All Creatures Great and Small; all Things Bright and Beautiful; all Things Wise and Wonderful; the Lord God Made Them All.
James Herriot books are a genre apart in uniqueness, beauty and simplicity, about animals, pets and his love for them. The dog stories of Herriot are viand for the mind and soul, be it young or old. However it was not until well into my life, I could have a pet at home. That was more because of C’s immeasurable love and fascination for animals, especially dogs. I have had cats back when I was little, but they were often frowned upon at home, more because of their behavioral traits of opportunism. I did love them nevertheless.
So we were assisted by a family friend to take a pet from a litter of puppies. The offer was for free as it was the only one from the litter that was left because the others all male were taken away by people. So, the little bitch, a Labrador- Dachshund mix breed and a black one came to our house when she was about sixty days old. We named her “Blacky”! Both Aravind and Radhika, then about five and two years of age were equally excited and in fact their curiosity was often irritant to the little pup.
Blacky was less than foot tall and pretty stretched like her mother who was a Black Dachshund. However her behavioural traits and attitude was inherited from her father the Labrador. That made her an intelligent, loving and obedient dog. She was zealously concerned about Radhika and guarded her like an Alsatian. She would not shy from chasing a stranger if he/she went near the girl. But understood who had to be let in and kept at a distance.
There was an instance when she did what she resisted doing and what she never dared to do thereafter. The primeval instinct in her once got the better and she ran out on to the road and later came in awash, probably in stagnant drain water. For the first and the last time she got the stick and endless bath in shampoo, soap, spray of lots of perfume and cologne thereafter.
She slept on the sofa in the living room. Though the kids wanted her in the bed along with them, I was insistent that bed was out of bounds to her and she can have the cosy comfort of the sofa. Certainly I could see in her tiny eyes that she frowned upon my decision. She used to timidly tag on to the kids at bed time but when I wagged finger at her she used to go and curl up in the sofa.
Then, we moved into another house and a couple of house next to our, was a woman with whom Blacky became friends. The intro, I guess happened when C took her for strolls outside. The woman had a comfortable and luxurious life. She was estranged, from her husband; in fact she abandoned, banished him after he suffered a major heart attack and was penniless as well. The story is rather unsavory to dwell. She was keen about a hedonistic life and seemed to enjoy it.
Blacky who was annoyed and uncomfortable when she knew that none of us would be around in the house suddenly seemed to vanish at night after she got her meal. It was rather a mystery; we could not hear her growl and bark in the night admonishing a street dog when it would howl outside. Then punctually at about seven in the morning when I would be in the verandah having my cuppa and morning newspaper she would wriggle in through the closed gate and trot to me rather timidly and with guilt in her eyes and sit by my chair staring eagerly at me. Her black tail wagging and was with some apprehension. When I asked her where the hell she was she would gaze down on to the floor and then quickly vanish into the house. This became a routine. We later found that the woman next doors were keeping Blacky in her bed and in the comfort of her air-conditioned bed room. Blacky finally got the privilege which she wanted. There was not a moment during other hours of the day she would leave the house.
I was quite defiant about the dog’s attitude. I exclaimed that she was an opportunist and selfish like the woman next doors forsaking relationship for comfort .Though an uncompromising dog lover, even C was rather surprised at her behavior and perhaps saw some parallel.
Later ironically and quite disturbingly, when she took ill she chose to spend the night at home and die and we were calling out to her when we found that she did not turn up the next morning as she used to. C went to the woman’s house to fetch her and was alarmed when she found she had turned up the previous night there, but did not sleep in the woman’s bed and she went away soon. Sometime late in the morning, she was found dead under the foliage of crotons that stood outside the French window she used to sneak out after her meal at night.
Did she know she would die and wanted to die in the house? Did she try jumping back into the house that night through the window?