Goddess of frolic
”The dog was created especially for children. He is the God of frolic.” so says Henry Ward Beecher and would you believe it? We had our own little goddess of frolic. Just ours.
Most people don’t understand how someone can grieve so heavily over a lost pet. Society is just not comfortable with death, and grief. And when you are talking about an animal, even if a beloved pet, they really don’t get it. Your grievous loss is easily dismissed in their minds (“Good grief, it’s just a cat”).
From time to time, people tell me,
“lighten up, it’s just a dog,”
or, “that’s a lot of money for just a dog.”
They don’t understand the distance traveled,
the time spent, or the costs involved for
“just a dog.”
Some of my proudest moments have come about with
“just a dog.”
Many hours have passed and my only company was
“just a dog,”
but I did not once feel slighted.
Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by
“just a dog,”
and in those days of darkness,
the gentle touch of “just a dog”
gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day.
If you, too, think it’s “just a dog,”
then you will probably understand phases
like “just a friend,” “just a sunrise,” or
“just a promise.”
“Just a dog” brings into my life the very essence
of friendship, trust, and pure unbridled joy.
“Just a dog” brings out the compassion and
patience that make me a better person.
Because of “just a dog” I will rise early,
take long walks and look longingly to the future.
So for me and folks like me, it’s not “just a dog”
but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams
of the future, the fond memories of the past,
and the pure joy of the moment.
“Just a dog” brings out what’s good in me and
diverts my thoughts away from myself and the
worries of the day.
I hope that someday they can understand that
it’s not “just a dog”
but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps
me from being “just a man.”
So the next time you hear the phrase “just a dog.”
just smile, because they “just don’t understand.”
“We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own, live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached.
Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way.
We cherish memory as the only certain immortality,
never fully understanding the necessary plan.”
Hearing a faint whine when there is none…the pitter patter of paws just around that corner….the sounds of digging in some corner of the house….that flash of black and white..did we just see her?
A whistling yawn….the kind she gave whenever she wanted to avoid a scolding…we just heard it didn’t we?
Stepping on something , removing your foot with a horrified look and then saying sorry baby ..thinking you have accidentally stepped on her tail…and then looking down and realizing that its just an old shoe box you have stepped on..
Mom waking up at night sometimes.. wondering if her nanhi just called her…
shifting your feet in your sleep so that she would be more comfortable…but she isnt there..the edge of the bed is empty..
Lying half asleep on the sofa and feeling this weight on your feet…just the way it felt when she would give a sigh and put her head there…
Dad leaving that last chapati for her still.
Younger bro saving a piece of his breakfast even now.
Mom sometimes…most times talking to her with a smile… bissi(biscuit) chahiye?…then a teary….be happy Nanhi ..wherever you are
A who used to say fondly..I come home just to meet her.
A would send birthday cards for her from IMA. She would sniff it like crazy because it smelled of her bhaiyya.
Sending cards to A when he was training. I and S trying our hardest to get Ash’s pawprint on the card.:)
My Nanhi. Our Nanhi
She was not just a pet. Not just an animal. And I say this not because I loathe these words. On the contrary, if we, as a race, could be more like them we would be much better off.
I say this because she was not THE DOG. You know..the kind where one professes deep love for one’s furry friend and yet the furry friend is relegated to a corner of the house.
One passes them by without even realizing how that little being’s eyes are following you hopefully. Maybe you would play?
Maybe you will give a caress? A pat? A little treat to eat..in your palm? maybe?The tail wags a little in anticipation…
Hope…infinite hope in those eyes that see your soul.
Have you ever noticed?
Keeping ‘them’ is not just about giving them three meals a day. What of the love that they need and deserve? More than any human I know? Of the medical care they need? Medical care that goes beyond the ‘necessary’ rabies injection that we give for ‘our safety’?
Story of almost every home I have visited. Almost. That word gives me hope. For, there are many, many homes where there is much love for them.
But none of these words for her.
When she wanted to play she would come and make sure she got your attention. The little brat that she was.:)
If someday her bowl had no water due to some minion’s fault (Minions=Us in her dictionary:)) ,she would bark the house down. Where is my water? Where? Where? where? A string of barks would ensue.
She would push the steel bowl with her paw till it rattled your head off and you were forced to come running to attend to the maharani.:)
If one scolded her too much she would head straight for dad. Peeping from behind his legs…daring you to come any closer…knowing fully well that her dad would take care of these irritating siblings of hers.
Why is she standing infront of the kitchen?
Must be nine.
And it always was. On the dot.
Sometimes..infact most times when the little maharani wanted khaana early because she felt too hungry and would hop around in irritation…..and sometimes when she got up really late in winters and ate late as well.
Eating habits were changed according to season. No ordinary girl this.:)
Its making me smile as I am writing this.
Memories. All of them. Such sunny, cheerful memories of her.
The sense of loss is still almost overwhelming at times. It sneaks up at the darnedest times, blind-siding me while I’m thinking bout something else.
Our pets accept us as we are, whatever mood we are in. It doesn’t matter if we’re wearing old sweats or having a bad hair day.
They don’t judge us – they just love us. It is enough for them that we feed them, and love them, and that we are there.
When we lose that unconditional love and acceptance, we lose a part of ourselves. We can feel as though we have no value, no one to care for, no one who cares for us.
Often, writing about those feelings can help get them out and keep them from festering inside you – the pain, the grief, the sadness, the anger.
Right now, I feel like there’s a hole in my heart – a big empty place in my chest – though maybe it’s not completely empty because it hurts so much. When my little friend died she took a piece of me with her.
Sometimes it feels like she took the best part.
…but I know that though it hurts right now, things will get better. Maybe not today, maybe not even tomorrow, but they will get better.
