distress but by a quiet passing, enveloped in the warmth of Parichad's love and the familiarity of his cherished home. He left the world as he had lived in it, surrounded by affection, with the gentle touch of those who had loved him dearly marking his journey to rest.

For Parichad, the loss of Sumo was a moment of heartbreak, a tear in the fabric of her daily life that nothing could mend. The emptiness left in his wake was vast, a silent space once filled with the patter of his paws, the comforting weight of his presence, and the unyielding loyalty of his companionship. She felt an aching void, a space so deeply intertwined with her own existence that its sudden absence was overwhelming.

Yet, through the veil of her sorrow, Parichad clung to a kernel of solace. She knew in her heart that Sumo's life had been one of joy, love, and fulfillment. They had shared a bond that many could only aspire to, a mutual love that had enriched both their lives immeasurably. As she reflected on the years they had spent together, she realised that every moment, every memory, was a treasure, a snapshot of a life well-lived.

Finding Solace: Parichad's Journey Through Grief and Gratitude

In her grief, Parichad found gratitude. She was thankful for the time they had shared, for the lessons of love and loss, for the sheer joy that Sumo had brought into her life. Though the pain of his absence was sharp, it was a testament to the depth of their bond, a bond that, even in death, could not be broken. Sumo had lived a happy and fulfilling life, and this knowledge provided a small comfort in her moment of loss. She understood that while he may have left the physical world, the love they shared, the essence of Sumo, would remain with her always.

Sumo was never just an animal in Parichad's eyes; he was a vital, irreplaceable member of her family, an integral part of her daily existence. His departure created a chasm in her world, a palpable emptiness that seemed to echo through the rooms of her home, each corner a reminder of his absence. This loss was profound, an aching void that Parichad understood would linger, a testament to the depth of their bond.

Despite the piercing sadness that enveloped her, Parichad found a thread of comfort in the rich tapestry of memories Sumo had left behind. Each recollection was a precious keepsake, a moment frozen in time that she could revisit whenever the weight of his absence felt too great. There were the quiet mornings, the exuberant walks, the peaceful evenings – each a chapter in the story of their life together. These memories, vibrant and alive, were a balm to her grieving heart, a reminder that although Sumo was gone, the love they shared was eternal.

In her heart, Parichad knew that Sumo would never truly leave her. He had etched himself into the very fabric of her being, his spirit a constant, comforting presence. In moments of quiet, she could feel him, a gentle reminder that love, once given, never truly fades. He would live on in her heart, an indelible part of her past, present, and future.

Sumo's Final Rest: A Tribute Beneath the Jackfruit Tree

In honouring his memory, Parichad laid Sumo to rest in a place of beauty and tranquility – in his familiar garden, under the spreading branches of a majestic jackfruit tree that had witnessed the entire arc of his life. This tree, under which he had played in his youth, rested in his prime, and sought shade in his twilight years, now stood as a sentinel over his final resting place.

He was adorned with yellow flower petals, vibrant tributes to a life well-lived, each petal a symbol of the love and joy he had brought into the world. In this sacred spot, Sumo was not just buried; he was celebrated and remembered, his spirit forever intertwined with the natural beauty that had been a backdrop to his life.

This act of final farewell was not just a moment of closure for Parichad but a testament to the cycle of life, to the enduring bonds that transcend the physical realm. In this serene resting place, surrounded by the beauty of nature, Sumo's legacy would continue to flourish, a constant reminder of the love, joy, and companionship he embodied.

As Sumo was laid to rest, a serene silence enveloped the surroundings, broken only by the soft whispers of nature. Dinky, and Sumo’s daughter, NooDee, the other cherished members of Parichad's animal family, stood by, embodying a sombre understanding that transcended the spoken word. They gazed intently at Sumo's final resting place, their eyes reflecting a deep, almost human-like comprehension of the gravity of the moment. It was a heartrending scene, as if they too were paying their respects, acknowledging the loss of their companion and the profound emptiness his departure had left in their lives.

Their demeanour, usually vibrant and filled with the innocence of animal joy, was now subdued, marked by a shared solemnity. As they looked knowingly at Sumo's grave, there was a palpable sense of farewell, a silent tribute to the bond they had shared. The air was thick with emotion, a poignant testament to the impact Sumo had had on their lives, and a reminder of the interconnectedness of all beings in the dance of life and loss.

Parichad's heart, though heavy with loss, was filled with gratitude for the years they had shared, and she took solace in the knowledge that Sumo's spirit would forever remain a guiding light in her life. The story of Parichad and Sumo is a beautiful reminder of the importance of unconditional love and the deep bond that can exist between humans and their animal companions. It teaches us that sometimes, the most profound connections in life can come from unexpected places.

In the end, it is not the length of our time with those we love that matters; it is the depth of the connection that we share. Sumo may be gone, but his legacy of love lives on, inspiring us all to cherish the precious moments we have with the ones we hold dear.

© Peter Pickering 2024

This has been unequivocally the most challenging narrative I've ever penned. It's stretched over many months, a testament to its profound emotional impact on me. How is one to discern the words on the computer screen through a veil of tears? I, too, feel the pang of his absence deeply.

a final memory

Sumo, dinky & NooDee at treat-time

In a harmonious display of discipline and patience, Sumo, Dinky, and NooDee would transform at the sight of Parichad bringing out the treats. Despite their diverse sizes and temperaments, the trio shared an admirable composure, a testament to their respect for Parichad and each other. They would sit side by side, an endearing tableau of anticipation, yet remarkably restrained. Sumo, with his calm and noble presence, would sit with dignified patience, his eyes softly fixed on Parichad. Dinky, beneath her angelic facade, harboured the heart of a fierce and territorial little warrior, but in these moments, she would curb her fiery spirit, quietly awaiting her turn with an almost regal poise. And NooDee, embodying the spirited blend of her parents, would show a youthful eagerness tempered by the learned patience of her family. Together, they were a picture of familial harmony, each adhering to the unspoken rules of treat time, their behaviour a silent pledge of their deep bond and mutual respect.