‘A dog’s life’ is narrated by Moti from his home in heaven. –by Lynn de Souza Till now…Moti was picked up by Golu from his littermates and brought to Brindavan building. He befriends Tiger, another dog and the kind-hearted Pinto girl who takes care of both of them. Moti is hurt and driven away from Brindavan, seeks refuge in drain but eventually with the help of Pinto girl gets acceptance at Brindavan. He meets Rani and fathers a pup. Facing other brutalities of life, he and Tiger are caught by death dog van but are rescued by the Pinto girl. Tiger gets ill and is driven from Brindavan and suffers a painful death…
I was eight years old when Tiger died, with still a couple of good doggy years left inside me. But I grew lonely, and missed him very much. Rani now practically stayed all the time at Brindavan, and kept me company.
The Pintos had started feeding her daily. When they came back from their holiday, and Harichander told them about Tiger, I was surprised to see how upset the mother got. The tears stood out in her eyes, and she rushed off upstairs. “Mum saved Tiger’s life so many times when he was little”, the Pinto girl explained to me.
Rani stopped having puppies. She too had started to age a little, and her wandering days were over. We both kept watch over the building at night, but our hearts weren’t in it, after we saw the shabby treatment Tiger had received.
But the Pinto girl reminded me that for every wrong act, there is a corresponding right one happening somewhere in the world, so I should not bear any grudges against Harichander and company, and be grateful that I still enjoyed a peaceful life. Peaceful it was, but that only lasted till Rex came along.
Rex was a German Shepherd who came into the building as a pup in the apartment immediately neighbouring the Pinto’s. By the time he was a year old, and I was nine, he was the terror of the building.
He had bitten other dogs, including one of the Pinto’s, and also some of the children. His owner had a special extra door with grills built, to prevent him from rushing out. But they secretly wanted a ferocious guard dog, because they were up to all kinds of shady business.
It was only a matter of time before he bit me. One of the Pinto’s dogs came into season and Rex got very excited indeed. On one of the days of her heat, he managed to escape past both the doors, and rushed down the stairs. I made a dash for the gate as soon as I heard his heavy breath and pounding feet, but it was too late. He went for my genitals and bit hard. Being much lighter and nimbler than he was, despite my age and broken hip, I pulled free and ran as fast as I could out of the gate, while the watchman quickly shut it past me, so that Rex couldn’t follow. The servant who looked after him came running down, and collared him and took him away.
Luckily I wasn’t too badly hurt, just the one bite, which hadn’t gone too deep, but it was still very painful. She came quickly with her dressing material and started to clean and bandage the wound.
The next morning her parents left for an extended holiday abroad to live with their son. While leaving her mother said to me, quite sadly, “Will you be well? Will you still be here when I get back, or will you too be gone like Tiger?” I couldn’t reply then, but like Tiger had felt earlier, I think we too said our silent goodbyes to each other at that moment.
Despite the dressing, the wound caught maggots. And I came down with a high fever as well. So she called the vet, who gave me a shot of antibiotics, and then attempted to puncture a vein in my left leg to feed in a special kind of injection, that would perk me up a bit. I think that was a mistake. He didn’t seem to have found the vein properly, and sent the medicine into the muscles around it instead. That is very dangerous, because these strong injections can destroy all the surrounding tissues, and in my case they did. My leg started swelling up, and by the next evening, I was unable to put my foot down.
The vet came again and tried to give me another injection, in the other leg, but I didn’t trust him anymore and for the first time in my life, I resisted, and wouldn’t stay still. So he went away without doing anything.
I had lost the will to eat, and she began to feed me manually, holding my mouth open and placing morsels of bread mixed with something sweet deep inside my mouth. The fever was still high, and she fed me little bits every few hours.
I could tell that she was exhausted from managing her home, and her own dogs, and her office, and now me all by herself, but did the best she could, sitting by my side all evening, and late into the night. When we dogs feel ill, we like to sit quietly away from everything preferably in a dark place, so I crawled under her car and tried to sleep.