As when any loved one dies, the world goes on, the sun comes up, and we do, eventually, stop hurting. We never forget them, but if we find ways to heal, we do learn to remember them without the pain.
We find we can celebrate all the wonderful moments we shared, and one day we may even find room in our hearts to share with another the love they so freely shared with us.
Whenever her vet would come home to give the yearly injections she would bark and keep backing away…it was cute to watch..
She liked him.
Hospital smell on him? Not so much.
Never uttered so much as a squeak when he gave the injections. She would instead wag her tail even more wildly as if the injections were some sort of a treat.
Mad loony…psycho she is Bro would shake his head and say with a fond grin.
Mom would proudly tell dad…none of our kids ever troubled us during their childhood hospital visits and even this one doesn’t. Dad would smile as fondly.
This from a couple who had never kept pets. Had grown up around them but never had any of their own. The first time they had had pets of their own was when their little kids got two rabbits home many years back. Mom had scolded and then after finding a good (and better ) home for them had gifted them to a more caring person.
(At the time the three of us thought she was Cruella Deville. )
This couple which was so apprehensive about getting a little one home.
And when they finally did, they fell head over heels in love.
They gave their hearts forever. They became new parents once again.
You are not crazy if you feel the spirit of your animal close to you, hear them speak to you, or see their image. These experiences are normal and common, both among people who’ve lost their animal loved ones and those who’ve lost their human loved ones. Some call these experiences hallucinatory, or paranormal. Because this term connotes “almost, but not quite normal” I prefer to use the terms metaphysical or spiritual for these experiences. The dictionary defines para as “closely resembling, or almost,” and defines meta as “more comprehensive or transcending.” Feeling the energy or the spirit of our deceased loved ones is not an almost normal experience, it’s a normal experience–a comprehensive, transcendent experience of the heart, not an aberration of the mind. Love doesn’t die, only matter dies, so of course we can still feel the loving presence of our animals in various ways. Let it comfort and soothe you.
Shona, Nanhi, Beta, Golu, Sundar…all these and more…names that we called her by.
Khaana chahiye? (want to eat?) Tamatar(tomato), Anda(egg), dhoodhu(milk), Bissi(biscuit), Bone, Stick, ball, khelna hai?(want to play?)
Ghoomne chalein? Walkie walkie?
All words that she understood and loved.
pitti ho jaayegi( you will get a whack) was greeted with a bored yawn. She knew exactly which ones were just empty threats.
Sit, lie down and stay were treated with disdain and done (once in a blue moon if she ‘felt’ like it) with this huge sigh as if we had asked her to move a mountain.
The implication was ,”my idiotic bhaiyya and didi ..I am doing this just once. No more of this silliness for another month. Capiche?”
We stopped after a while. It felt as if a circus training was going on. And that, we all hated..
So the list of ‘commands’ that she knew remained confined to 4.
But her vocabulary? Oh boy! That was amazing. The multilingual baby could understand so much.
Those who worked in this field and knew how things were to be done were amazed.
After some questions about her childhood and the kind of environment she grew up in, they informed us that a household that spends all of its time with these little ones and more importantly talks to them all the time….involving them in every conversation…taking care of them like a human baby ..in such a household they were going to be at their brilliant best.Their minds would be constantly thinking.
Thinking? we wondered.
Yeah mischief 24×7 mom said with a laugh.
Didi ko bula ke laao. (call didi)..She would come straight to my room and stand next to me..and promptly lie down to get a tummy rub. Having forgotten all about the purpose of coming.
Bhaiyya kahaan hai? A kahaan hai?At first she would get all excited. Bhaiyya is here? A? Where ?where? her eyes would say. She would run around the house trying to find him.Going to each room, , standing at the main door, Peering from the balcony.
Mom would get irritated with us. Mere bachche ko tang mat karo ! (dont trouble my kid) she would fume.
Koi nahi hai shona. Jhooth bol rahe hain.(There’s no one darling. They are lying) She would tell Ash in a soothing tone.
From then on Ash learnt that if something needed to be corroborated , mom was the person to ask.
So the next time we said bhaiyya aaya hai kya? (Has Bhaiyya come? Or Dekho chooha/Chipkali !! ( see! a rat/lizard! ) Ash would quietly look at mom , mom would say jhoothi jhoothi baat nanhi…so jaao (all lies lil one, go off to sleep)
And she would go off to sleep with a sigh. Reassured that her mom would never lie to her.
Shundar kis ko pyaari chahi? These and other such words would refer to getting her ears fondled or her tummy rub or a body massage on her delicate little body…and she knew the words for these rather well:)
Afternoons spent reading Marley and me to her. Hey this loony beats you hands down. Wait! no! no! You have done crazier stuff than this! Her look said,”what in god’s name are you yammering about?” She would give a bored yawn. Wondering if her didi had lost it.
Ash prancing around in delight. Ecstatic at this group dancing that was going on.
Me. Picking up her front paws and dancing with her.
Making up loony tunes and singing along . Her woofs added a whole new dimension to the songs:)
Playing hide and seek with her. When her brows would furrow in this cute manner and she would apply her brains trying to find us in every nook and cranny.
Those hilarious times when she would come trotting to me with a chew stick or a bone and plop it at my feet, looking at my plate and saying lets exchange our food shall we?
Baby talk in the house. Everyone was a baby since the last 10 years 9 months. She made us that way. Talking to her in a lilting tongue.
Memories…so many of them…
Mom saying with so much love in her voice….choti bachchi kahaan hai?
(Where is the little one?)
The little one’s eyes shining with love and her tail going thump thump .The brat was feeling too lazy to get up.:)
Then there was this one incident. Most don’t believe me. Very few ….the ones who have a little one of their own do.
