Yes, you heard it right! So, before you go John-Wick mode, allow me to tell you why.
When my dad was a teenager, he and my grandmother lived in a thatched roof house for a long time. My mom joined the family and reasonably around the time, a puppy walked in. Initially, my folks were concerned about not having a space for the dog; then they figured it out. They called him “Mani” and gave him a small shelter with a tar roof. As he grew up with my family, he also grew protective of my mother and would accompany her everywhere. Being new to the family and a community, where she is still yet to make acquaintance with people, this meant a lot to my mom.
Living in a thatched house, my folks didn’t have a restroom and had to resort to the uncomfortable choice of open defecation, in a nearby forest.
My mom once said, about Mani: “He would follow me until I step into the forest. Soon after he would lead and I would follow. He usually runs looking around for trouble, barking now and then. He would then stop for me to catch up and he’d do that again. When I stop, he’d eventually move away to find something to eat until I walk out.”
These incidents happened before I was born. I shared my earliest childhood memories with Mani because I wasn’t allowed to play much with him; my folks wouldn’t allow me to. I was diagnosed with Primary complex, so I wasn’t allowed anywhere near a cat or a dog. Cats! I didn’t give a damn about them and they don’t give a damn about anyone. So, we were just fine.
When I got older, I started stealing moments to play with him. My mom eventually started calling Mani “Periya Naai” and me as “Chinna Naai”. We were that close! When I was around four years old, we brought down the old house and built a new one with a terrace roof. Mani got a new den as well. I still remember how he would stumble upon the mosaic tiles when they were still new and slippery. He and I would run together. We would keep running on the same spot, skidding in the process (like Scooby Doo), and that would make everyone burst into laughter. We would sit on the porch and watch the rain. He’d go absolutely berserk whenever it rained.
A good dog, we thought he was, until one night he showed his prowess. We usually did not tie him up because he knew his limits (having gotten accustomed to living with temperamental human beings, I guess). He barked only when he identified a threat or when he needed food and was never as annoying as a modern-day pet (Dogs these days! phew). That night, several dogs assembled in the middle of the road for a good fight, but Mani was still quietly seated inside. Suddenly, he went to Alpha-male-beast-mode. As I saw the gate creak, I got curious and walked out, only to see Mani gently hurrying to the fight. He barged in and stood there showing his canines. As a 10-year-old, that was one of the best “mass moment” I had witnessed. It was a Mexican standoff until he barked a few times and the other dogs had to leave. He was awesome!!
My grandmother was also fond of Mani. It was, usually, she who fed him. One January morning (1998) when my grandma wasn’t home, Mani was killed. He was sleeping with his body within the gates but his head outside the gate to feel the chilly air. A lorry ran too close to my house, crushed his skull and killed him instantly. We were shaken and didn’t even know what to tell each other. It was the most silent morning that I could remember. He was 12 when he died and we buried him in our backyard. When my grandma returned home, she broke into tears and sang an ‘oppari’. A traditional goodbye to an old friend.
Mani was not of an exquisite breed, but a common country dog who was exceptionally healthy for his age. Probably, he had a few more years left in him. Mani and I shared our moments of joy and common curiosity about certain things. I didn’t know how much I loved him until he passed away. Days were tougher as I would sob, particularly when I would rush home from school on my bicycle only to realise he wouldn’t be there. His death shattered our hearts and we decided not to have another pet. It was too much a pain to endure.
Cats make a temporary stay at our home, all the time. They usually march in when they are pregnant and my folks take care of them. Mom and grandma would arrange cardboard boxes for the mother cat to stay warm and peacefully give birth to her kittens. The cat and its kittens would then migrate to some other place.
Three years back, my sister was adamant about having a pet. So, we brought two Dalmatian siblings. We had a great time playing with the dogs over the next three days. But, they sought so much attention and connection which we hadn’t really experienced that in a long time. After a day-long discussion and also considering that it was taking a toll on our grandmother’s health, we had to let them go. One more teary-eyed goodbye.
I say this again. I hate dogs. They make you fall in love with them and then when they leave, they take every shred of happiness you had. Like Dementors. Then, they will kill you with agony and rip a hole inside you that you cannot fill with anything else. There is always a cat around and the latest one has been with us, for the last 6 months. She doesn’t give a damn about me. So, we get along just fine.
Sometime in the near future, I might gather enough courage to adopt a dog. Probably, I might change this write-up’s title then!