We laid Pacco to rest last Friday.
It was a warm summer’s evening. The birds were chirping. A soft wind was rustling the leaves on the trees. He went to sleep peacefully in my and Jess’s arms.
He had been diagnosed with a brain tumour towards the end of last year. Primary tumour in the lungs. Secondary tumour in the brain, which led to epileptic attacks.
We decided to operate. The surgeon expertly removed the growth. Miraculously, Pacco bounced back within a couple of days, but the prognosis wasn’t great – weeks to months.
We were lucky – we got an extra five joyous months with him.
He was more than a dog.
He was a friend and a companion.
He made me a better person.
In memory of him, here are three highlights: a lesson, a bond and a funny story.
Pacco and I didn’t get along initially.
As I wrote about before, Jess rescued him from a killing shelter in Mallorca in 2019. This was a year before she and I met. He was abused by his previous owner and, naturally, he was wary of me, the new intruder. I was wary of what seemed like a spoiled dog.
After the rocky start, Jess suggested that I take him along when I went jogging.
The first few attempts were a complete failure. I didn’t love it. Pacco hated it. We would run for a hundred metres and he would refuse to go any further. On other occasions he would run straight back home (through traffic!) as soon as I took him off the leash.
I wanted to give up. My patience was running low. But Jess convinced me to keep trying.
One day, after a couple of months of stop-start running, we finally had a breakthrough. I removed the leash and he didn’t turn around. He started running next to me. Keeping up stride for stride, grinning and enjoying the wind rushing through his ears. I smiled back at him. I had finally won his trust after months of trying.
We subsequently went for many runs and became thick as thieves. The extra patience at the start turned out to be incredibly rewarding.
Our own wolf call
Pacco had a LOT of personality.
As our bond grew tighter, we developed our own way of communicating. Our own secret handshake.
The minute he heard me enter the building downstairs after I got back home from a run or buying groceries, he would start howling.
As I rushed up the stairs to the apartment, I would hear the frequency of the howls increase.
When I opened the door, I would be greeted by what could best be described as a dolphin jumping into the air to greet me. A bundle of energy that wanted to tell me everything that happened while I was gone.
I would sit down on the floor beside him and howl with him. Our own secret (but not-so-discreet) greeting would go on for two minutes. Longer if I had been away for longer.
I loved it. I don't think our neighbours did.
The wild duck chase
Pacco had many funny moments.
One that stood out was the wild duck chase in Englischer Garten – a big park close to our apartment in Munich.
When Jess and I took him for long walks, his favourite activity was chasing ducks. He wanted to show off. He liked looking back to us to make sure we were still watching.
Fortunately he had little success. The ducks always outwitted him or flew away if he got too close.
The one time they decided to pull a trick on him. As he started chasing them, they sent him on a zig-zagging route that completely bamboozled him. Through the trees, underneath the bushes, into the field and back again.
The next moment they turned sharply towards the little lake in the park. Pacco recognised the impending doom. He hated water and would do anything to avoid getting wet (bath time was his least favourite activity). He hit the brakes. Front paws fully extended. Back paws down. Bum on the ground.
But it was too late. The momentum carried him over the edge. He toppled over into the water with a soft plop. Defeated and embarrassed, he looked back at us as if asking for advice. Where did it go wrong, team? We helped him back out. His foes had won this encounter.
One wet pooch that wouldn’t be chasing ducks for a while.
There are many more stories like these. He kept us entertained until the very end. I will always remember him for the smiles and laughter he brought to our lives.
Thanks for everything, Pacco. You were more than a dog.
Thanks to Jess Schanz for reading drafts of this essay.