Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Farewell

I still remember the day she was born, like it was yesterday! Pingo chose to give birth under my brother’s bed and we waited in anticipation and barely suppressed excitement as each puppy came out of their mother’s womb. She was the last one – almost half hour younger than the rest of the pups and the smallest of the lot. I was immediately smitten and named her Chhotu, because she was so tiny! My sister named the rest Lolo, Goondi and Bhalo! What a joyful time that was – watching the four of them grow from red and sticky looking creatures to white balls of fur, their tails like baby-corns. As much as we loved them all, it was impossible to keep five dogs in the house – so we had to give away Lolo and Goondi. I couldn’t imagine parting with Chhotu and my brother with Bhalo. So they stayed.

The little fur-balls grew into playful puppies in no time and kept all of us on our toes with their mischief. They would run amok given the slightest opportunity throwing everybody in a tizzy to catch them and bring them back to safety! One morning when the pups were two and a half months old, Chhotu fell from the fourth floor terrace! No one knows till date how she reached the terrace and jumped over the vegetable patch – but she did, and miraculously survived the fall with only a fractured forearm! It was such a sorry sight – Chhotu would limp around all day on three legs, her forepaw stretched in a plaster cast! That made her even more adorable in our eyes. It was around that time she started sleeping on my bed, snuggling next me. She would sleep as long as I slept…that could be 10 in the morning on some days!!

A few years later I left Kolkata and moved to Bangalore. The first few months were sheer torture. I was homesick alright – but more than that I missed Chhotu; her playfulness, her frantic welcome when I came home, her warm furry body next to me when I slept at night! Eventually the pain dulled and I got used to living on my own in a different city away from everything I’ve ever known, but every now and then I’d rush back home to be with my babies Chhotu and Bhalo.

Eventually my distance from home became even greater when I moved to Seattle and I wouldn’t see my babies for almost two and a half years! When I walked into the house after such a long gap, Chhotu and Bhalo greeted me with the same frantic enthusiasm as always…but Pingo was very sick. That was the last time I’d see her…few months later she had to be put to sleep to end her sufferings! That was such a huge shock for me and even now when I enter my mother’s house, its hard to believe that Pingo is not there anymore!

As an empty-nester, my mother’s life started revolving around Bhalo and Chhotu. They were her children, her friends, and her reason to wake up every morning! When I relocated to Hyderabad, I decided to bring Ma, Bhalo and Chhotu to come and stay with me. It was a huge endeavor – convincing Ma that the two dogs, now more than 10 years old would survive the journey, stuck in a cage and locked up in the cold, dark belly of the plane! On top of that I had to get custom made cages for the two of them and get necessary paper work required by the airlines for transporting animals – finally everything was arranged! I couldn’t sleep at night all week before the journey and kept praying that Bhalo and Chhotu reach Hyderabad alive! Ma will never forgive me if anything happened to them in the hold of the aircraft! But we made it – Chhotu and Bhalo reached Hyderabad alive and all was well! We spent the next six months just like old times – well almost! I was reunited with my babies, but they were not babies anymore! Both of them were old and as much as they loved to play, they tired easily. Then there was sonny boy – those two never really took to him and regarded him mostly as a nuisance vying for attention from me and Ma! Yet, the six months flew and they went back home, which was yet another production involving cages, tranquilizers, frayed nerves and non-stop prayers!

The last time I went to Kolkata was a month before I was to move back to Seattle. Both Chhotu and Bhalo were not keeping well. Ma was tense and the vet had become a permanent fixture in the house. I’d call home every now and then to find out about them and talk to Ma who was getting into the vicious cycle of insomnia and depression. She would constantly voice her fears about the future without Chhotu and Bhalo and the bottomless pit of emptiness that she was slowly sinking into. How helpless that made me feel – not being able to do anything to help her out! I can’t leave here; Ma can’t leave Kolkata because the dogs are in no state to travel!

Then Chhotu fell violently ill…all of us gave up hope, including the doctor… but Ma didn’t! I’d call her everyday and enquire after Chhotu! I don’t know if it was the strength of Ma’s love or Chhotu’s will to live, in a few weeks she got better! We all heaved a huge sigh of relief!

But who has ever been able to cheat destiny?! Day before yesterday, Chhotu stopped eating and on wobbly legs started exploring the house. She would walk, fall down, sleep for a while and then get up and explore some more refusing all attempts to feed her. Ma waited for the inevitable with bated breath all day and then ten minutes to three in the morning, Chhotu came to Ma, lay down at her feet and breathed her last!

I was informed almost twelve hours later…not that I could have done anything had I known earlier! I couldn’t have done anything even if I was right there! Except may be lend Ma a shoulder to cry on, wipe her tears, distract her from the vacuous emptiness that Chhotu has left behind, relive the last 13 years of joy that she brought to our lives…but all I can do is write this post and try to reduce the numbness that has engulfed my whole being since I got the email bearing the news early this morning! I know I’ll never get over this, but I’ll learn to live without her, just as I learnt many years ago in Bangalore…but this time there’ll be no Chhotu jumping up and down with unbridled joy when I go home in June!


White Magpie said...


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful life your dog had with you! Loosing a pet is one of the most difficult things that can occur. That unconditional trusting and love is such a gift. I am so sorry for your loss! ~Cavegirl

Ghetufool said...

oh God! your life experience is so similar to me. your chotoo was so similar to my bony.

my deepest condolence and sympathy. life goes on. i am sure chotoo had a wonderful life and lived to its full.

oh...you made me so nostalgic!

~IRIS~ said...

I understand your pain. I lost my dog last year.

God bless Chotu with a wonderful new life!

Bobby said...

I can empathise. Dumpy is 17, nearly deaf & blind, goes about banging his head to walls, chairs. The only thing that he does with some amount of strength is eat. We feel helpless & pray that he should not suffer. I know your love for pets - Kutwa, pingo - take heart in the fact that they led happy lives & u made that happen. Let me know when will u be coming in june - your bday as well as mine!

Nautilus said...

Thanks Magpie, Cavegirl, Ghetu, Isis and Bobby...your thoughts mean a lot to me!