This blog is addressed to you, the best dog in the world, and not to the best day of the week. Not a day goes by (especially a Sunday) that we don’t remember you. Every quirk, every habit, every gesture of yours has been etched into our memories to be cherished forever. You were always a patient listener; looking at me with eyes that seemed to understand; vehemently shaking your head whenever I wished you’d say no; noisily snorting to express your indignation. So wherever you are, I’m sure you’ll gladly lend an ear to this little story of yours, shaking your head and snorting at appropriate times.
You were one out of a litter of seven, and all of you had been imaginatively named after the seven days of the week.
Your parents, Rocky and Fluffy, lived with a family right across my house. Your mother was part German Shepherd and part Indian Hound, and your rather severe looking father was a purebred German Shepherd. The perks of being best friends with the family’s daughter meant that I could come to the house and play with you puppies and your parents at any time. Unfortunately, the family had to move to another city in a few months’ time and all you puppies had to be put up for adoption. You, however, were directly adopted by a family living nearby.
I had been entrusted with the responsibility of taking you to your new home.
I had to run after you on the day you were supposed to go to your new home. You were six weeks old. You couldn’t wait to explore the world around you, almost getting run over by a Sunny Zip in the process. I had actually fainted (quite dramatically so, losing my balance and holding on to a rather fragile shrub which collapsed right with me) when I finally got hold of you.
You went to your new home which was not very far from mine, and I handed your little squirming, curious, puppy-self over, wishing the best for you, hoping to keep bumping into you during your walks.
Your parents and my friend moved away; and without the racket that Fluffy and Rocky created, the colony was rendered rather quiet. A year went by. One day, as I was passing through, I saw you, all grown up, outside the main gate of your house, wailing your lungs out, pleading to be let in.
You had been abandoned by your adoptive family. People walking nearby confirmed this, saying that you had been waiting to be let in since the past two days, and the family, for some reason, had decided not to care for you anymore.
That scene was unbelievably heartbreaking.
That was when my brother and I decided to break our ‘no-pets’ rule and take you in.
Your fur was a mixture of gold, brown and black, and you had one floppy ear. You were the spitting image of your father. Except for your eyes. You had your mother’s eyes. You were basically the canine equivalent of Harry Potter.
You had come to us physically fit, all your vaccinations in order, but you suffered from separation anxiety and had an aversion to water. (Not hydrophobia, you just didn’t like getting wet at all). You could not bear being tied up, even for a minute. You would seem extremely distressed and start howling, so we had decided never to tie you up.
You also had weird chewing habits, with a special fascination for seat covers. You repeatedly tore up the seats of various vehicles owned by various people living in the society. We would brace ourselves every time the doorbell would ring, because beyond the door there would always be an irate person holding up a thoroughly chewed up seat cover. You did this to three vehicles of the same person five times, until one day he noticed that you had never laid a paw on our vehicles, even when they were within a perfectly chewable range. Even we had not noticed that. You showed your loyalty in the weirdest ways.
Owing to an ultimatum from your seat cover attack victims that we either send you away or keep you tied up at all times, we chose the former, because we couldn’t imagine tying you up even for a minute; we never would have subjected you to something that you were traumatised about.
So my crestfallen brother took you to a shelter and came back to a dejected me.
The next two days were spent in abject misery -me not talking and my brother not watching the television, both otherwise unattainable objectives, according to our parents. After coming back from school on the third day, I noticed the tip of your tail peeking out from under our car.
You had come back! You had actually sniffed your way back home! Even the harried seat cover attack victim could not find words to express his discontent when he saw your exiled self back home in two days.
You mercifully seemed to have acquired wisdom during your exile and had stopped chewing on anything that wasn’t food.
Remember how you used to chase scooters all the time? And when the person used to stop and scream, “Kiska kutta hai?”, you would proudly run towards an exasperated, “wanting-to-dig-a hole-and hide-forever” – me and prance around, wagging your tail. I’ve faced countless strangers who’d tell me what a menace you were to the society and how it would be best to send you away. I would listen to them and do what teenagers usually do with unasked-for advice: ignore it. One of your chase – victims one day decided to return the favour and chase you back. You learned your lesson after that.