Lazy winter afternoon….a quiet house…
Ash lying down and happily doing something with her chew-stick…lost in her own world. Eating it like it was manna from heaven..holding it delicately between her front paws….
Mom sitting next to her and reading something…
I, sneaking up behind Ash till I was ‘this’ close to her ears and then shoutingASH in the loudest voice imaginable.:D
She jumped out of her skin. Got up, ran to mom and then turned around to look at who the enemy was.
She saw me and gave this hurt look. (Madame was a drama queen)
Sayingyou! I didn’t expect this from you. Not bhaiyya but you ? My didi??
Cajoling her to look at me ..saying..Alle baby..sorry….…..getting a scolding from mom as well..why did you trouble Nanhi?
After some pampering(lots) and more treats to eat, she was happy again.
An hour passes…….
Mom’s watching tv. I am reading a book. Ash is nowhere to be seen.
Till mom sees Ash stealthily making her way like some WW 2 soldier over to where her didi was engrossed in a book.
Mom puts down the remote and leans forward for a better view. She grins . She has a good idea of whats coming. Noone knows Nanhi better than she does.
Ash sneaks up till she is just a breath away from my ears and goes WOOF! Right IN my ear.
Ever heard a Dal’s woof ? Deep, intimidating, loud and scary as hell. Specially when its about two inches from your ear.
My heart stops beating for a second and the book goes flying out of my hands.
Mom is too busy laughing. Holding her sides and saying well done nanhi!
Nanhi gives a lopsided grin. One that says aint I the smart one? Mess with me will you?
Her eyes shine with absolute delight. mission accomplished they say.
And she proudly trots back to her original place. Tail up. Royal walk in place.
Satisfied with her ‘revenge’. The badla is over.
Mom gives another treat to her Nanhi. For a job well done.:)
This was retold by mom to both bros and dad later. She still laughs hilariously over this.
Nanhi was right at the top of her class.Her mischievous mind was forever cooking up something new .:)
Hours were spent pondering over which colour of collar to buy. Her first one was blue. Baby blue.
Then a black one ..then a red collar.
She would still look like a pup when we would put that blue one after so many years.
Mom and dad carefully choosing her things.
This will hurt her. This will pinch her neck. OMG!This is too barbaric! People make their little ones wear this? Mom asked in horror upon seeing a collar with spikes.
Which bowl? Which toy? This ball will get stuck in her throat. This one is too soft. She will chew it to little bits and choke on them.
Her coat which was chosen by mom after hours of poring over the choices.
Maroon would suit her right?
Yes ma. I wailed. Anything to get us home.
Mom took her own sweet time. After all, it was about her youngest baby.
Mom and Ash coming with us till the school bus stop.
Ash would be fine till we boarded the bus.
THEN she would go mad barking her head off.
Her little heart must have been terrified we realized.
To see her bhaiyyas and didi being devoured by this gigantic monster?
She was all in a hackles rising and teeth baring mode. This little ‘pup warrior’ of 6 months.:)
Younger bro S who was barely 12 , swelling with pride when the kids in the bus went alle…so cute…kiska pup hai? I want to play with him.
S correcting them with a deliberately adopted casual tone ..Its not a him . Its a her. She is the new baby.
Mom taking Ash for a walk and when her Nanhi did her ‘thing’:D Mom going ga ga and saying Good girl! What a good girl you are! Achchi bachchi! mera shona.
In the hope that this would become a regular feature and the little one would be toilet trained.
It was another matter that other people out for their evening walks thought that the lady with a dalmatian was a nutty one.:D
All of us sitting in the garden with Ash playing in the middle. Sniffing new things and chasing butterflies.
Suddenly she started digging.
I went to stop her because
her paws seemed too soft for the hard earth.(okay thats a lie.:) I went to stop her because knowing the little princess I knew the whole garden would be a MESS.:)
Dad stopping me and saying let her do what she likes. She is enjoying it.
Withing a span of 10 minutes the entire garden had been dug up. I and bros giving dad that horrified look Now what?
Mom saying with a twinkle in her eyes…..maybe she was looking for a bone?
And then my parents simply get up…cool as you please…pick Ash up and head inside with a make sure those holes are filled up thrown over their shoulder.
I and both bros muttering something about being slaves to this pup and getting down to work.
Then this incident in school. I was in 11th. Best friend (the one who gifted Ash to me) was in my class as well.
The class teacher making me stand up asking why my assignments had not been done.
I, explaining to her earnestly (too earnestly) how I had a small pup, how they were like babies and how I stayed up all night coz the pup was ill.
Okay sit down.
After a few minutes, D( my best friend) being asked Why haven’t you submitted your assignments D?
D saying in all seriousness…I have three pups and a new mother at home and they were ill yesterday and I had to stay up to look after them.
The teacher giving both of us the most incredulous look possible.
Looking at me, then looking at D.
”I took my pup from her. the rest of the pups are still with her”.I tried to explain helpfully.
The teacher didn’t say a word.
A grim Okay..
After 15 minutes it was the turn of S.
D’s family friend and our classmate as well.
He got up and started explaining…ma’am I have a little two moth old pup and he is just not eating right…
By this time our teacher had had enough.
Three kids in the class and all of em having pup troubles?
She marched the three of us outside .
Don’t lie to me. Think about your lies long and hard.
The three of us laughing like loons after she had left.
We should have thanked god I suppose that D had only given pups to two of her friends .
Any more and our parents would have been called.
The first time she barked. We all came running. Who barked ? we all looked at each other. Wondering if it was our baby ‘speaking’ for the first time or some other dog that was nearby.
We tried to peer outside the kitchen garden.
