‘A dog’s life’ is narrated by Moti from his home in heaven.
After that, life became one long party. My skin began to heal very fast, and I began to put on weight. Within a few months, the fur started growing back, still coarse and mousy brown, but at least I looked like a proper dog. Since my muscles had grown stronger, I could walk and run around using all four legs. In fact, you wouldn’t even have known I was lame when I was in motion. It was only while standing still that my left rear leg looked slightly raised at the hip.
My ears had healed well. The Pinto girl called them maps of Australia, because the flaps were all unevenly shaped where the pieces had been bitten off.
In the beginning, Harichander and watchman avoided me. But as I started getting well, and they realised that I was really quite even tempered, they started talking to me occasionally.
Though I must clarify that I never sought out or greeted any humans other than the Pintos. But when approached by anyone, I would wag my tail politely, and allow them to stroke me. And I was very careful to stand by the one personal rule I had made – never ever to bite any living creature, whatever the provocation.
Tiger and I adopted the Pinto family. They had six dogs, of which three were white, one black and two brown. They were walked in groups of three, twice a day. Tiger and I would scamper along beside them pretending we were on leashes too, all walking in a horizontal line. Two of the white ones were males, but they didn’t act possessive of their white lady, and allowed us to cover her pee. Lucky thing, she had four guys with her always marking after her.
But Tiger and I were always aware of the “status” difference. Oh yes, doggy society has that too. So we did very much want a girlfriend of our own to hang out with.
Tiger told me that there were lots of interesting things we could do with a female dog. He had done some, and then found his female friends with lots of little pups after that. But he also warned me that when it got really interesting, all the male dogs nearby would start fighting, and we could get bitten and mauled. He had been wounded several times, but not too badly.
“The fun part is so good, Moti, that you just don’t care about the pain from fighting for it. There are many days when I don’t even want to eat when I’m on a roll”.
I was curious about all this. So when Rani moved in next door one summer, I greeted her with much warmth and expectation.
She was already a grown up dog, and we had no idea where she suddenly sprung from, nor did she ever tell us.
Tiger said she looked a lot like his mother, white with brown patches. She was very pretty with a taut muscular little body and the sweetest nature I ever encountered among all the dogs I knew. She had an enticing short stepped springy gait, and swayed her hindquarters slightly when she walked. She was lovely, and we were in love.
The three of us got along like a house on fire. We played in the field, we ran about in the streets, we were fed like clockwork so never went hungry, and we slept, as they say, like dogs. The Pinto girl often teased me about what a great life we had. “We humans go to work, to make money to live. But you chaps just have a ball the whole day long”, she grumbled at me affectionately. But that was strictly not true. We did guard the building at night. There were many occasions when we fended off cat burglars and car accessory thieves by barking, and walking up the night watchman.
It was Rani who did most of the guard work. She was always alert especially at night, and her pert little ears picked up the smallest of sounds. As for Tiger, he was only too happy to let Rani take over the watch once she moved in.
“Her bark is better than mine”, was his excuse. “The humans find it more scary”.
A few months after knowing Rani, she suddenly became all playful and affectionate. I was very happy and surprised about that, but Tiger started behaving a little odd with me. Now and then, he would growl at me for no apparent reason, and I would move away hurt but without argument.
Then, Rani began to wander off a bit, Tiger in tow. I didn’t like to stray too far from the building, so I didn’t join them. After some weeks, all kinds of male dogs came visiting, wanting to play with Rani, and she would enjoy herself with all of them. But some of them would get angry with each other, and there would be noisy fights.
I decided that I had my share of beating up in life and wanted no part of this aggression, so I stayed quietly out of the way and just observed. Then the pandemonium stopped as quickly as it started, and after a month, Rani became very quiet indeed, and put on some weight. Another month, and lo and behold, just as Tiger said, one morning we found four little pups all curled up near Rani.