Having said that, I don’t want to sound as if we let you become a menace and cause inconvenience to everyone around. We disciplined you using your bête noire: Water. You hated the feeling of water on your body so much that just seeing me fill up a mug with water would make you meekly go to your favourite place- our verandah, curl up and sigh. (Were you a cat in your pichla janam? That would explain me finding you one afternoon sitting amicably with a stray cat, having a silent conversation about Dog knows what.) But that doesn’t mean we never had to use water to calm your sometimes-hyper-excited-self down. I remember a scene I had stumbled upon in the backyard; my father, with a mug of water in his hand; you facing him, both looking intently into each other’s eyes. Father had you cornered, he knew you couldn’t escape; he propelled the mug forward, except that he followed a catenary curve during the motion, and ended up spectacularly drenching himself. You escaped unscathed.
I had laughed uncontrollably then, and you’d had a happy glint in your eye and a doggie-grin on your face.
You loved your freedom. The gate wasn’t a barrier for you, because you had learned to jump over our four point five tall feet compound wall. And when you couldn’t decide what to do, you simply used to just literally sit on the wall.
When you weren’t jumping over walls and roaming around doing important doggie errands, you were an amazing guard dog. You would sit near whatever door my mother forgot to close when she used to be alone at the house. You would growl whenever any stranger would come, making them aware of your presence. You used to get confused about how to behave around a food delivery person, however. A stranger carrying food. Stranger. But food.
Delicious smells that tickled your olfactory receptors, but also the scent of a potentially suspicious intruder. So you would resort to a weird “I-want-the-food-to-come-in-but-not-you” dance around the person, growling and wagging your tail at the same time, thoroughly terrifying him. The food delivery people still asked, “Kutta hai kya” before coming in, for a complete year after you were gone.
The way you welcomed us every time we came back home from somewhere was delightful. Father used to get a special welcome from you everyday, with you running around him, barking even at sparrows if there were no potential threats to bark at, happily showing him that you were indeed a good boy.
You would get super excited during Diwali. You would assume my elaborate Rangoli to be a welcome mat and would comfortably sit on it, and then sport a colourful bottom for the rest of the day. You also would love to venture out on Diwali night with an excited gleam in your eye. When all other dogs would strive to remain indoors, you would happily go out on your own. I used to beg to you, would even offer you to sit on the new Rangoli ( which would be drawn after the destruction of the previous one) if that was what it took to make you stay in, but you would never listen. My family thought that you had defective ears that saved you from the din those firecrackers created, but I knew your ears were perfectly fine; you just had a fascination for pyrotechnics.
You would come back home after the commotion had died and go to sleep peacefully, all curled up in your favourite winter blanket that I still don’t have the heart to throw away.
You would stash extra food in some super secret place. I would see you carrying it in your mouth and taking it somewhere. Curiously, I decided to follow you one day, because an Indian tenth grader has nothing important to do in the month of February. You saw me walking behind you, so you stopped and looked at me with pleading eyes that softly requested me to go back. So I did. I still don’t know where your hidey hole was. I like to imagine that you were a Robin Hood of sorts for your stray dog friends.
You started getting sick often as you grew older. You would skip meals, sleep all day, have a sad look in your eyes that would rarely go away. Trips to the vet didn’t help much. I remember a day when you had become so weak that you did not even have the energy to drink water. I had to administer it to you using a plastic dropper.
You had isolated yourself during your final days. The pain in your soft brown eyes was too raw to watch. You would still make feeble attempts to wag your tail when you would see us coming.
I could not find you at all on the New Year’s Eve of 2011. I looked for you everywhere. I finally found you on the terrace of our building, lying down, looking terribly tired and lost. You feebly licked my hand and I knew that it was time to let you go. I came down crying and told my father to call the vet. Just then, I saw you. You had climbed down the stairs and come to our backyard. My father gave you a little milk, and you surprisingly lapped it up. I gave you a biscuit, and you ate it, too. You then drank some water and started to walk out towards the gate. Worriedly, I started to follow you, but you turned around and had the same, softly pleading look in your eyes that requested me not to come after you. That final look of yours is something that I can never forget. It displayed love and gratitude, and a silent plea to let you go. So I opened the gate for you, knowing that you wouldn’t jump over the wall ever again. My brother was coming back home at the same time, and he saw you walking towards a temple that you usually frequented for playing. That was the last time anybody saw you alive.
We spent New Year’s Eve in utter darkness because of a blackout. The darkness mirrored our moods. We were trying to come to terms with the fact that we might never see you again. We only hoped you knew that we’d done everything we could have to give you a happy life in the six years that you had lived with us, and we loved you more than you could have ever imagined.
The dogs started howling after the customary New Year firecrackers had died out, and their stricken laments told us that you had finally passed on; but I’m sure as sunrise that you did not miss a final display of pyrotechnics.