In loving memory of a man’s best friend — a cherished companion, mentor and child
How does one say goodbye to a dog? To a dog who was much more than a human could ever aspire to be in when it came to loyalty, love and companionship?
Missy entered our lives 14 years back as a tiny puppy picked up from a pet shop in Chanakyapuri after my daughter wrote a small note to the family on why she wants a puppy. Little did I realise that day how this little furry being would stride like a colossus across our hearts and lives for almost the next decade and a half as the children grew from school teens to college youngsters and finally adults! Even as we tugged at her leash, she tugged at our hearts sharing our successes, our failures, our joys and our pains through these years.
Not long after she arrived, my wife and I realised that with a feeling of déjà vu that we are going to have to relearn parenting skills for babies all over again. With the initial fanfare and excitement over, our children returned to their normal lives and we were left literally speaking holding the new baby! As she moved from room to room searching out new nooks and corners to relieve herself, we would follow her with tissue papers, mop and pan like 'Swachh Bharat' warriors even before anyone had heard of 'Swachhta Andolan'. Each night, every time Missy made a noise, my wife would mumble in her sleep, "Your turn" as if she had exhausted all her obligations when the human babies had arrived years back. As she grew older and more adventurous, we had to walk her and my duties multiplied. In the mornings, the kids were busy preparing for school. In the evenings they were busy finishing their homework. On holidays they had friends to visit and board exams to prepare for. In between, they did take time out to give Missy a hug or two and tell her how much they love her. But I was handed over the leash every time Missy made for the door to indicate it's time for her walk so necessary to keep her fit and beautiful!
We had a big scare early on when one day a big dog snapped at her and caused a cut near her abdomen. The family was in tears as she lay on her side moaning. It was late evening and I was not able to get through to the regular vet. Then I remembered the Army brigadier from the Remount and Veterinary Corps who had visited me a few days back in my office regarding some cadre restructuring issues in the regiment which was being processed in my department. He had given me his cell number which I had reluctantly taken. I dialled the number and he immediately answered, listened patiently and told me that he will send someone. Within 30 minutes, an officer with two nursing assistants was at our door to administer Missy. She recovered soon enough and never had any problem thereafter. It's not just the borders where our Army protects us; I realised it can be at your doorstep too!
In the last fourteen years, I have served in the Central and state governments and completed one stint of two years in Afghanistan with the United Nations. I have been away on tours countless times. Missy was always there waiting for me to return from each trip. Whether it was from a short walk all alone or a home trip from Kabul, the first sound I heard on return was her scraping at the door and barking the moment I rang the bell. Once the initial greetings were over, she wouldn't let go of me and followed me from room to room as if afraid I would leave her again. While other members of the family looked up and said - "Oh you are back?" she would be barking - "Where the hell did you go to and don't you do that again!"
Christmas is around the corner. This is a special time for my family and every Christmas spent with Missy in the past now flashes before my eyes. She would be there jumping excitedly around the old Christmas tree as my wife pulled it out from the store room, cleaned it and put on the little angels and other trinkets and bells on it. She would mess around with the box of decorations and get entangled in the ribbons even as we chased her away. Her favourite time was the arrival of the carol parties. It was a time for cakes and good old singing both of which she loved. As we all stood around in the drawing-room, she would move from one singer to another yelping and barking and finally be persuaded to sit at my feet. Her head would tilt from side to side with one ear perpetually up as she tried to join in with her own brand of carolling. She was a natural singer and her favourite song was the title number of the popular sitcom 'Two and a Half Men'. Every time she heard the tune she would run to the TV set and sit before it howling away to glory!
As her cancer ate into her vitals, she fought to live and how she fought! The vet told us 18 months ago that she doesn't have much time and we should let her go peacefully. Maybe she heard him and heard our anguish too and decided that she will stay on a little longer and teach this cancer a thing or two. In the process, she taught us what courage in adversity is and how we as humans give up so easily when we can fight. She remained energetic, loving and full of life till the end almost making us believe that she has beaten the old enemy. But age and time were also waiting around the corner and slowly her body gave in. But not before she had packed so much love, care and life lessons into the short time she had with us that we will never be able to repay her even a part of what we got from her.
Goodbye, Missy- friend, philosopher, guide, companion, child. Fourteen years were too short but you deserve your place in God's garden. Chase all the squirrels you want now!
Views expressed are personal