A pet of a dog
Dogs are a man’s best friend and a universally accepted common pet. We’ve always had a pet at home while growing up and it helped us keep out of mischief. It also instilled a sense of responsibility and companionship since we were a small nuclear family.
Uncle Joe, my dad’s dear friend, dubs the neighbourhood dogs as a St. Patrick’s Hound, a rather grand name for a pure and simple pie. We preferred to call our pie dog a Labrador Retriever after her mixed parentage. Theta,was a black, skinny dog with a shiny black coat, sad, deep brown eyes. Her long nails tapped, tapped on the floor when she walked. Her warm exuberant welcome was always accompanied by a whiplash of her thin tail . She was the last pet I ever had.
My first pet was also pariah who adopted us when I was just about a year and a half . The only reason I remember her is because of a grainy black and white picture of her and me scowling at the camera. In between we had a pedigree Samoyed.
Returning home from a road trip down South , we stopped by my father’s old boss’ house. Brig S had a beautiful Golden Retriever who had just littered. My brother and I fell in love with the little black pups with their soft, shiny fur. We also fell for his story that she had mated with a black Labrador , hence the black puppies. ” Puppies change colour when they grow up, ” he told us and being the Boss, we accepted it.
Our family was still recovering from the loss of our Samoyed (Moti) and seeing the naked longing in our eyes, my mom unhesitatingly allowed us to bring her home. The one condition was that we had to look after her entirely.
We drove home to Bombay, this little mass squirming in the back seat. I’d already decided to name her Theta ( after the Greek letter) since my brother had had the privilege of naming our earlier pet.
For the next nine years, save the few when I stayed in the hostel, I looked after her diligently. Theta and I were inseparable. Despite my school schedule, I would take her for long walks in the evening, small ones early in the morning and late at night. Feeding her was my task too as was taking her to the vet and of course cleaning up after her.
It was a tough learning experience especially since she peed and pooed all over the place for quite a while. She hated being alone at home and would bark like a lunatic the minute she smelt me get off the bus a furlong away . Then she’d prance around the house and come scratching at the front door and literally jump into my arms. Can one resist a welcome like that?
Everyone knew about Theta and her eccentricities. My mother was even referred to as kaale kutte ki ma ( mother of a black dog!)
She was the dog who had to be muzzled by the vet for her shots. No sooner had she got her injection then she’d shoot off like a bullet and run around the neighbourhood. I had to chase after her.
She was the dog who was petrified of fire crackers. Somehow, she would run out of the house and hide under some neighbour’s bed. It was my embarrassing task to crawl under and coax the quivering dog out.
Theta loved beds . She loved sleeping in mine and under my dad’s , which would sag with his weight . When she got really irritated with his droopy bed, she’d gnaw frantically at the “newar” till it tore. Often we had to visit the M.E.S furniture yard to get the beds re-strapped or exchanged. Once, quite fed up and perhaps embarrassed by this activity, my parents exchanged all our broken beds with those of our neighbour’s when they were posted out. When we welcomed our new neighbours with a cup of tea, they actually remarked that it was strange all the beds were broken, ” what we’re the Y’ s upto ? ” they asked.
Theta was our vacuum cleaner and ate up everything we didn’t want to eat. This was very handy when we had to leave our plates licked clean. Unfortunately, when guests would come over, she’d whine and beg with them too.
Dogs they say are like their masters, so perhaps her neuroses and paranoia reflected mine. She liked to graze all day long and while I found the refrigerator to dig into, she put her nose in the dustbin. She was a lovable creature, untamed in a way but could reasonably well behaved on occasion.
Towards the end of her life she became shapeless , blind and perhaps diabetic. Taking her to the vet was out of the question because she just hated going to the vet though she loved jumping into the car.
Theta was my last pet and whenever I see a black dog with skinny tail, droopy ears and a patch of white on its chest, I think of her. I’ve always had one growing up. But dogs in flats is unfair to them and the other residents. Everyone does not appreciate their warm smell, their goofy eyes, exuberant welcomes, suspicious sniffs, menacing growls and their unquestioning love .