Sunday, May 28, 2017

A Pup's Purpose

Last night I watched ‘Hachi: A Dog’s Tale’ – The movie ended, the sobbing ceased and yet the cathartic role pets play in our lives continued - With Pluto sat next to me, I realised I’m so grateful for the absolute healers, the real givers - the 3 pets I’ve had in my life. Each have had their own personalities and their own quirks (Oh ya, it’s a complete package, buddy! Perfection is boring, remember!!?)

And here’s how the story unfolds.. Scene 1: Falling in love with Natasha .. Scene 2: Goofy makes a grand entry… Scene 3: Pluto leaps into our life.. Scene 4: And we live together happily (ever after I truly hope)… Happy reading..
We were at Lonavala, a hill station near Bombay - As an afternoon getaway, we visited a farmhouse recommended by my dad's friend (my mom still wonders if he was indeed a "friend") - on sale were little pups - amidst all the oohs and aahs, a Pomeranian (the Spitz type) pup caught our attention.. White as snow, she seemed like a cotton ball with 4 tiny limbs - Tuku & I immediately knew we were in LOVE!

Natasha* taught me a lesson or two in love at first sight and fighting to make it work. I still remember my mom’s threatening/ deafening “You have a choice – You can either choose me OR the dog”.. Was beyond stunned when my frozen mind had absolutely NO control over the arm that was moving toward the cardboard box that had the pup in it – I was actually considering the choice - Was almost choosing someone else (a pup!!!) over my Amma**..

Convincing mommy to allow a pet – a family member that once held her captive on the sofa for couple hours, would gnaw at the furniture, bite off shoes (and homework!!), refused to eat for days on end at times - wasn’t easy! Yet, in the 4.5 years, Natasha kept the family together (dealing with 2 teenagers ain’t easy, remember!?). She was my mom’s saathi when ‘the man of the home’ turned into an entrepreneur and invested 16-18 hours * 6 days a week setting up a business, when the teenage son turned to hours of football to qualify into the school team and the daughter travelled 1.5 hours each way to pursue college..
As a teenager I vividly remember Natasha as the one companion that never judged me – our endless walks by the beautiful Powai lake watching traffic (and life) go by.. Having her by my side when devouring books after book, huddled together in the top section of the bunkbed.. Confiding in her about the excitements and the inhibitions of city life (moving from the suburbs as a teenager ain’t easy!).. She made a real difference, esp on days when you were bullied/ ragged, felt like things didn’t go right – even on days when you nearly flunked your math test!
She also taught Sridhar, Tuku & I our 1st lessons in PMS, MS rather! Those 3-4 days, you just let her be.. bhooki, pyaasi or whatever it is that she chose to be. Even the best humanitarian efforts would invite a growl and a snarl – you dare pulled her out of her hiding and she’d threaten to dig those tiny canines right through your flesh! On Day 4, she would return like NOTHING happened – hey bro, why aren’t you hanging out with me types (Ahem, reminds us of a few people we know around us, doesn’t she!!!).. Losing her to gastroenteritis was one of the biggest blows in our early years!
His Royal Highness Goofy entered our lives right after I got married – rather replaced me at my ‘Maika’***. A gorgeous Golden Retreiver, who exhibited ALL signs of ‘Royalty’, including a deep-rooted self-belief that the sole purpose everyone around him was born was to pamper His Royal Highness, Goofy was a harbinger of good times! An adorable pup that pawed his way into our hearts, Goofy saw us through graduations, marriages, child-births.. He was equally by our side when divorces and death of loved ones caught us unaware..
A true soulmate to Tuku, Goofy was the most magnificent-hearted fellow that lived the ‘sharing is caring’ value through the 10.5 years.. He saw Tuku through his ‘I want parakeets as pets’ phase and baby-sat them through the day in the courtyard when mom threw them out of the house – That evening, he consoled Tuku when he had no choice but to let zoozoo & zizu (the parakeets) fly out in order for Tuku to have a roof on his head (Talk about being raised by a powerful mom)!!
Equally, Goofy taught us lessons in how the strongest of personalities have their weaknesses – how serious and deep-rooted phobias can be; how people aren’t really ‘making it up’ when you see those bizarre reactions! Terrified of loud noise (crackers, thunderstorms), Goofy would be quite a different personality on these days – Restless, helplessly aggressive and in deep pain, he’d look cowardly helpless – defying his otherwise royal, confident look! We’d stuff mounds of cotton balls in his ears and tie endless meters and layers of cloth around his face to lessen the impact, and yet his heart would be racing, leaping out of his mouth every time a cracker went off or a thunder rolled! He’d want to bury himself into wardrobes & shelves, among walls to see if he could get a minute’s reprieve.. It was heart-wrenching to see him discard his royalty and behave worse than a mere commoner.. Diwali, New Year's and the monsoon season - things that excite most people made him super nervous - Quite a paradox, given that he was otherwise a super-happy doggy and loved social dos and celebrations!!
When he mated & had 6 pups, the bitch’s family (no offence) raised their hands and gave away the responsibility to us! To mom’s ire, Goofy willingly shared his space with his 6 little ones! While 5 of them found beautiful homes in no time (they were born to royalty, remember!?), Goofy had a special attachment to the 6th one – the lanky fellow – slightly darker and leaner than the other fatsos, we named him ‘bizu’ for the time being! In the 3-4 days that they all lived with us, he’d ensure this pup ate before him – he’d watch over him, pull him back keeping him out of trouble.. ! It was this absolute bonding between Goofy and this pup that convinced mom (of all people!!) to take the 6th pup off the adoption charts – That’s how Pluto entered our lives!
Pluto, the naughtiest yet the MOST obedient pup we’ve ever had, entered our lives in Mar’10, incidentally the same time that Rhea was conceived! I call him my ‘1st born’ for this reason – he taught me my 1st lessons in selflessness! When I moved to my parents' for child-birth, Pluto donned the role of the absolute care-taker. From the time I entered home from work, till the minute I stepped out, Pluto was like my shadow – my extended self! Demanding that his bed be moved to my bedroom, tugging at me to accompany when dad/ mom took him for walks, watching over me when I walked inside the home on rainy evenings, sitting by my side when I’d read endless baby books waiting for Raj to turn up for dinner.. He’d be tired, yet it seemed like he had a responsibility to undertake..  He'd retire to bed a little after Raj showed up! I’d share my anxieties about the baby within and he’d lick my feet and/or my tears off as the case may be – absolutely assuring me that it was all bound to be fine! In short, the company he provided was unbelievably magical, absolutely reiterating the special bond you could form with a pup!!