The little imp busy peering with us too.:)
Then she barked again. Just like that.
Mom fussing over her like crazy.
Alle mera bachcha barkie barkie karta hai?
Phir se karo. Phir se karo nanhi.
And then a whole lot of gibberish cooing sounds mom made over her little baby.
And then a whole lot of treats for her.
Hide bones, chew sticks, balls, toys,…you name it…
The lesson learnt by Nanhi’s brilliant brain?
Bark and you get a treat.
It doesn’t matter if there is nothing worth barking, just bark.
And voila! Purpose solved! Treats galore.
And so till the last day of her 11 years, she would go to the balcony or the front door or just anywhere in general (sometimes while standing right infront of us) and give a huge woof and then come and look at us expectantly.
There ! I did that favorite thing of yours. NOW can I get something people?
Bro would grin and sayyou naatak! What will you do if a thief actually comes?
But madam was very particular about her precious jaan.
On normal days she would bark on and off for trivial reasons. A bird, a squirrel, a pigeon…a cat…anything that moved… the watchman who would be draped in a blanket from top to bottom in winters would arouse her suspicions the most(just about the only intelligent thought she had)
Unlike some animals that are sensitive to loud noises on Diwali, madam would go to the balcony and bark at every cracker she would see in the sky.
We had to keep her confined inside on Diwali so she would be safe from stray rockets.
But other than on diwali, if there ever was a loud boom/noise/sound…THEN out little warrior would sidle upto mom and would walk glued to her…as if saying errmmmm…you check out this weird sound first. I am right behind you mom.:D
But she preferred the other bed.
Her little razai (quilt) that mom made for her and her bed that dad picked out himself.
Not the regular ready made bed for dogs. But one that was made rectangular so unlike other dogs she would have room to spread herself and sleep.
These round beds look too small for her.
She wont always sleep curled up will she?Why the round shape for dogs then? Dont these manufacturers know dogs? Silly guys!! Mom would say all this in one single breath.
But Ash would get bored of both after sometime.,
The catch was that her bed and quilt would appear ‘tempting’ to her ONLY IF she saw one of us taking it away (presumably for our own use in her mind)
Suddenly the same things started appearing very attractive to her.
The same would happen when she wouldn’t eat something.
She wasn’t eating a biscuit?
One of us would take another biscuit..take it near our mouth and pretend to eat it.
Suddenly the little brat wanted the biscuits desperately.:)
She liked icecream. But vanilla only please. The rest were sniffed and looked at with a ‘so beneath me‘ look.
Many had advised us (dog experts as well) to feed her after we had eaten. The logic being that one should have ‘command’ over the situation and to not let the animal feel as if it was the master of the house.
Mom was horrified. Give her food after we have eaten?
While she is looking at us? Eat while she is still hungry?
That is nothing short of a sin! To not feed a hungry child is disgusting!
She was always fed on time (and before, after and in between meals:D)
Some saw her as simply ‘a dog’, some saw her as ‘just a pet’, some saw her as ‘a dalmatian’….the price tag danced around their head…intent always on asking us when she would have pups if ever …
Mom would look horrified …give my baby’s kids to these people?
She would somehow control her expression and then fume after the guests had left.
But ma! Ash is not going to have pups na.
I know but still the sheer gall of these people! Look at how they treat the dog they do have. And they want another little being!
Her mutterings would go on for an hour…or more..
Very few saw our little baby as we did.
I can count them on my fingers. Those who would go mad playing with her. Those who would talk to her. Those who would sit and give her a belly rub …sitting on the floor and giggling like mad at some antic of hers. Those who knew that she was upset with them. Or trying to say something to them with her eyes.
The family that gifted her to us. My best friend’s parents. Who first came to our home to see how we were as a family. To see how much space we had. To see whether we were ‘animal people’.
They kept coming to check on their baby even afterwards.
Mom loved them for it. She would say this is how you take care of your little ones.
Ash’s mother who is still with them. Pebbles her name is. She is quiet and dignified. Her daughter on the other hand was pure looniness:)
We, who cant seem to pick up the courage to go and visit them.
How will we control our emotions when a refection of our beloved face comes in front of us?
They are mourning Nanhi too. They must be holding Pebbles a little closer at night.
There are so many memories of her.
Ash as a pup.
First day in our home.
Five human beings. All following one little pup around the house. It was hilarious to watch. If an outsider could have seen us that day.:)
Going to all the corners and doing her favourite thing;)
Dad asking in horror what IS she doing?
I, with all my bookish gyaan saying something about her marking her territory.
Dad responding with a wry she has to do that ALL OVER the house?
Ash’s little bed and her shivering in a corner. Mom worried as hell and racking her brains on what to cover her with. The little woollen cover was just not helping.
Mom’s best shawl…. ..that helped:D
Ash suckling in her sleep. Like a little baby.
Mom getting guilt pangs over it. Dad too.
MAJOR guilt pangs.
I and both brothers more worried about whether this would mean taking ‘our pup’ back to her mom.
Till finally to our relief , our Nanhi settled down a little more on the second day.
She suckled in her sleep till she was about a year old. And it got to mom each time.
We separated her from her mother! Mom would say with a guilty look.
But ma she had to be weaned.
We brought her home when she was about one and a half months old.
Ample time..healthy time period , the vet had assured us , to get the new baby home.
Hyperactive. Loony. Plain crazy was more like it.
She definitely didn’t take after her biological mom. Must be her dad then, we guessed.
Later the same lines in Marley and me would make me grin and ask her so you take after your dad huh? Why couldn’t you have taken after your mom? She would respond by looking at dad and mom as if saying
But my dad and mom are right here. See? Over there on the sofa
Puzzled at why I was talking about her mom and dad.
