Someone has said, “…When you buy a dog, you buy a future tragedy….” It is a correct but incomplete statement. Tragedy indeed but it is preceded by enormous love and joy, making it always a beautiful life.
The family man…
Our family was blessed with Mr Buddy, who was a family man. For him, the family was above all and he loved it more than anything else. With everyone else, he was just polite – with the exception of crows that he hated and was prepared to stand vigil under the trees craning his neck long after they had flown away. Buddy did not have much time for other dogs, he would mostly ignore them but sometimes, despite being Beagle, he would pick a fight with the big ones, particularly the really big ones like the Dobermans and St Bernards. He was civil with guests and tolerated them because they were friends of the family and their visits would be accompanied with the customary round of snacks and good food which he loved. But he had defined his purpose in life to be a family man, rest was a distraction. So he ate, drank and slept with us, he loved morning tea and would cut short his morning walks on Sundays so that he could be part of the morning tea ritual, he watched TV, never missed a yoga class, or any of the tuitions, he actively participated in pujas, havans, and parties.
Being a family man, Buddy never liked the family to travel, he could sense imminent departures and would become melancholic, his worst fear would get confirmed on seeing the bags being brought down and opened for packing. He would sit in the open bags almost asking to be packed and taken along. Equally, family returning was a joyous occasion for him, irrespective of whether it was after a day at the office or after two weeks of vacation. We were greeted with the same gusto and cheer….all was forgotten and forgiven. He did not like it when we did not treat him as an equal, he wanted a seat on the table and sulked in a corner if he felt he was not part of family discussions. But a simple invitation would address the matter and he would come scampering back to be the centre of the congregation. Heaven for him was to be in the middle, on his back, his paws in the air, with the family sprawled around him, talking of him and stroking him. And the sound of heaven was a gentle continuous snort – that is when Mr Buddy would forget he was a Scent Hound and purr like a cat.
Buddy comes home…
Buddy’s entry into the family was not easy and the result of skillful negotiation with mom. Shivam and I wanted a Beagle and found him…the last of his litter, a beautiful tri-coloured fur ball with a perfect jaw line. He came to us whimpering on an August afternoon after a long car ride – perhaps the trauma of the first car ride made him hate long car journeys. Later he would like only short rides when he would stand and wobble on the front seat with his head outside over the side view mirror, his ears flopping in the wind. Longer journeys made him nauseous. The fog of memory makes it difficult to remember who named him, we all want to claim that act but I think it was Shubhi who chose the name of our newest family member. He was just three weeks old then – with splayed legs, big ears, a small head and huge eyes. Always his doe like black eyes made the deepest impressions even on strangers, who would stop us during walks and comment on his handsome face and eyes. Indeed, if eyes are windows to the soul, then they showed a gentle and noble – and as Dr Hatekar said – ‘A saintly soul’.
First step towards being a family man…
When he went to Bankhedi, there was a throng to see the ‘Malaysian Dog’, the village people were disappointed, he was just like any other dog but their verdict was that he had a handsome face and beautiful eyes like no other dog. He kept running away in Bankhedi, wanting to explore the myriad smells. Once on a walk he never wanted to return. He escaped one summer morning without us getting to know, but a knock was heard in the afternoon – it was a muddy, tired, hungry Mr Buddy. He had returned…he was becoming a family man.
Family life is not easy…
Buddy’s induction into the family was tougher than his entry. Buddy religiously emptied dustbins, he swallowed scrunchies, he gnawed the dining table, TV remote, books, pens, bags, my passport, slippers, and countless socks. Visitors were issued a standard warning to guard their footwear. After he unzipped Munna mama’s bag and stole the dry fruits, the standard warnings and preventive measures became more elaborate and serious. But he crossed the line when he chewed up mom’s favourite Iranian carpet. She got it repaired at great expense and he chewed it up again, and then he sat on it, victorious, wagging his tail and thumping his feet. Mr Buddy came close to being banished from the family that day. But he clawed himself back into favour, after all his destiny was to become a family man.
Over time Mr Buddy evolved a special relationship with each member of our family. With mom, it was one of care but that was after they had settled their power struggle. For a while, Mr Buddy made a bid for the No 2 position in the family. He recognised me as the ‘head’ but felt the No 2 position belonged to him. So, he would try to occupy mom’s favourite position in the TV room and when she travelled, he slept on mom’s side of the bed with his head on her pillow. But over time, he realised he had a formidable competitor and sacrificed his ambitions – after all he was a family man first. He had lost the war but won mom’s heart. He started to wait for her eagerly, if he was in the balcony when she came home, Buddy would be poking his head through the grill, floppy ears drooping, whimpering, beseeching mom on the driveway to come up quickly. Any cry of pain during the yoga sessions would prompt Mr Buddy to get up and investigate the matter and one time he jumped on poor instructor, imploring him to take it easy on mom with the asanas. The Iranian carpet episode had been long forgotten by both.
