Lalu, my best buddy

It was another hot summer evening. Board exams were over and there was no summer homework to worry about. Life was a dream. Of course the exam’s results were a terrifying black cloud, but at about 2 months away, it was still a very small and distant cloud. I was happy to do nothing, just whiling away time; had so much of it hand, oh¬†those wonderful days ūüė¶

All of sudden the quiet shattered. Barks, whines and cries rang out in the entire neighbourhood. My grandfather (Papaji), the patron saint of all abandoned animals raced out, followed by his army of helpers (all of us children), wielding sticks, pails of water, muzzles, leashes, treats and what not. A dog fight was at hand and these were our weapons. The sight that greeted us was gruesome. A little white and brown colored pup lay dead, brutally mangled. Three small ¬†tan-colored puppies were cowering in fear as Jinda advanced towards them. Jinda was the alpha dog of the community’s resident dog pack. He was fiercely possessive of his territory and often went overboard in his attempts to protect it. But his is a story for another day. Jinda had obviously killed the pup and intended to mete out a similar fate to the other pups too. But that was not happening today. Papaji had arrived.

One loud, stern shout from papaji and Jinda was instantly transformed into a meek, obedient dog. With the fight being over, it was time for a salvage-cleanup operation. Some carried the surviving three puppies back home while the rest got busy with the burial and thorough cleaning of the crime scene. After a brief and tearful ceremony, the little pup was laid to rest and a small plant planted on the burial site, to mark his presence. Once home, we found two of the pups, a male and a female had happily eaten the food offered and were busy playing. The third, a small male, had hidden himself under a chair and was refusing to come out. The poor thing was shivering and obviously petrified.

But for some reason, the minute I stretched my hand out to him, he latched on to my fingers. And in that moment, forged a bond that has lasted more than 15 years. It is a bond that has survived my erratic university schedules, the arrival and death of Tiger (his best friend and my dog brother), my marriage and subsequent ‘flying the coop’.

I left him behind at my mum’s when I went away to university and again when I got married. I have been adopted by other dogs. He took over from Jinda and become a terror. Many things have changed. But the equation we share hasn’t. We are equals, like best friends, I don’t boss him and he doesn’t boss me. As and how the situation demands we stand up for each other.

He has rescued me from many unfriendly dogs and I, him from similar humans. See I have to try to interact with any mongrel I meet. Now most mutts are friendly creatures, likely to reciprocate. But a few are not. Those are likely to want to growl or snap at you. But if you have a growling, menacing, dangerous looking dog with you, it helps. Lalu was that dog and he played it to the hilt. Now he is not.

Age has now caught up with him. The strong dog who would match me step for step on long brisk walks, now has to stop and rest after a few paces. A turn around the block is just about all he can manage. His senses of smell, sight and hearing have all been compromised. But what has remain unchanged is the bond we share.

He still is the first to know when I visit mum. He recognizes my car and howls to let the whole neighbourhood known. We have a routine. I spend my first few minutes ‘chatting’ with him. He introduces me to all the newcomers in his world, people, pups, kittens, toys, pet peeves… Then he leads me into the house, lets ma know and settles down for a nap, exhausted by all the activity. Leaving is an equally noisy affair. Loud, very loud protests and thorough investigations of my car are all part of his farewell.

I cannot imagine a visit to ma’s without Lalu, but I know that day isn’t too far. I pray each day that it not be today.

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Simba, in love with car rides…

Simba is 5 and loves car rides. Whether he knows you or not, if your car door happens to be open and he sees it, he will jump in. He does not really expect a long winding joy ride, just a few meters down the road and back is enough. It is a really strange obsession of his, one I discovered when he almost plowed me down to jump into my car just as I was getting out of it. But let me backtrack a bit here. Introduce Simba properly.

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Simba is a German Shepherd and quite a big one. He belongs to one of my parents’ oldest friends, Sudhir and Pushpa Kulkarni. They have only recently returned home, so I met Simba as a full-grown dog. No actually if I think hard, I did met him, once, when he was a baby. But he was in a crazy mood and I was in full wedding finery, not the ideal greet and meet moment. So I think I can skip that one.

Simba is a friendly fellow, does not hold any grudges. He generally enjoys people, especially being petted and fed, the sweeter the better. His fierce demeanour bellies a sweet disposition. He has Pushpa aunty firmly wrapped around his little claw and uses it to get out of many a sticky situation.

My first (second) introduction to Simba was almost two years ago. My mother and I went to visit the Kulkarnis one afternoon. One second I was getting out of my car, greeting Sudhir uncle, the next I was shoved back in by this huge black and tan cloud of fur. Instinctively my eyes shut and I saw a fast forward of my life’s montage. But very quickly, warm breath, cold drool and the gear shift poking me at an odd angle, brought me back to reality. Looking up I saw a grinning, drooling 50 kg dog sitting on me and expectantly gazing down at me. I was lost, blank, no idea what to do.