Mom and dad had made us promise one thing. She shouldn’t affect your studies. Apart from that spend all your time with her. But remember….
Yeah! studies should be purrfect! we would say with a sigh.
She was possessive about her family.
But she was most possessive about mom.
The moment any of us would go to mom and hug her tight and say ”yeh meri mamma hai.” , she would come running to push us away and have her mom all to herself.
Trying desperately to get her nose in between this tight group hug that she hated.
She wanted her mom all to herself.
Slippers would be chewed off. Not a trace of them left. Unless you looked for them in some hidden corner. (I personally think she was a mouse in her earlier birth)
The one whose slippers had been chewed off would walk around barefoot for a day or more. Serves you right! the others would say with glee. Its not her fault. Its yours. Why did you leave them on the floor?
Ash meanwhile grinning happily at having successfully devoured another slipper.
Slippers would be on top of wooden racks. Almirahs.. Anywhere but the floor.
I think some guests thought we were a mad family when they saw slippers on our table once. We had forgotten to pick it up before the guests entered:D)
Wood was her favorite. Bed legs would be gnawed at till someone came running. Worried if she had any splinters in her mouth.
Cheese boxes looked like they had been riddled with bullets.
We can make a lampshade out of this bro suggested helpfully.
Everything was meant to be put in her mouth according to her little puppy brain.
You sure she has no goats in her family? bro would say with a wry grin.
Playing madly in the living room and breaking one of mom’s favourite vase..one of a set of four. We three were horrified.
Till mom and dad came home and simply smiled.
Dad sat and glued the pieces together painstakingly.
These days we look at the vase fondly.
The vase…all glued together has become another precious memory of hers. A memory to be shared at family dinners and with guests.
Ash at a few months old suffering from high fever. Taking her to the vet and putting ice packs on that tiny body. Two assistants applying ice packs and dad, bro and I tearing up because she looked so helpless.
Ash at 8 months old and a swollen face and swollen ears…..Her silky floppy ears had become thick as sponge…as if a swarm of bees had attacked her. Panic in the house.
But we didn’t let her go out alone. She was with me the whole day mom said tearfully.
Dad coming from office , hurriedly changing his shirt and rushing his baby to the clinic.
An allergy from some plant, we later learnt from the vet.
But she never fell ill ever again. Only that high fever and allergy in her childhood.
All these years spent as if she aspired to to be the winner for the pup forever award. Not so much as a cold.
Little sniffles yes. But nothing major.
Till this year.
She underwent an operation for Pyometra on 5th July ’10.
Mom and I sat outside waiting for it to get over. Mom reciting a shloka to help calm her mind and holding a tiny picture of her god.
Right after the operation Ash woke up from her anesthesia …no grogginess..nothing…we helped her down from the table till she squirmed in our arms wanting to escape.
We realized that she wanted to walk.
The vet was amazed.
Is she all right ? we asked alarmed.
The vet said something on the lines of errr yeah! she is in perfect shape. And grinned looking at this sprightly ‘pup’ of 10 who had woken up from a surgery as if it was a light sleep.
She was babied like hell. Pampered beyond measure.
We couldn’t let her get her mouth near her stitches till they healed. So one of us had to be with her 24/7. How would we ensure the safety of the stitches?
Elizabeth collar was not available in the shops.
So we resorted to tee shirts and shirts the way the vet had suggested.
Our baby truly looked like one with her bandage.
Bit by bit she grew more active. One month passed like a breeze. We were convinced the worst was over.
Till 4th Aug.
When her left hind leg swelled a little.
We called the vet.
He came and checked her .
Pressed his fingers near the swelling.
When did we take her for a walk? When did her leg start swelling up?
This has something to do with an insect bite he said. Some injections and a few medicines later he told us,” It will go down in a day or two.”
The swelling went down.
And then it came back again on 7th Aug.
This time her leg had swelled even more. We called the vet again. He came , gave injections and medicines and took blood samples. Said something about pitted edema.
Mom asked with fear in her voice. What is that?
He replied it is either because of a weak heart…which can later lead to heart failure. Or it is a symptom of kidney failure. Once the blood tests come back from the lab we will be able to get a clearer picture..he said.
Mom persisted but will she get well? There is a cure na? Tears in her eyes and hopeful .
He simply said…no. No cure for kidney failure. With a weak heart she can survive on medication But Kidney failure? No cure.
So we prayed ..each one of us we prayed …we prayed to whomever we had faith in. We prayed that god please let it be a heart condition.
Called up the vet the next day. It was a Sunday. Around lunch time I remember.
BUN and creatinine levels are very high..he said. These are symptoms of kidney failure.
Silence for a few minutes.
Okay what do we do now? Some medicine ?Anything? What do we do?
Get her started on fluid therapy he said. The sooner the better.
Get her here today itself.
We picked her and took her to the clinic. She still was as inquisitive as ever. Wagging her tail all the time that they applied the IV. Wagging it even more when the vet gave her injections.
Waging it when other furry patients came to the clinic. Wagging it when she heard a bark or a meow trying desperately to crane her neck and see that little puppy in the corner.
Trying even more desperately to peer from between me and mom who formed a wall for her incase she got ideas about jumping off the table.
Fluid therapy the first day seemed like a breeze because she seemed the most energetic then. In the clinic.
Continue this for sometime. Fluid therapy is the only treatment in such cases.
We would come home with her. She would be dead tired. She would go off to sleep and wake up after a few hours. Then mom would feed her . Breaking her food into little morsels.. Coaxing her, cajoling her like a little kid.
On 9th the swelling in her legs got worse. While she was on IV we asked the assistant. You must have seen many such cases. How much time do they take to recover?
