Sheldon was widely known as the free-diving dog. He was loved by many, especially by his human friend, Danny Ocampo. Sadly, he earned his halo too soon.

I knew that Sheldon already crossed the rainbow bridge, but I still wanted to get to know him better. I was lucky to chat online with Danny regarding his canine buddy.

Born a Survivor

The public first knew Sheldon as an adventurous being and his feats were spectacular. I had not heard of a free-diving dog before I was told of Sheldon. But it was not always like that.

Born on the 26th of July to Fiona, he was the runt of the litter, of which only three survived, including Sheldon.

Back then, Danny was closer to Fiona, although Sheldon was still babied, mostly by Danny’s friends.

A Budding Friendship

When Fiona passed away in 2013, Sheldon became Danny’s comfort. They spent a lot of time swimming and snuggling in bed. They would also walk along the beach and play as well.

Danny also mentioned that he was a real beach dog and when he would bring him to Manila, Sheldon would get impatient and miss swimming every day!

A Dangerous Record

In one dive trip, Danny brought Sheldon along. Finding a piece of stick that would slowly sink to the bottom, they started playing with Sheldon. A friend threw the wood in waters five meters deep; naturally, Sheldon went after it but only went as deep as three meters.

That was his deepest dive, but possibly also the scariest!

Sheldon might have realized that he was going too deep and surfaced promptly.

Sheldon after a long, tiring day…

According to Danny, his nose had bubbles, so they kept him out of the water after making sure he was okay. Sheldon wanted to go for another swim that time, but they would rather he didn’t.

Talk about fearless!

Dive, Sheldon!

But how exactly did Sheldon start with diving? It is obvious that he loves water, but diving is a whole different world. When he was about a year old, he would usually follow Danny to the surface. When diving commenced, he would go back to the shore.

Apparently, it started out as a rescue mission for Sheldon. In one of their dives, Danny felt a tugging from behind and when he looked back his diving buddy was pointing at Sheldon. He was biting the tank and trying to pull Danny to the surface. Danny had thought that maybe Sheldon had the impression that he was drowning. Sheldon started doing tugging at Danny and his friends more often until they started playing with rocks and Sheldon would dive after it. Just like a classic game of fetch, except for being underwater.

Rough Water

Nobody wants to lose a friend, especially someone who has been there for you through hard times. Danny and Sheldon were intimately connected, sharing the same passion of being underwater. Despite not meeting him in person, I felt the sadness in his words cut deep in my heart.

Everything happened so quickly. Danny first noticed that one of his testicles was swollen, so Sheldon was brought to the vet who recommended surgery. They found out that his spleen was swollen, too, so it had to be removed as well.

Sheldon had to stay in the city so he could be close to the vet for followups. He became restless during that time and Danny had asked the vet if he could bring Sheldon back to Anilao, Batangas so he could enjoy swimming again, to which they got a yes.

The first weekend back in Anilao, they both spent the whole afternoon just enjoying the sea, with Danny carrying and hugging him while they were in the water.

Danny had to leave that weekend for work and was devastated to come back two weeks later to a sick Sheldon. Naturally, he felt angry — he made sure to call everyday to check on Sheldon, expecting to be informed of his worsening illness.

Parting is such Sweet Sorrow

Sheldon was rushed to the vet and tested positive for distemper. It had been widespread in Anilao, unbeknown to Danny at the time. They brought him to a vet in Manila, but he was already having spasms.

“Deep inside, I only wanted what was best for him”, Danny said.

The vet informed them that dogs could recover from distemper, but Sheldon’s immunity was already far too compromised. Sheldon passed away.

Danny told me that just looking at the questions I wrote for him already made him cry. I wanted to cry at that time, too. I could not imagine my life without my own sweet pup.

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s October 2018 issue.