And then I remembered. My sister had warned me to be careful when I got out of the car, to watch out for Simba. I was told to see if Simba was outside, to give him a short car ride and only then get out of the car. I forgot and paid for it. But in my defense, growing up Sudhir uncle was one of my favorites and I was excited to see him after so long, I forgot. So Simba reminded me. Not too gently. For a week every time I sat, I remembered.

But back to the tale at hand. It really was not Simba’s fault either, he thought I was leaving with giving him his ride, and he of course could not let that happen. So he acted as any self respecting car ride loving dog would. Plain and simple. Once he was inside there was no way he was letting me out the driver’s side. So I crawled out the passenger side door, rounded the car and gingerly settled on the driver’s seat. Simba got his ride, I got a tingly sore backside and everyone got a good laugh, still does. I doubt I am ever going to be live this one down.

Do you have any crazy tales to share?

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The tale of her name

She is lame, only literally. Her right hand, front leg for the more literal among you, hangs a little odd. She must have gotten into a nasty scrap as a pup. There several other old injury marks on her body to back this up. All in all she is left with some bald streaks on her right torso and a limp in her right leg.

We couldn’t call her sweet dog forever!! My sister and I didn’t mind but everyone else insisted she needed a name. So started the naming saga. It was a free for all, only condition she should like/respond to it.

Out came the usual suspects, sweetie, Cutie, Goldie, Bella, Biscuit… but not even an acknowledgement. So mum suggested we try Gujarati names. It was the language most people talked to her in, so maybe she would like those better… So it was round two, Gujarati names; Dholi, Bhurie (both mean fair-skinned), Rupa¬†(beautiful), Laadli(much-loved), Sukhi (happy)… Response, nothing, zilch. ..

We were all going a little nuts. Each insisting she responded to the name they suggested, knowing fully well she did no such thing. All this time the lady in question was quietly trying to steer us in the right direction. No one was picking up her hints, but she was not giving up.

Then one day I was speaking to someone on the phone and noticed her perking up every time I mentioned ‘cookie’. She would turn and look at me, as if asking “yes, what?” I was mildly amused by her behavior and mentioned it to my husband. He too had observed something similar a while ago.

So we decide to try ‘Cookie’. Lo and behold, up she gets and walks up to us wagging her tail. We could not believe it, ‘sweet dog’ preferred the name¬†Cookie. And she waited almost three weeks before we wised up to it.

In India, cookie is not the word of preference, it is biscuit. Where and when she heard it, only god and she know. But hear she did, and picked it for herself. And with infinite patience guided us to it too. And a good choice too, it is. She is cookie colored, is sweet as one, is sometimes slightly tart and at times comes with a sprinkle of spice. Oh and she is definitely cooky!!! So the proverbial shoe is in fact a sock and fits on whichever foot you put it.

What is the tale of your doggie darling’s name? Do share…

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Cookie, a brief insight

cookieCookie is a mixed breed dog, about 2 years old. She adopted me and very graciously allows me to live in her home!

The thing is about 6 months ago, after having ‘seen’ about 20 odd houses we finally found a place we loved enough to call home. That there were a whole lot of healthy looking community dogs, sealed the deal. What we did not know was that one of them actually lived on our property! The morning after most of our furniture came in, we came home to discover a beautiful golden-colored dog sleeping on our swing. She was delightfully friendly and very thin, so I offered her food.

Now, since I still did not live on the property, I did not have any doggie treats to offer her. So I offered her what I had, roti, rice-dal and chips. She took an obligatory sniff and lick of everything but was not really interested. Then Ramesh, our man Friday and in-house dog whisperer offered her biscuits. It was like someone brought out a jukebox. She broke into a crazy jiggle dance, jumping all over the place and all of us. She devoured, ate is too sedate a word, multiple packets in one sitting. We still did not realize that she was a permanent resident.

Each day we went and found her waiting for us. So we asked around. Turned out she was new to the area and got beaten by the other dogs, if she dared venture out of our gates!!! Could not let that happen so we, effectively, had a pet now.Or so we thought.

As she grew more confident of her place in our family and our home, she began dictating her terms. She is very clear about her likes and dislikes and not at all shy about ‘educating’ us about them. She goes about it very gently, but leaves absolutely no room for any compromises or negotiations.

I have been around dogs all my life, but she is unlike any I have met. She sometimes makes me think she is a cat, stuck in a dog’s body. You know the joke, cat’s think that because you love them , take care of them and feed them, they must be god while dogs think you to be the gods for the same reasons? Cookie seems to follow the cat’s logic. She even picked her own name!!!

Cookie has changed our lives in very many ways. She fills our days with lots of joy and laughter. I want to share a bit of my Cookie with you. Maybe bring a smile to you too… And maybe you will share your doggie darlings with me too…

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