6.12.1913  -  12.12.2002

Books of N.M.Amosov

Recollections. Cherie

She died...

Don't be alarmed: she was only a dog. She was a dog to strangers and a close friend to us.

I saw that she was extremely ill, but I still did not believe that she would die. A big strong dog could not die so soon.

She lay on her side with paws stretched out and her head thrown back, breathing heavily (I counted—55 breaths a minute). I am a doctor and had to know — pneumonia, aspiration pneumonia. Moist rale in the lungs. She was still conscious: she followed me with her gaze, but could not raise her head. Her eyes were wide open, and there was fear in them.

Is there much pneumonia after operations? People rarely die of pneumonia. Antibiotics save them.

I left her side, sat down in an armchair and began to think about what to do. Should I drain off the sputum? It would be too traumatic to push the tube into her trachea and would have almost no effect when her coughing reflex was suppressed...

Now this raling breathing. I wanted to breathe for her myself.

And suddenly, there was no next breath. I waited an instant, all ears. The thought struck me that she had begun to feel better and had switched to a quiet breathing rhythm. No, the pause was too long. Later one short, surface inhalation and another pause that did not end...

I rushed over to her, began artificial respiration, squeezed her rib cage, then stopped and placed my ear to her chest — the heart was not beating. I began cardiac massage — pushed several times on the area of the heart. No response. I knew it was useless. It is the habit of a surgeon to think soberly, "you cannot revive her, it can't be done."

She had died.

My palm was still on her chest, feeling the warm-coat; the familiar smell of our dog... I could not believe it. I pleaded with her: "Inhale, please, inhale." Nothing.

My watch showed 5.30. There was no need for me to try to save her. I left her in peace and sat looking at her instead. It seemed that her sides moved slightly — the way she had slept before.

I had to wake up Lida and tell her. No, first I had to put Cherie in a posture of death for the burial. I closed her eyes. (How fast they loose their brilliance.) I bandaged her muzzle to conceal the tormenting grimace of tension, bent her head to the chest, bent and pulled her front and back paws to the body and fixed them with bandages. Now she was lying in the posture she liked to sleep in. That's how she would become rigid. How rigor mortis would set in.

That was the end of everything. Five days of suffering. Eight years of life. Of a happy dog's life. Happy if compared to a human life.

This last night at home had been a difficult one. I woke up Lida — she could not grasp the meaning at first: she had been sleeping for only one hour after a sleepless night the day before.

"What is it? What has happened?"

"Cherie has died."

She rushed into the room to the dog and stood still over her. Tears flowed without sobbing, without a sound. Without a reproach: she "overlooked everything."

Later Katya came, our grown daughter, then my niece Ira came back from her institute. Both wept.

Cherie slowly turned rigid. Touching her became unpleasant. A dead corpse. And when we looked at her — she seemed to be sleeping. Such a delicate posture. The fur on her muzzle concealed the colour and expression of death. Not like in man.

"Let's prepare her for the burial."

They brought a sheet and spread it on the sofa. I placed on it a heavy rigid body. The women sewed it up. A neat white cocoon. Almost an abstraction.

I did not weep for long. Could it be that I had no tears at all? But my chin and lips begin to tremble. My heart grew heavy. It is a strange feeling — the sorrow of death, of irrevocable loss. As if something had been taken out of my chest, leaving a hollow place instead. And the stubborn disbelief in what had happened.

I was responsible for all that, for her death. My family did not reproach me, but all of them knew that I was the one. And I knew for sure.

Now I had to move; I should not stop to think and recall while that white cocoon on the sofa had the contours of a body.

There was a cardboard box from our new TV in the hall. I had kept it for half a year, fearing to throw it away — I was afraid the TV set would go on the blink, and I would have to take it in for repairs. It was high time I used the box.

For two hours, I busied myself over it on the floor; first, I took it apart and then designed a new form — a coffin; I cut and sewed it to make it durable, with double walls...

And Cherie stayed close to me; I saw her walking around all the time. She was very curious, and whenever I was making something, she would, by all means, go tripping around me, sniffing at the parts and tools with her black nose, touching them with her paw, and then if I ignored her, she would lie down amidst them, trying to touch me with her back or muzzle. And now she would have plopped down on the sheets of cardboard, and I would have had to shout: "Cherie, for Christ's sake, get out of here." And she would have pushed her head under my hands, put it on my knees assuming that my main business was to talk to her and to stroke her.

She died after an operation I performed on her. I failed to save her.

Perhaps many who read these lines will condemn me. "A sentimental old man, he cut so many people to death, and now whimpers over a dog." This is not true. Her death simply heightened my feelings. As I wept over the dead dog, I wept over the people, the children who died after any operations, not just mine.