Initially, Rani refused to let us approach her. But after a few days, she allowed me to come forward and sniff her babies. Strangely enough, though Tiger was probably a father to one or two of them, she refused to let him even within a few feet from her. I was however allowed to sit close by, and lick them and nuzzle them.
The pups were blind and deaf, and only interested in her milk and sleep, and cried stupidly every time they were hungry and she had gone off to ease herself. But they soon grew bigger and fatter, and after their eyes opened, they waddled off by themselves on their plump little feet. As they got older, they got very playful, knocking each other about, rolling on their sides, and chasing each other, and I would join in the revelry, privately thinking that they were very silly fellows indeed.
“Rani is too choosy”, Tiger complained to me. “Why does she treat you like their father, and not me?”
“You had your fun with her earlier”, I replied, “and I didn’t complain, did I? She probably thinks you will be too rough with them, that’s all. Now let’s just enjoy being with these kids since they will go away soon, and then you will miss them a little. Later it will just be the three of us again, and you will feel better”.
As soon as the pups were two months old, the Pinto girl found human homes for them, and things were back to normal.
This cycle happened a few more times over the years, till one day I decided that it was time Rani made me a father too.
She was very sweet about that, letting me play with her quietly.
One day inside the building when no other dogs were around, so that I wouldn’t get attacked by them. After it was over, I noticed that the Pinto mother had seen us. That evening when the Pinto girl brought us our food, she gave me a special cuddle. “I’m so happy for you, Moti. I bet your pup will be Rani’s best ever”.
And he was. A fine light brown fellow with my hazel eyes, who found a good home, which I hope stayed that way. I never saw him again, just like I never saw my parents and littermates – but then, even if I had, I wouldn’t know. After he and his littermates left, Rani did a very strange thing. She adopted a kitten! He was a little ginger brown tabby that had wandered into our building when he was a few weeks old, meowing pitifully with hunger. Cats weren’t too popular among the building folk, so Harichander and the rest of the downstairs gang ignored him.
He must have hung around furtively, in the way that cats always seem to, till he got the smell of milk from Rani’s teats. I wasn’t around to actually see Rani bond with him. All I know was that the next morning I found him suckling away at one of her teats, eyes closed in bliss, paws kneading her stomach, while Rani looked up at me sheepishly.
She knew that Tiger and I hated cats, but her maternal instinct was too strong for her to discard the orphaned kitten, especially now when her teats were still full of milk but there were no pups around to suckle.
Tiger was disgusted by her “betrayal” and snarled at the kitten, who ignored him in that supercilious way cats have. “First she doesn’t treat me like the father of her pups, now she goes and feeds this cat”, he grumbled. Tiger liked to be the centre of attention and losing out to the pups was bad enough, but losing out to a kitten was an insult.
I decided to ignore them, since Rani would not have listened to us anyway, and told Tiger to do the same. He reluctantly agreed, sensing that this was not going to be a permanent problem.
The Pinto girl got very excited when she saw Rani feeding the kitten, and rushed off to get her camera for a photograph. This made us jealous, because she had never taken photos of us, and we told her so. “Stop making such a fuss”, she chided us. “I have photos of you in my heart, okay, where they last much longer. But cats never stay, and this kitten will go off soon. Besides, this is like an animal miracle and I want to show this photo around to a few friends”.
The kitten stayed on for more that a month, growing fat and friendly. He and Rani scampered around the building, like an odd couple, and I think he became genuinely confused about whether he was a dog or a cat.
He rolled and leaped about imitating Rani, but did none of the usual cat things like kneading and stalking, and jumping around in mid air. But Tiger and I continued to ignore him, because who knew when he would suddenly realize that he had those awful retractable cat claws with which he could scratch our faces?
He did go away soon, but not in the way we expected. One night he got hit by a speeding car when he left the building to investigate something on the road.
Rani was desolate, sadder than she had ever been to see any of her own puppies go. But there is no place for lasting grief in the animal world, and she recovered soon enough.