The assistant answered with a cheerful smile…Depends on each one. They are all different. But usually it takes about 12-14 days for the effects to be visible.
We felt a tiny hope.
But he must have said it to calm the fear in our voice, I now realize.
We came home on 9th Aug in the evening. Once again she was tired. Fluid therapy would drain her of any energy.
The whole family sat together and discussed while she slept between us. Oblivious to the world around her.
Should we go for a second opinion? This vet seems too unprofessional.
But what if going to another vet is a mistake? What if we mess this up? What if this vet is giving her exactly the right treatment?
Elder bro A was consulted over the phone.
Yes, lets go for a second opinion was the unanimous decision finally.
So we spoke to the second vet. Really amazing with animals we had been told. Works wonders in cases that seem hopeless.
The vet asked for the details on the phone. BUN level. Creatinine level. Treatment being given. Previous medical history.
These two vets..the husband wife duo knew our vet as well. They had full faith in our vet.
The treatment being given was exactly the right one they told us.
We felt reassured.
But can we please come to you tomorrow?On 10th?
We would still like you to take a look at her.
We took her on 10th morning.
The vet examined her. They both asked us to get an ultrasound done.
We took Ash to the lab.An assistant held her hind legs and I held her front ones.She was lying on her back. Her face was facing mine.
a gel was applied to her stomach.
The lab technician moved something that looked like a hand held massager over her tummy.
Those few minutes were one of her happiest ones.:)
She was in heaven. Her eyes were sparkling. A massage?such a soothing , cool one? Why dont you guys apply this gel thingamagic at home huh? ?I want to stay in this place forever ! she seemed to say.
We went back to the vet duo and showed them the reports. They pored over her medical file. …read and pondered over something.
Finally told us that her kidneys were in perfect shape. Nothing seemed abnormal on the ultrasound scan.
But that her blood reports showed that her creatinine and BUN levels were still high and so the fluid therapy should continue. And it should take place twice a day. For maximum effect.
They gave her the morning fluid therapy for 10th and advised us to get the evening one and all the ones thereafter with the first vet who was the one nearest our home and which as a consequence would mean less stress for our baby.
We were immensely relieved. The second opinion gave us solace.
It was raining heavily I remember. The heaviest rain of the season.We were stuck near Vasant Vihar.
We came back home at around 3 in the afternoon.
We were to take her for her evening therapy at 6. She slept the whole time.
We took her back to her vet. The one she knew and had started liking.
We showed all the reports to our vet . He saw them all and still looked as serious as before.
Didn’t you see the reports? I asked .
Yes, I did. But she is still in critical condition. She is not showing improvement the way she should. The swelling is spreading.
But her ultrasound shows normal kidneys.Look. Here. I took out the reports from her file.
Our vet didn’t say anything much. Then he took a moment.
Looked at her examined her, stroked her with affection and then looked at both of us…I and S..and quietly said….her chances are very slim. You have to be prepared for the worst.
We were just blank. Numb.
We knew I think….ever since he had first told us that it could be either a sign of heart failure or kidney failure…We knew…
When mom had cried that day..we knew..
But we were still unable to take it in..
This is why we had found our vet ‘unprofessional’. Because he gave us the facts instead of beating around the bush Because he had given us the truth and we had hated it..
Because when he had first told us that this had no cure we had raged at him after he was gone. Cursed him. Hated him. Silly guy!What does he know? We had asked each other.
We came home around 8 in the evening. We told mom and dad. We all just sat around her.
We called up A and told him.
An hour of quiet.
Then finally mom…’ This means we spend all our time with her.
Make memories with her. Cherish each day. Savour it. Let her know how much she is loved. Tell her. talk to her. Tell her what she means to you. Caress her. Make it easy for her.
And she started crying while saying it…she was trying so hard to be strong.
The words seemed easy to say. How would we follow them? We simply sat with our baby. She was again in her own world.
Blinking at….us…her family groggily when we called her name.
She seemed so helpless.All her energy was disappearing.
We carried her to mom and dad’s room. Her didi and her bhaiyya holding her.
Dad looked up in alarm. He had assumed she would walk into the room the way she always did. A little slowly but that she would walk the way she had done in all of her 10 years and nine months.
He asked her with sadness in his voice. Ash…beta.. how can you grow old before me? Before your dad?
Ash just looked at him. Saying so many things with her eyes. They spoke.
Aware that her dad was saying something to her but unable to comprehend it. Even her tail refused to wag.
The effort it took was too much.
We called up A and told him how lethargic she was getting.
He seemed lost too.
He had taken care of her like a baby for the first five years of her life. Till he had to go for his training.
Mom asked all of us to sleep in the same room that night.
I remember S and dad staying awake till 12:30.
I remember mom and I keeping vigil.
I remember how Ash was having difficulty breathing…how I rang up the vet at 1:30 and was babbling on the phone.
He asked us to give her glucose and honey. So that she would breathe easier.
How he calmly asked us to get her to the clinic.
I remember my baby using her last ounce of strength to turn herself away from the wall so she could face her mom ,dad and her bhaiyya,didi…
How she looked at us trying to capture something….as if trying to keep a memory …a picture of her family for eternity…
How we said A is here. ..so that she would have him…if only in memory…
How all of us were crying..knowing in our heart of hearts that this was it.
How mom…my strong , courageous mom gathered herself up and stopped crying and asked us to stop too.
Let her go in peace she said .
How mom put gangaajal and tulsi in Nanhi’s mouth.
How at 1:45 I picked her up in my arms …how S was holding up her head …the way one holds a little baby’s head gently…. because for the first time in all her years she was not able to hold up her head…
We ran towards the car.