While I loved Goofy & Pluto to bits, one of my anxieties was also about how they’d adapt to the new born – Would they be as caring? Will they be jealous? Will they be okay with an intruder seeking more attention than them!? What if…. while one of us weren’t around.. I put these away, directed myself to numerous articles on the to-dos, precaution to be taken..

And then Rhea arrived! As advised by most sources, I sent back the new-born's clothes so they could sniff, get used to the baby’s scent and not react when we brought Rhea home! All went well – they welcomed us beautifully as we brought the baby home! Yet the anxiety stayed.. “what if”.. “they are animals, after-all…”.. The post-partum, drugged me asked for a 1.5-foot wooden plank to be put as a partition so my pups couldn’t enter the bedroom where the baby and I spent all our waking & sleeping hours.. they could see me, hear me but had NO access to me!

Goofy was alright with this sudden change – the mature 4 year-old that he was, he took it in his stride! Pluto was NOT – What about ME he seemed to complain! What happened in these 3 days his eyes questioned - I gave you my every minute this past month and this is what I get in return!? You called me your baby, your first-born- Clearly this is NOT what you do to real off-springs, do you! 24 hours went by – Pluto wouldn’t move from near the bedroom door.. his gorgeous lean face flat on the ground, he waited endlessly, never giving up!

An absolute sport lover, his ability to catch a tennis ball 3-4 feet in the air is the talk of the vicinity – we call him the fielding coach for the Indian Cricket team! His ability to fetch it from 300-400 meters in a matter of seconds is worth a watch! Even these games wouldn’t distract him – he was very clear – he wanted us to trust him! Disinterested in everything else – the chap had stayed at the spot every minute except his feed time and walks! 36 hours of this drama ensued and he emerged as the winner! The partition was removed and he was allowed into the room!! (P.S. Thanks to him, Goofy got a free entry without any effort! Talk about the perks of being a royal! :D)..

Yet they were being watched.. Alas, within a day or two, they proved that they were “family” - our BEST friends! They’d sit up alert if the baby even as much as moved in her sleep.. They’d be as stressed out as any family member if the baby had a colic attack.. What a folly I'd made.. I'd doubted my soulmates with my baby's safety! Thankfully, I never repeated it when Dhruv was born (even though I was more drugged and was really edgy by the time we brought the baby home!) 

Watching Rhea & Dhruv grow amidst them has been the most wonderful experience.. They’ve been with us when we convinced Rhea that she needs to walk on two limbs (and not four), counselled Dhruv that it’s not the best idea to put his hand into their mouth – they were tired of turning their face the other way and finally figured out that dad’s office was off-limit for “babies” but accessible for pups (And what’s better – it’s the best destination for our undisturbed afternoon siestas – a concept unknown to this hyper-mom n her off-springs, they resonated!).. Ever since, there’s been no looking back – Absolutely a part of the family, we have celebrated every little and big milestone for us and for them, with equal joy - Except that the ITCs & the Marriotts don't allow us to bring them along!! Worse still, they (the pets of course) are not into selfies and don't do the brilliant pout - Oh what a shame! They just look their natural, gorgeous selves :D

Absolutely royal even in his (sudden) death, Goofy joined Natasha in Jan'17 and am sure these two look over us and wish us the best in every walk of life….

*Okie, NO apologies to all the gorgeous women that share the same name (it ain’t my fault IF you and/or the person reading this post aren’t pet-lovers)! The real reason for the name though - Was 12 and quite certain that I wanted to exchange ‘the brat of a brother’ for a lovely, caring sister. Since I got little support from the family (and society at large), it was revenge time – naming a pup that confused people (Is she referring to the pup or a sister!?) No really, you named your “dog” Natasha!!?? Talk about tween rebellion :D
**Years later, I repeated this when it came to choosing my life partner.. P.S. Of course it was after numerous rounds of discussions - Dad continues played a pivotal role and now the mom is very much by my side - in fact the problem has changed - now she sides with the man, more than she sides with me!! Ahem...
***For the uninitiated, Maika = your family home.. AND I still hold it against Tuku that he waited right until I proceeded on my honeymoon before he brought the pup home!!
#loveyourpets #adogspurpose #marley&me #hachiko #hachi-adog’stale #truestory #sundaymusings