only animal lovers will appreciate my story.
When we moved into our villa in Rome, my boys reminded me of
my promise about keeping a dog if we had a garden. I could not
renege on my word now and Tushaar (the colour of day-old-snow)
came into our lives as a puppy.
wilful and mischievous personality he became the object of affection
for the whole family, including my Bangali housekeeper Sufia
who in spite of her traditional attitude of considering dogs
as unclean became Tushaar's biggest conquest.
I was his
easiest conquest, the sucker who could be manipulated by his
deviously doleful eyes to sneak him food when the others trained
him not to beg at the table. My boys considered him a sibling
and my husband pretended rivalry saying, "I'll throw out
your 'laat-shaheb'!" when doggie occupied his leather sofa
before the T.V to doze disdainfully through human news.
story is not about Tushaar. It is only a contrasting backdrop
to the real story about my other dog, Tushaar's son, who stole
our hearts for being the exact opposite of his vain and self-confident
came quietly into a family that did not need another dog. But
I wanted him, and he became my dog as against Tushaar who belonged
to everyone. But this second pet was the underdog, the victim
of Tushaar's sibling rivalry. I call it that because Tushaar
was only a year old when he precociously sired a litter with
Lara next door, and never developed paternal feelings (if such
exist in the animal world), considering his son as a rival.
At the birth
of Lara's puppies, we felt that the neighbourly thing for us
to do was to take on the responsibility for at least one of
the puppies before the rest were parcelled off to different
families. Among the fluffy white bunch, I glimpsed a fat black
and white bundle, bigger than the rest that wobbled and fell
as it tried to walk. "That one!" I pointed him out
and Motu (fatso) became my dog.
adored both dogs, but the responsibility of caring for them
fell on Sufia and me. Tushaar resented Motu's presence and we
had to be tactful about showing our affection for the new comer.
Even as the young one grew to be double his father's size, he
was easily cowed down by his father's temper. Motu never touched
his food till Tushaar had okayed both bowls. When their 'brothers'
returned from school, it was Tushaar who had to be petted first
or else Motu got snarled at.
undemanding creature never protested. Perhaps Tushaar threatened
him in dog language, and there was an unspoken pact by which
Motu agreed to play second fiddle. I made up for it secretly
and Motu made sure Tushaar was not around when he accepted the
extra attention or bigger bone.
guarded the house all night while Tushaar slept. If father slipped
out during the day to create a ruckus in the neighbourhood,
Motu came to us with a worried look. When we scolded the unrepentant
rascal after he came home sheepishly, it was Motu that trembled.
Tushaar's bark could be heard for miles while Motu never raised
his voice without a valid reason. And yet it was he with his
huge girth and piratical patch who frightened visitors. 'Oh!
Please tie him up!' many would scream, scaring gentle Motu who
was shy of people.
dogs contracted a disease called Leishmania, which can be kept
under control by daily medication and regular check-ups. In
Tushaar's case the disease's recurrence would manifest on his
skin and be promptly attended to; in Motu's case, unfortunately,
this was not so as it transpired. I came back from my last trip
to Dhaka to find Motu shockingly underweight. By the time the
vet figured out why medication was not working this time, Motu's
kidneys had been affected. Chance of recovery was fifty-fifty
and I remained hopeful that Motu would bounce back being a young
started but the dog gave up eating. I ran around the house placing
bowls of sugared water to tempt the listless and thin Motu to
drink enough to keep his kidneys functioning. He was an outdoor
dog who now crept in and stayed close to me. Whichever room
I was in he would come and lie down facing me, his brown eyes
mutely on mine. Even with closed eyes if he sensed my presence
he wagged his tail.
day when he refused to drink, and left the house to go sit in
the garden facing the trees and shrubs. I called to him and
stroked his head but he did not respond and continued to gaze
away pensively. A few hours later I found him in another part
of the garden, lying deeper within the shadows of a bush breathing
gently but detached from the world as if he were bidding farewell
to the living world and reconciling himself to mingling with
the earth. But I was not ready to give up, and the vet agreed,
carrying him into the house to give him saline and medical infusion
But he warned,
"If by tomorrow we do not see any improvement, we must
put him to sleep. It will be kinder to him." I swallowed
and stayed with Motu all night willing him to live. But his
eyes already had a distant look. At dawn, I went for a meditative
walk. Spring was ready to flower and yet it was chilly as autumn,
and the rose buds were tightly clenched as my fists.
vet arrived, he carried the once huge and noble beast now light
as a fur coat to his office uphill. I was determined to stay
with Motu till the end so I stood at the table with my hand
resting on his head while his eyes fixed mutely on my overflowing
ones. But after he was sedated and anaesthetized the vet said,
"I will now inject the fatal dose…" I rushed out like
a coward, weeping. Outside it started to rain out of a clear
sky. When I entered my gate Tushaar waited, not barking today.
Just as I composed myself, the sun came out. I scolded myself
for projecting my grief on the play of sunlight and cloudburst,
yet my heart insisted that it signified my Motu had not been
snuffed out like a crushed flower but that his passing had been
noted and embraced into nature's rhythm.
everyday, I am taking Tushaar for a walk. There is a crunching
noise behind us; I look back knowing it is not Motu's once happily
lagging steps. It is a scattering of last season's leaves rustling
away in the newly warmed breeze. The neighbouring houses have
tiaras of roses spilling over walls and hedges. Nature's beauty
today is both cruel and comforting: yesterday's death is today's
life. I stroke Tushaar's head as a remembered pattering behind
us fades but doesn't disappear. We both accept Motu's absence
and presence. My heart is grateful for the love of a mute and
gentle animal that enriched my spirit.