Now the parents were dressing their daughter at home for the last time before taking her to the clinic. They bustled about, fearing to forget something. All their feelings were tense and frozen... They pick out her favourite toys: "No, sweetheart, you can't take too much with you, you have to choose..." The ambulance was waiting already, it was time to go — a last look around a room in which everything reminded them of her, their daughter, their child. "Let everything be as it is, she will return — and life will continue from that instant. But it will be a happy life, without the heart defect that has threatened her life from the moment of her birth... Everything will be O.K.!"

The doctor had warned them that the operation would be dangerous, but supely he had said that to play it safe, for no particular reason. At the consultations the parents had seen many healthy children who were being examined after their operations. "Everything will be O.K."

Then for three days, they would walk around the clinic, peeping into windows — there, on the third floor, the second window — there is our daughter; maybe she is looking out. They cheered themselves, "Everything will be O.K.... The surgeon has agile hands..." On the day of the operation, from early morning they would sit in the waiting room, trying to guess from the faces of those passing by and the nurses, trying to devour every word "from in there."

For forty years already, I'd seen these looks almost daily. But still, it was impossible to get accustomed to them...


Then they were on their way home... Alone. "The operation was a failure."

Then they brought her home in a coffin. They sat at her side, moved around the apartment; there were people comind and going. And all the time they heard her voice, the questions she asked, her exclamations; they felt the touch of her hands; her red dress was flying around...


I understand, a dog is only a dog. She had died, but after all, I could get another one. Another dog to replace her. The shadow and the voice of the child would fill the apartment for years... And would also remind the parents of the surgeon who had failed...

The box was ready. I put a rope aroung it so we could carry her coffin — she was a big dog. I never managed to pick her up. She would not allow anyone to take her off the ground. It was only before the operation that I understood how heavy she was, when she was losing strength, she obediently gave in to my hands.

The room had been cleaned and aired. We sat down at the kitchen table for lunch — a silent funeral repast. Our throats were tight.

The next day we buried her in the far corner of the garden near the fence. I had a severe headache and did not operate that day.


Little remains to be said about Cherie. But it is the most unpleasant. "The case record," as doctors put it.

Cherie was a purebred dog with a long pedigree. Lida and I are of plebeian origin so we don't care about nobility. We took the dog not for the sake of her medals, not to protect our property, byt for our own sakes. By the way, what does it mean, we "took"? Lida took the dog for herself, although my daughter and I disapproved of it.

"Take her, if you like, but we don't have time to fool around with her."

"O.K. I'll take care of her myself."

I was surprised; what did she need a dog for? We had been married for almost thirty years, and there had never been any talk about a pet. My wife is a doctor, and we never had any domestics in the house. She had to do everything herself. She never had free time; on the contrary, she was always busy.

Now, eight years later, I understood: she missed the warmth that had existed before. Her daughter had grown up; her husband was busy with his surgery and crazy ideas.

One day at the beginning of May, she brougth home a delicate young lady. That's how I have to describe a seven-month-old female Doberman pinscher. They are extremely beautiful. You can compare them only to the young fallow deer often seen on the TV show "Animals, Animals."

My wife read all the books, collected all the information — when to walk the dog and how to feed her properly. She was pedantic in following all the instructions — she even lost sleep over the dog. She was the one who went to all the trouble.

I would not say I melted easily. A dog like any other. I did not have any particular contact with her. When young, she would wet on the floor, but not too often. And she learned fast. Only one pair of shoes did she destroy.

Finally, in August I began to walk her when Lida was busy. That was how we became close. She began to show her character: tenderness and explosiveness. I watched her: there, what a personality!

By autumn we grew even closer. Lida began to complain that it was too difficult for her to walk the dog alone for two hours at a time every day; although we would miss her, we would have to give her away... I presume that was blackmail. But it had the desired effect on me. In the beginning, I walked her three times a week, then five (out of 14), and in summer of 1972, Cherie and I began to run together in the morning. It was she who made me like running. Before that, I did only physical exercises and walked. But if you have to walk the dog, it is better to run. At least I benefited from it.

She was a beautiful dog. True, one ear flopped down, but it gave her a particular expression of bewilderment. We did not overfeed her; therefore, she was lean and self-disciplined. She was healthy — she was never sick — not even once.

A small girl in the park called her "Miss Doberman pinscher" to distinguish her sex.

Club purebreds had to have an education. Lida also took her to club classes, taught her the commands, dragged her over the barriers, and along the beam. Both came home tired and dirty. But Cherie did not show any talent; Lida did not persist, and thus her education was incomplete. They did not get the diploma. She knew the commands — "Sit," "Lie," "Halt," and "Heel," but would follow them only when she thought it necessary. Wise dog!