I was suffering and in pain again after so many years. This time it was a little different though. When I was a young dog, pain made me panic. Now I felt no fear, just discomfort. I knew that I was in good hands, that Tiger would fulfil his promise to me, that from his place far away, he would exercise whatever power he had over mother nature to make sure that I would not have reason to be sad or scared.
On my last night on earth, she stayed with me till well past midnight. She gave me my last helping of sweet water and medicine, then wished me goodnight. “I’ll see you in the morning then, Moti. I’ll bring Mischief to see you as well, he’s been wondering why you haven’t joined him for the morning walk for so many days”. That was a good thing to hear. Mischief was a very sweet chap, a black long eared Cocker Spaniel, with a playful nature, who had also once been bitten by Rex. She had adopted him two years earlier, and he had quickly become her favourite. I liked him too, he loved walking with me, and I could tell that he would be very good to her when Tiger and I were no longer around.
It was an agonising night for me. The pain in my leg was intense, and despite the medicine, I felt alternately hot and cold with fever. My head and eyes ached, and I found it difficult to breathe.
At one point in the middle of the night I was so uncomfortable, that I let out a loud cry. She came running down to check on me when she heard me cry, but I had already settled down by the bench, and felt a little better. So she stayed with me for a while, and then went back upstairs.
Like Tiger, I knew when it was time for me to go. Unlike him, I was loved and cared for till the very end. But I didn’t want to leave without saying goodbye to Mischief who, she had promised me, was coming to see me the next morning. So I kept on breathing for as long as I could, waiting and waiting for the early morning sun to rise.
She brought him right after his morning walk. Mischief kissed me, and licked my face. “You look all tired out, old chap”, he said, jovially. “Don’t worry, there will be no more pain and suffering in the place where you’re going. And you’ll meet Tiger again, and some of my friends too, I won’t be meeting you in a hurry, but when I do, don’t act like you’ve forgotten me already, okay?”
He wagged his stump of a tail joyfully, because I could tell that he was genuinely happy for me. He could see past my pain to the times that lay ahead, in that special way we animals have.
I did have a pretty good life, and here I was, having the best kind of death in the circumstances. Pain becomes much more bearable when you have someone around who gives you love along with medicines.
“I’ll be back just now with your food, Moti”, she whispered, and chucked me under my chin. She stroked my head a few times, but tears were already rolling down her eyes, as she witnessed Mischief and me sniffing each other for the last time. She gazed deep and searchingly into my hazel eyes for a long time. I think she was looking for something very important right then, and I hope she found it. Then she turned away, and went upstairs with Mischief in tow.
I filled my eyes with my last earthly sight of her, and then looked beyond into another world, a world where I could see Tiger, the stupid kitten, some of the Pinto dogs who had passed on too, and the dogs I had seen at the electric chamber, all beautiful and happy, and eternally alive. And full of the joy of living. In that instant I learnt that finding your home, and you can only ever have one true home in any life, is not an easy thing. It is always preceded by great suffering – like the night I was beaten up in the rain, and now the night of fever and pain.
Could that be why many of you never find your true homes ever – because you are not prepared to accept or endure the trials that must go before?
She came down again when the watchman informed her that I had passed away, and wrapped me up in a white towel, then laid me in the back seat of her car. She phoned her aunt and uncle who came over and drove the car to the spot at the beach where she had buried all her other dogs. She dug up a deep pit in the sand with a shovel, laid me down in it, and then crossing herself and me, she wished me goodbye. “See you someday, Moti”, she wept softly. “You have been the best friend I ever had, and I will really miss you”.
So that’s my story, the story of a dog’s life, sometimes happy sometimes sad, but a life I am always more than glad to have lived.
I felt the hardship of blows, but I also felt the tenderness of the human touch. I found that true friendship crosses all the boundaries and forms of life, and home lies only in the heart of a true friend.
And if there is one important lesson that I have for you, my human friend, it is that nothing is perfect. Where there is great sorrow there is also great joy, and the opposite is also true. It is only in discovering and dealing with the imperfections of life with eternal love and optimism that we live at all.