— Indu Nair
It was a rainy day which turned out to be gloomier than what the morning had intimated. I woke up to find out that he was not present where he used to be – outside our house next to the doorstep and this was the first time this had happened ever since he came into my life, rather our lives. It was unusual and very strange. Every minute was filled with immense hope that he would come running and jump on the closed door (which was his way of knocking!) eager to see us, have us pet him and, most importantly, to express his profound love for us. It seemed as if we had become the centre of his life, almost similar to the way our lives revolved around him.
I vividly remember how he used to follow me like a tail whenever I stepped out of the house. Once, I was going for my tuition class and my ‘tail’ followed me all the way up to the building, up the stairs and finally into the classroom. My teacher asked everyone whose “friend” he was? I proudly owned up. He used to drop me to the school bus-stop, waited till the bus came, seemed to say bye while I got into the bus, waited eagerly for me to come back from school (so much so that once, on hearing the sound of the school bus, he ran downstairs in the middle of a delicious meal) and when I came back, pounced all over me in excitement. I was not the only privileged one, everyone in my home- my mom, dad and brother – received our fair share of his love. He would run after our car at full speed for as long as he could, almost protesting at us leaving without taking him. At that time, we always wondered as to what it was that he was so insecure of. Being a generally optimistic and cheerful dog, he could very well assume that we would be back soon. I understood his viewpoint only later on, as I will relate below in this article.
After a few weeks of lying outside at the doorstep, he started to seek our permission to step inside the house. I noticed his yearning to be formally accepted in our family as a pet. He would raise one of his paws literally in slow motion and keep it in the air midway for a few seconds, waiting for our response to his ‘pet application’, before finally landing it on either side of the doorstep depending on the outcome of his application. If we made a disapproving sound during the in-the-air phase, he would retract the hanging paw to his side; if we didn’t say anything our silence, would be taken as approval and the paw would land on the right side- our side, inside our home. That is where he belonged as much as all of us did. We knew our family would be incomplete without him. Not that he had taken up someone else’s place since we never owned a pet, however, he successfully created a place for himself in our hearts.
For the first time, we were sure that we wanted to adopt a ‘stray-pet’ and make him our pet ‘formally’. It was just when we were planning on a day to take him for vaccination that he disappeared one not-so-fine morning never to come back again. What happened to him remains a painful mystery. We did all we could to find out and, if possible, get him back but life was not kind enough. It took me a long period of depression before I could bring myself to accept that I had to move on in life without him. Even now, the depths of his love and his memories have the power to move me to tears every time I think about him. The yearning to get him back at this very moment is as intense as it was on that rainy day when he went missing from our lives. With a heavy heart, I went to school that morning, without seeing him, petting him, without having him see me off at the bus stop. Life was already beginning to feel incomplete and my anxiety grew with each passing minute- where could he possibly go? Will he be back when I returned from school? Did the Municipal corporation guys pick him up? Did he get run over by some vehicle? Did our chowkidaar, who never seemed very fond of Tommy (that’s what we had decided to call him-quintessential dog name for the ideal dog), since he barked at him unfailingly, do something cruel to get rid of him? What if he never came back?
With each passing hour, I found myself becoming more and more restless and the yearning to see him and play with him kept on intensifying. So did the regret and unexplainable guilt for not having sped up the process of adopting him. After all, this wouldn’t have happened if he was with us inside our house as our pet. I was at school only physically, mentally I was roaming around in our residential block trying to find him desperately. On the way back from school, from the bus, I looked at every single road and every single street dog in our block to find ours. It would have been relatively easy to spot him since he stood out from the rest in appearance- a handsome chap with shiny black back, white underbelly, light brown forehead with a small white patch, white-tipped tail and white paws, the most loving and expressive pair of dark eyes.
I got down from the school bus anxiously hoping that he would come running to receive me but in vain. At home, all of us seemed to be trying to keep life as normal as before. After all, it has been only one day of him not being there, we should wait some more before mourning. I was to go for my tuition class in the evening, so I went just for the sake of appearing in control but broke down when my friend asked me why I looked so sad. The thought of what would happen to me if he never came back was something I could not even bear to think. Many days passed by like this, in the hope that he will turn up any moment giving us all the most pleasant surprise we could imagine. It was almost living in denial, when even months later, I would look out the window of the school bus, trying to spot my Tommy with his trademark white-tipped tail. I guess it was my defense mechanism that had kicked in to help me overcome his absence in my life. Slowly, I began to heal myself by feeling grateful about becoming friends with the most wonderful, loving dog I had ever known and praying that he may be happy wherever he was. I also felt some relief thinking about how much joy we must have brought into his life. Suddenly, I was able to understand why he ran so desperately and resolutely after our car for as long as he could and followed us whenever we stepped out of the house. He must have thought –‘what if they never came back?’.
If I could go back to one day before he left us, I would do what he used to do- not let him go away from me for a single moment.