I have a deep sense of compassion for most four-legged creatures, including the squashed frogs that I regularly spot in my community.
Especially, dogs: even a mention of one or a distant spotting makes me break into babyglese. I shower all my love and affection in language neither dog nor man follow. In fact, while growing up, we had a bark-load of dogs: the beautiful lady, the crack-pot terrier, the ever-smiling stray (or, was it just a jaw deformity?), the obese nutcase and, yes, that puppy we stole from our neighbours.
Most childhood games had important cameo roles for our dogs. When Tiger gave away the bride at the doll’s wedding. Okay, we had to pull her out from his teeth, but still, it was a poignant moment. Or, the cooking competition in which the bottom three dishes were fed to Munna. Then, there was Betsy who was one of the group dancers in our version of a Zeenat Aman number.
Even in our backyard Sport’s Day, there was a race for them. Some of them decided to take a nap, midway. That’s when our chief guest, which was mostly one of us by rotation, picked him and ran. We, briefly, considered introducing a rule dictating that the chief guest, also run on all fours.
There were some tense moments, too, like when my mother refused to be addressed as ‘granny’ by Stupid (more like by us, on his drooling behalf) or when Smokie decided to barf over the birthday gift. Dogs will be dogs, we said, and we protected them. Like today’s politicians protecting the weaker gender.
Well, like all good things coming to an end, childhood, too was over. And my adulthood has, sadly, been dog-less. Sometimes, I sit on the steps of my neighbourhood supermarket with strays and reminisce about the good-old dog-days over a packet of glucose biscuits. They look at me like I’m mad and that biting me would give them rabies. So, they just munch, not offering much solace.
My son and I have frequent ‘we-want-a-puppy’ pangs. Once, I even started writing a note to Santa asking for a puppy. Then, I realised I was 40 years old and there was no Santa. The problem is that whenever we discuss the possibility of a pet, our house is as divided as the Parliament. There are arguments and disruptions and the session is dismissed. Now, we don’t have a large, sprawling bungalow like I had while growing up. And, no one wants the dog to be in their hair all the time. Or, its hair all over them.
The neighbourhood is not helping, either. At 6.30 am, which, in my life, is 1 am, the neighbour’s dog barks with such passion that I fear he might spit one of his kidneys out. Another has a strained relationship with the garbage bin and goes into spasms of barks when it’s rolled out every morning. Every night I go to sleep with ear plugs firmly in place, dreaming of muzzles.
Who knows, with advancement in reproductive techniques, we might have dogs with volume control regulators? I think I will wait for that.
(Bestselling author Rachna Singh is a sit-down commedienne)