It was pitch dark outside.
Its all a blur. What did we do in those 15 minutes? What exactly? I just remember bits and pieces.
The drive seemed to be the longest drive of our life. We reached just before 2.
The assistant checked her for a heartbeat.And then just shook his head.
S looking at me with shock and saying what?
She has gone. She has left us.
My baby brother in denial…..crying and shaking his head but she is just sleeping. Look at her!
Dad breaking down…mom trying to hold the wall for support.
Such overwhelming grief.
How we came back home and sat vigil the entire night.
Mom lighting incense. All of us just numb.
Our baby slept . The way she always did. Any moment we expected to see her moving her little paws in her sleep ….to hear her give a woof…chasing some imaginary rabbit…or lizard…
But we didn’t. She slept with the most peaceful expression on her face.
The way she would sleep like an absolutely adorable baby at times.
Giving A a call in the morning. A was devastated.
But he tried to be strong. For us. She had to go. It was her time.
Till he could not take it anymore and said but I am not even there with her.
You all are right there. I wont even get to see her. He was crying quietly. She was his baby too.
Mom wiping her little body with gangaajal . Putting a tilak on her forehead. Her tiny little forehead which didnt have any frown lines now. She was sleeping.
A new cloth to cover her. A wooden stretcher.
We went…. all four of us with Nanhi for the last time.
I and S sitting with her in the back. Her tiny frail body .Unmoving.
We went to the burial ground.
They were waiting for us. Our vet had been considerate.
The way mom cried out don’t uncover her body please.
A gentle reply..this is a must.
I think all of us closed our eyes for a moment then. I am not sure.
I did. I know this.
We couldn’t bear to look at our prancing little baby lying motionless. Lifeless.
Her body inside the ground forever.
All of us picking up a fistful of earth and putting it over her.
Mom lighting incense. From all five of us.
She looked so peaceful.
The funeral traditions have been followed. The tenth day …the thirteenth…..all the other rites….it gave mom peace..and us too.
We felt such peace after the thirteenth day. The ache is there but the overwhelming , soul sucking grief disappeared after the thirteenth day.
She is free today, mom said.
Is there such a thing as a soul? Animal or human?
I would like to believe there is.
That there is really an afterlife…or a rebirth. Or something.
Because if one doesn’t believe in this when faced with the loss of a loved one…then quite simply, one would go mad.
Because as long as it doesn’t harm someone, this belief is mine to hold and take solace from. Because its personal. Because one desperately needs this to survive some griefs.
There is a saying. I forgot the exact words.A quote maybe.
It says something on the lines of….
If all of humanity that thinks that its personal grief is the biggest, were to keep all of it in a pile and then everyone was asked to take an equal share… then everyone would quickly claim their own, original share of grief.
The quote makes sense. Puts things in perspective.
And when one looks around one realizes how cruel fate can be. How there are griefs that are bigger than mine.
But even after all these thoughts…all of these things that you tell your brain to comprehend.
…..even after all this… when the day is over..and you have nothing to distract you…nothing to numb the ache inside…
then you realize what a frightening thing it is to be all alone with your grief.
Just you and your grief.
Just yours. No one else’s.
There is no other grief to compare.
Mom shares stories from different faiths. How animals have a soul. How they are the creatures closest to god. It helps sometimes. Its the only thing that does.
“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are a lot better off than humans.”- James Herriot
There are many things we say to console ourselves. Many things that don’t help. At all.
Days when all you want is to have her in your arms and not let her go.
Bargaining with God or whichever power is there…….If we just have her again we will take her for more walks…we will give her so much love…we will spend more time with her…we will do this and so much more…just please let us have her again….
Knowing fully well that none of this is possible.
Knowing about the impermanence of life. About how their lives are shorter than ours.
That this too will heal.
That ‘time’ , as so many tell us, is the greatest healer.
But nothing helps the ache.
Reading doesn’t help. Going out doesn’t help. Watching TV doesn’t help either. Nothing helps.
All it does is take off your mind from the ache for sometime.
Our lives revolved around her. How does one ‘get used ‘ to it?
The smileys for the first time are so fake. I type them sometimes so that a friend would not be sucked into this quagmire of grief.
I type them to escape from this memory that seems to be in constant rewind.
I type them because a little part of me fears that no one will understand this pain. Because its not a ‘human’ one.
How do I tell them of what she meant and means to us?
Of how ‘human’ she was?
Of the void that seems to be so huge because she has left us?
Of how this family will love and help animals as before…but that right now we cannot feed a stray without tearing up….that we escape into the house before we start sobbing on the road? That we cannot pet another’s little baby without remembering ours first?
These little beings understand instinctively .
At the places of some friends, the little ones come and sit by our feet keeping their heads in our lap….waiting to share this grief that they can sense.
I think she left us in that one brief moment. That one moment when we came under the open sky and before we got into the car.
I felt it. Not at that moment. I don’t think it registered right then.But she did.
11th Aug ’10. Gone forever.
She was at peace. She was in my arms. She was surrounded by her loved ones. She was under the open sky.
Souls of animals need an open sky so they can leave us peacefully …. so many tell us.
I am glad she went peacefully.
There are many things I don’t remember. I don’t want to remember.
The way she looked before I took her in my arms.
The way all of us dreaded…no…. that’s too mild a word ..the way we were terrified..bone scared of the prospect of having to take a decision the next morning to end her suffering.
That is paap. Mom had said then. Dad too. Mom had looked ashen. Let the vets say whetever they want.
That will simply not happen.
The next morning never came.
These are things I will never describe..will never be able to..because it gives us a migraine if we try.
Some moments are to be kept in a corner of our mind. Hidden forever.