We did not want to have puppies. We feared it would be too much trouble. That was our first mistake. No, not a mistake, it was egoism. One should not joke with nature. But that I have learned only now. To cut it short, when Cherie was in heat and showed a lively interest in other dogs, her sympathies were curbed. She would be let off the lead only when there was no danger. I cannot say she suffered from abstinence. She did not lose either sleep or appetite, she did not whine like some sex-starved bitch. Specialists used to say that abstinence did not affect a dog's health. Observations have confirmed this.

And then it has happened.

At the end of December, we were walking in the park in the evening. Cherie was in heat. It was getting dark and snowing; I saw no other dogs around. I let her off the lead. And suddenly (it always happens suddenly) an Alsatian appeared from nowhere and hardly had I time to shout "Heel!" than there was no trace of them. I kept shouting: "Cherie, Cherie!" but alas! She would not obey. I ran across the whole park and found them ten minutes later at the other end of the park. But it was already too late. Experienced dog-owner told me:

"It has happened for sure."

Cherie did not run away any more, and there was bewilderment in her expression. I put on her collar. She began to ask for a sausage, smart dog. I did not scold her — how could I, since I was responsible. Nature is all powerful. We hoped for a while that the danger would pass. But in three weeks, her nipples began to swell. We were wor­ried — she was old and this would be the first time she had whelped. Women have problems -in such cases. I called Pavel Semenovich, a veterinarian and an obstetrician, Head of the Chair at the Agricultural Academy. He reassured me: "Don't worry. She will whelp her pubs. If not — we'll help her."

And we calmed down.

There should have been a gala meeting at three p. m. on February 23. Lida called me at eleven: "She's begun to whelp; come home right away." I took a cab. The dog lay calmly on the rug. (A snow-white rug — her mistress was a former surgeon!) She was breathing noisily.

I have all the details in the draft, but let them remain — I know how difficult it is to read pitiful details about the sufferings of children and animals.

Cherie was unable to whelp. She had weak labour pains, and a day later I operated on her at home. It would have been better to take her to a clinic, but we were afraid our crazy dog would not tolerate the unfamiliar surroundings. It would have been better to call Pavel Semenovich to come to our house, but I felt shy — I imagined what I would have thought if I were in his shoes. Perhaps he would say: "What an old crank." And could that have been self-sufficiency? In my time, I had operated on dogs to imitate heart transplants, so I thought there would be no problem in this case — cut the abdomen and take out the cubs.

Everything had been done correctly, but the experienced anesthesiologist, a veterinarian from our laboratory, failed to put the tube into the trachea after Cherie had already been put under with relaxants. For several minutes, she did not breathe until the doctor interfered. These minutes were crucial. The operation had been per­formed; the pups were dead. It seemed that the dog woke up normally. We were all glad. Lida even laid the table for those who had assisted. It was a sleepless night, a usual thing. But in the morning, we saw that Cherie could not swallow, could not get up... Apparently, oxygen deficiency during the respiration arrest had told banefully on the brain. It was annoying, since there was no need for such complicated anesthesia through the tube into the trachea, but the anesthesiologist was used to it from thoracic operations and I feared to break her habits.

Such complications leave no trace in human beings, but in animals, it was quite another matter.

We spent four difficult sleepless nights at our pet's side. She was extremely restless, tried to get up and could not, fell to the side and only looked at us plaintively, breathing heavily. It's too painful to recall.

No doubt there were mistakes in treatment. We did not see at the beginning that her swallowing was paralysed, and when her intestines were emptied, we gave her water. She lapped and coughed; apparently water got into the lungs, resulting in pneumonia. Antibiotics did not help. There were no abdominal complications, but everything was in vain...

We shall always keep her image in our memory. The floppy right ear. The small white spot on the black curious nose. The demanding and penetrating look when she wanted to understand human speech.

Poses still alive — on her side on the sofa with paws stretched and her head thrown back, her sides rising convulsingly; and already dead, prepared to be put into the coffin — the paws pushed to the stomach, the head bent to the chest, as if she were sleeping, such a delicate and tidy dog.

There she sat on the windowsill, and excited, looked into the street, ready to jump up and bark. Then she would lie on the threshold to the kitchen — front paws crossed, banished from the table for being too smart. There she would lie with her head on my knees, looking into my eyes and rumbling with tenderness. There she would get half into the refuse bin in the park where we used to run. I see her in different poses in every corner of our apartment and in the street. Our sweet Cherie.

"We love dogs, not one dog in particular. Therefore, when your pet dies, get another one as fast as you can." I read this phrase in a book. So I asked all my acquaintances to look for a female Doberman pup. In a week's time, we had a one-month-old Cherie. Now she is two years old, and we love her. But we cannot forget Cherie I. I keep her photo under the glass on my desk.