Dog Days

When happiness is a warm puppy

Written by Ranjit Lal | New Delhi | Published:September 29, 2013 5:47 am

When happiness is a warm puppy

Our first dog,Bambi,a very sweet Boxer,was obtained by the use of heavy emotional blackmail: we (my sisters and I) left our parents with very little choice but to agree or face Gandhian civil disobedience and non-cooperation (I would recommend this strategy to all families wanting a dog but facing unreasonable objection from certain family members).

So Bambi staggered into our home,just six weeks old and 5 lbs,and promptly became an integral part of the family (much to the horror of non-dog-loving relatives and friends). She had her own bed,her own sofa,which,needless to say,became a spa for ticks,and wanted a place at the table because stupidly we had given her tidbits while eating. She would drool and whine till she drove you nuts,but all she did when you took away her bone was to look at you reproachfully,sigh and sniff around,checking if you’d missed something. She loved horse-dung (both to eat and roll in,the better to lick your face afterwards),butter,rasmalai,beer and refused to learn to come,sit,stay,and walk at heel or any other such nonsensical commands. She was well ahead of her time (the ’70s and ’80s) in that she was career-oriented and took very little interest in gentlemen dogs — until,of course,broad-shouldered Chops showed up. She was the most independent of our dogs and my father’s favourite.

Chops,who I just brought home one day without informing anyone in advance,also a Boxer,was the archetypal doofus. He had a rheumy drunken squint that won over everyone. He made it his life’s cause to defend Bambi’s honour,right from the age of three months. All bluff and bluster,he loved nothing better than to climb into your lap,put his head on your shoulder and start snoring,which felt rather like being sat on by the incredible Hulk.

As what I call “genuine-fake” guard dogs,the Boxers were unbeatable and I would often pray that someone rang the doorbell after 8 pm. When (and if) this happened,both the Boxers (sleeping peacefully at my feet) would erupt,barking gruffly. With an evil grin on my face,and a Boxer on either side,I’d open the door. It was always worth it.

I got more cheap thrills when I took them for a walk at the Delhi Ridge,when we’d come across peeping Toms or just plain peeing Toms. They’d usually be too engrossed to notice the dogs until they got sniffed up real close,and then,they would vamoose in blind panic. Passers-by would nervously ask,“Kaatega?” (Will they bite?),to which my reply often was “Pata nahin,pooch lena.” (I don’t know,ask them!)

And then there was Wag,the enfant-terrible. A gora-chitta Labrador from Hapur,and the complete antithesis of his breed-standard. He made his intentions clear,when at two months,he squatted next to his vomit and guarded it as if it were the crown jewels. At home,he refused to wear a collar,forget about a coat in winter (even shivering was a better option). He never became a paunchy lala Lab because he expended so much energy barking shatteringly (non-stop in the car,in your ear while you drove) and plotting his devious one-upmanship moves. He’d lie in front of doorways,so he could keep tabs on which member of the family went where,and do headcounts regularly. In the house,he was the passport and immigration control authority. A stern taskmaster,this fellow would confiscate (and collect) tennis balls bouncing into his lawn from the common lawn outside where the children played. And he was too intelligent for his own good: unlike the Boxers,he learnt to sit and stay and seek,but in games of “find the ball”,he would not be averse to cheating if he could.

But he was moody and unpredictable,manically possessive,and couldn’t be trusted around children (unlike the Boxers). There was something bipolar about him,possibly due to inbreeding. He could be charming and silly one moment,flint-eyed and dangerous the next and it was up to you to sense the change in his moods.

All three of them,so much like people you know. All three,family: the Boxers always ready to make you laugh and ever ready to sympathise with a lick and a nudge (“How about a biscuit? It’ll make you feel better”). And petulant Wag,tossing his head and barking in your face to let you know,that no,the world did not revolve around you but him and always him and only him,so stop being such a grouch and get off your butt and look lively.

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