My baby..our baby went peacefully. Having spent her time here. Among her loved ones.
Mourning is a show of respect to the departed and to his or her place in our lives, as well as a crucial stage in the healing of those who experienced the loss. But the soul of the departed does not desire that those remaining in this world remain paralyzed by grief. On the contrary, the soul’s greatest benefit comes from its loved ones’ return to active, even joyous life, in which their feelings of love and veneration translate into deeds that honor the departed soul and attest to its continuing influence in our world
She saw us through the ups and downs. She was a part of so many phases in my life.
She was there when I was a teen. Worrying about silly crushes and crying over them. Holding her and whispering all the dilemnas of my teenage heart to her.
She was there when I wore my first saree for the farewell party in school. She thought it was such fun to play hide and seek between the folds of the saree. Delighted with this gown/cape like thing her didi was wearing.
She was there when I sat in my room … apprehensive about the first day of college. Nuzzling me and trying to console me.
She was there when I got my first job. the ecstasy, the joy of earning on my own. She shared all of it with me. Getting treats for her from my first salary.
Meting PM for the first time and telling her all about it at night. Just her and me. The patient look on her face as she looked at me solemnly. Wondering who I was talking about.
Asking mom to make sure that I would get a moment alone with Nanhi during the marriage chaos before I left.
…but I didn’t know that she would leave me before all of it.
The journey from being a girl to a woman. She was there throughout. With me in each moment.
And like a greedy soul not content with just this, I wanted more. I wanted her to be around for my kids. I wanted her to be around for mom and dad.
I wanted her around . Just because.
We didn’t take care of her ..She took care of us.
When this family seemed to be drifting apart…our little girl made sure she was the binding force.
She brought joy and laughter..the kind that comes from deep inside your soul…she brought all of it in our lives…
She was there when A was grappling with the pressures of being a teen……daunted by and clueless about what life had in store for him.
When A would silently cry, she would go and sit next to him and lick all his tears away.
Dad talking to his choti beti when sometimes he just needed to talk childish gibberish with her. Nanhi would run to her papa and snuggle next to him on the bed.
She would sit next to mom..waiting for her to finish her Puja. So that she would get the first prasad. Mom’s first offering of prasad was always but always for her Nanhi. And dare anyone try to take her nanhi’s prasad.:)
Sometimes when her tail would knock down a few things in the pujaghar. Mom would smile and say Nanhi is God’s biggest bhakt. She is his creature.She is allowed to do it all.
When my little brother was ill….when he needed someone to hold on to…someone whose furry neck he could cry into..someone who would be patient and loving..he found her…..
She was his birthday gift after all.
She made him walk….this hyperactive , loony girl who couldn’t stand in one place without prancing around…
This same girl was the model of patience when around my little brother in his illness….the day we got him home from the hospital she was at her quietest……no jumping madly and ecstatically at him….no craziness…just a quiet understanding that her brother was home and needed her.
The way she instinctively knew that her bhaiyya was not well. That his left side was not moving.
The way my little baby…our little baby climbed the bed, went to his left side and sat licking his left hand.
Touch therapist mom said with blurry eyes. Amazed at this bond between the two little kids of the house.
Some day we will bring home these little babies. I am sure of it. The three of us. I and my brothers. When we have families of our own.
I know we three want our children to grow up knowing what it is to be surrounded by these creatures of god. To know what it is to be loved like this. Without conditions.
But I also know that my parents are absolutely devastated with this loss. That they have given their heart once and for all.
Aware now of their own mortality and deprived of a companion they thought they would spend delightful sunny afternoons with. The way they had planned how the two of them and their Nanhi will spend their retirement years.
How they had already thought of how their new home would suit Nanhi best. How she would prance happily from one balcony to the other.
It would be unfair to bring another creature home when we know we cannot take the responsibility.
When A is not here, when I am leaving in a few months…when S will be leaving for his job soon.
And when two parents are lost in thoughts of their youngest child. The one whom dad called my youngest daughter. This is how she was introduced to family and friends.
We have her in our memories. We have her in our hearts. Our first love. This family’s first love.
These words are for us. For the five of us. And for the littlest daughter of this house.
I know I will keep adding more words here. In bits and pieces. As and when the memories come rushing back to any one of us.
Anecdotes to be told at family gatherings. Little things to smile about when we are all alone.
These days even finding her hair on our clothes is a source of delight. Look ma! her hair! bro will smile and point at his shirt.
The same hair that we tried to reduce by constantly brushing her so that she would shed less and her coat would have a gloss.
How we would so very gingerly keep all the dark or woollen clothes on top of tables so that her hair wouldn’t reach.(and yet it always did somehow)
The same hair that would be stuck like glue when we wore sweaters in winters. The same hair that would make us sigh in exasperation when we saw it on our clothes.
We search like starved souls for a glimpse of it these days.
The glass book shelf has not been dusted because we can see her hair in one corner.
We are hoping we will see it on our clothes this winter.
She was the most precious thing in our lives. What she gave us is priceless.
She made our lives whole.
I just hope we were worthy of her.
Grief is not something to be ‘cured’ of, it is not something to run from or push away. It is something very beautiful, something to be honoured, understood and experienced. Unexpressed or supressed grief can lead to severe depression and illness if it is not acknowledged and embraced. We must allow ourselves and others to feel it and work through it. Grief is testament to our love for another being, it is not weakness- it is incredibly powerful and if approached with an open heart and mind, it can be profoundly healing on many levels.
“It is not just that animals make the world more scenic or picturesque. The lives of animals are woven into our very being – closer than our own breathing – and our soul will suffer when they are gone.”
I believe in animal rights, and high among them is the right to the gentle stroke of a human hand. ~Robert Brault