And with my children–Shubhi and Shivam–his relationship was one of total, absolute, elder brotherly love. With Shubhi, he would just turn all gooey and cuddly on being picked up by her. He loved her massages and would keep insisting for more. Mr Buddy could never take any censure from Shubhi and would express his displeasure with a little pee on her bed. Shubhi could never, never scold Mr Buddy. With Shivam, he was watchful though protective. He loved being with the boys but as he grew older, he would admonish them if they were too noisy. For quite a long time he could outrun Shivam, who is on a cycle and no one could ever catch him if he decided to take off with a golf or tennis ball. I could never raise my voice on the kids in his presence, forget about laying a hand. He would climb up on me and put his paw on my face requesting me to stop; this loving act was demonstrated to many an incredulous guest.
Only when Shivam used his size to push him around, Buddy would take revenge by peeing on Shivam’s schoolbag. But he knew he had done something wrong and would await my arrival with trepidation, hiding at the sound of my entry. On hearing the complaints, I would ask him to come forth, which he would, slowly, in measured steps, as if walking on thin ice, his head hung down, sneaking sideways glances from his dark black eyes which would become even larger, his floppy years tightly squeezed back, requesting forgiveness. On being forgiven, his joy was unbounded, he would race around the room, jump around and end up running away with a pair of socks or slippers. This incredible act was also demonstrated many a time to awe struck guests. I think he loved being pampered by Shubhi on Rakhi and felt like one of the boys in the company of Shivam’s friends – he was a family man.
Dadi, he took for granted, his relationship was of indulgence. Pushing dadi off the bed, destroying her chunnis and demanding a share of all her food, particularly the morning biscuit dipped in chai. Of course, dadi loved it and would sometimes worry if for several days Buddy had not ripped up one of her precious chunnis. When dadi left for the US he would spend at least a day in her room. He was affectionate towards nani too. How can we ever forget the ferocity with which he would confront Venkat the lab assistant when he came to draw nani’s blood samples.
He disliked outsiders removing things from the house and would bark himself hoarse even when it was painful for him to bark and it came out in yelps. He also had cordial relations with the house helps. Ramlal thought he had trained Buddy to come on a walk attracted by the bits of food he would carry in the pocket, it was the other way round – Mr Buddy had trained Ramlal to carry small amounts of food during their walks.
He even accepted Chotu- Jackboots, the swaggering, arrogant, roguish, raffish, loud, thug of a street cat. He chased other cats but never threatened Chotu except when it came to the food wars. Chotu felt so comfortable in Mr Buddy’s presence that he let his guard down and even started usurping Mr Buddy’s bed. But that did not matter to Mr Buddy, as this was family and he was a family man.
Towards me, he was devoted as I was to him. He was whimpering on his first night and out of pity I made him sleep in a small bed next to me and since then till the very last he slept by my bed. When I woke up, my first words were to him and when I slept, my last words were for him. Mr Buddy could not tolerate even a sneeze from me and when I returned after a long trip, he was sure that he was priority No 1. In case I went to the loo, he would scratch the door down compelling me to come out quickly and complete our share of nuzzling, licking, fondling, talking, snorting and petting. He shared my love for mutton and after I realised that he could smell it on me after a meal outside, I started to get a bone back for him – as a doggy bag from restaurants, surreptitiously wrapped in a napkin from parties and as return gifts from friends who knew he was my third child.
The dreaded time…
Ever since his spinal cord problem had got established and he was put on steroids, the countdown had begun for me. In my mind, there was a constant tick tock of the eternal clock in the background which came to a clanging, clashing stop with a call from mom and her sobbing message “…We have lost Buddy…”. He lived up to his name, he was a true Buddy, he was our family member and will remain so forever, I just wish we had a little more time with him. I wish I had brushed his coat one more time…. I wish I had shown him a beach and seen him frolic in the waves…. I wish I had taken him for one longer walk in the tekri this monsoon. I wish he had not died and had lived longer than me…. May his soul rest in peace!
–Deepika Sharma, Pune