Neil Gaiman's Cabal (background) and Lola (foreground) enjoy the snow. Photo: Facebook/Neil Gaiman
Many years ago, best-selling author Neil Gaiman rescued a dog by the side of the road. Worried for the dog's safety, Neil drove the suspected husky-wolf mix to the local Humane Society half hoping the dog's family would come forward, and half hoping he could adopt the dog.
It turned out the dog belonged to a local farmer who had kept him chained up in the yard. But the dog often ran away, which is how Neil had found him. After hearing Neil was interested in the dog, the owner decided to give him up.
Neil took the 3-year-old dog home and named him Cabal. The pair spent many happy years wandering the 17 acres of woodland at his home. Neil writes on his blog, "I'd never had a dog. I don't think he'd ever had a person. And we bonded. Over the next six years, we both changed and we both grew." He comments that he took so many photos of Cabal, the dog has a Tumblr page of his own.
Neil said he received "unquestioning love" from Cabal. Over the years, Cabal developed degenerative canine myelopathy but he was "always cheerful, friendly, and still capable of out-running a human in the woods if something interersting went past."
Neil got another dog, Lola, to keep Cabal company when he was away travelling and the two dogs became best friends. Neil was in Britain for an extended stay and had just visited Cabal last week when he got an unexpected call. After a fun, normal day, Cabal had fallen suddenly ill. Cabal appears to have developed a blot clot in his lung. His heart stopped and the vet tending to him had brought him back to life, but he was barely able to breathe. She was worried about him going into seizures and dying in pain.
Upset that he wasn't there to comfort his beloved dog, Neil writes that had to say goodbye to Cabal over the phone:
"If I'd been there, he would have been okay with whatever was happening. If I'd been there it would have been safe for him to go. I talked to him on the phone, intending to say something calming so he could hear my voice, and instead just cried and told him I was sorry that I wasn't there."
He then talked with the vet and told her to let him go.
"It was so sudden and unexpected and I wasn't there with him when he went. And I'd lost my friend."
"I thought I was all cried out, and then I heard that Lola had taken his collar from the counter top and slept with it all night, and I cried again."
"I'm so glad I knew him. I'm so glad we found each other. I don't imagine I'll ever have another bond like that in my life. I wish dogs lived longer."
Read Neil's full tribute post to Cabal and about their touching bond at The Power of Dog: Cabal 2003-2013.
"Unconditional Love" by Kim Butler. Photo from Instagram.