The Homecoming

A dog is man’s best friend and it is a legacy that is passed on from generation to generation. Rusty sacrificed his life for his human friends, will Rocky, his son, live up to his father’s loyalty… Come Rocky, shouted his mother. “You must be hungry.” But there was no sign of Rocky. His mother shook her head in exasperation. He was such a naughty pup; she didn’t know what to do with him. He was out playing all day, and though she had asked him not to venture out too far, she knew with his curiosity, it won’t be long before he went too far…and too near the old bungalow!!! She dreaded even thinking about that.

Never mind, she thought. He would come when he got tired. She had no strength to chase after him. Besides she knew that Rocky could take care of himself. There were times when she felt he would turn out to be a better hunter than Rusty, his father. He was after all, the son of a fine breed hound, and had his power; she was a stray and would have died long back, if not for Rocky’s father coming into her life. She still remembered it all so clearly. It was a wet September morning. It had been raining continuously for the past four days and the air was biting cold. She was shivering, standing near a roadside bench when Rusty and his master, an impressive colonel, passed by. She was scared and wanted to move, but realised that she had no strength to do so. Rusty almost passed, but when she managed to glance up at him, if only for a fleeting moment, he caught her eyes. He saw into those pitiful weak eyes and he could not take his eyes off her. The colonel and the beautiful hound reached the end of the road, and then tuned left. That was the last she would see off them?–?off anyone, she thought.

But she was so wrong. Rusty went back home to the colonel’s big bungalow, and sat down with the colonel’s family of three sons for tea. He was served a hot cup of milk with bread, an ideal meal for a wet cold morning. But Rusty could not eat. He could only see those lovely, hungry and weak eyes. Seeing that the colonel was immersed in the newspaper, the cook busy in the kitchen and the servant boy nowhere in sight, Rusty took the bread in his mouth and slipped out quietly. Then he ran, as fast as he could, to those eyes.

And there she was. He put the bread full of hot milk in front of her and she gorged it down. It felt so good and after ages, she felt alive. Once she finished, he got up and told her to follow him. She did, silently, and that was the first time she came to the bungalow. But she did not follow the dog inside the house. She quietly went to the far end of the garden, which was close to the kitchen. That was where she spent the night peacefully after a long time.

The next morning, the maid saw her first. Getting ready to be shooed out, Rocky’s mother almost dragged herself up. But suddenly she saw the maid returning with a plate of food, which she placed in front of her. And since then that small corner behind the kitchen, in the far end of the garden where almost no one ever came, Rocky’s mother found a new home. Rusty found her the next day, and from then on, they were a part of each other’s life. Rusty would sneak out whenever he could and spend time with her. They were very happy together and life seemed blissful. But alas, not for long.

It was on one such night when Rusty was with her that everything changed. They were enjoying the peace and quiet, when Rusty suddenly sprang up. He had heard something near the bungalow gate. He immediately rushed out and they were waiting for him- the two men who had been eyeing the bungalow for long now. They threw poisoned meat at him, but Rusty pounced on them with full force. Taken aback, they shot at him twice. In the silence of the night, the shots sounded like bombs and within minutes, the whole house woke up. The colonel also fired back at the men, but it was too late. The men had run away, but Rusty had caught the bullet in his stomach.

The shock was too much for her. Her heart sank with all the noise and she knew Rusty was no longer with her. She gave birth to Rocky the very next day. The maid took her to see Rusty’s grave which colonel had made for him, but she could not bear it. She hated colonel, because she had lost her Rusty because of him. She never wanted her Rocky to go anywhere near him. Every time she recalled that day, her feet turned cold. But she feared that one day Rocky would venture near the bungalow and she would lose him too.

Her thoughts were broken by the loud barking of her darling baby. “Mother!” he yelled, and she couldn’t help smiling. “And mom, I also saw two boys playing in the far end of the garden, near the bungalow. I so much want to play with them. May I?” he asked.

“No, never. You must never go near that bungalow. That was where your father died and I don’t want you going anywhere close, do you understand?” she asked sternly. He nodded sulkily and then hugged her. She was still worried, but could not think of leaving the place, which she had shared with Rusty.

One night, Rocky was busy strolling near the bungalow. He could not sleep and decided to walk a little further. Mom was asleep and she would have no idea, he thought. Slowly he walked on and noticed the watchman sitting sloppily in his chair and yawning away. “What a watchman,” thought Rocky. He was about to turn back when he heard something. “Psst..” said someone and Rocky noticed two men near the gate. “Sir do you have a match?” asked one. The watchman nodded and came over to the gate. He handed them a matchbox and they in turn offered him a cigar. The watchman’s eyes sparkled and he immediately began puffing on it. But before Rocky understood what was happening, he saw the watchman fall to the ground. The two men immediately pulled out the bundle of keys from his pocket and opened the gate. They knew the colonel was out and the cook and the servants were all asleep. They were pleased that they finally got their chance again to rob the bungalow. Six months ago, a stupid faithful hound had spoiled their neat plans.

But suddenly, something pounced on them and they couldn’t help but shriek out. They were just not prepared for the attack. One of them managed to flash his torch and he yelled out again. How was it possible? It was the same old hound that they had killed six months ago. They started firing again and Rocky began barking at the top of his voice even as he bit into the arm of the man wielding the gun. The gun dropped and the other man rushing to save his buddy also met the same fate. He cried out in pain and the other began yelling out to run. By now all the lights of the bungalow were on. There were people running from everywhere- the colonel’s sons, the cook, the servant and the maid were all there. But by now, the thieves had lost consciousness and the servants immediately tied them up and took them inside, while the cook called the police.

But the colonel’s two boys couldn’t move. They stood staring at the fine strong hound in front of them, looking at them with all the love in the world. “My God, it’s Rusty. Our Rusty is back. He has come back to us,” they screamed in delight.

“No boys. This is not Rusty. This is his son Rocky,” said the maid proudly.

But it didn’t matter. The boys ran to hug Rocky and he squealed in delight as he licked their face. The boys cried and he licked their tears. He was home, finally – to his family. The maid then took all of them to meet Rocky’s mother. The boys hugged her too and asked the maid to get them all home to the bungalow. The colonel, who had been called back immediately, made a beautiful room for Rocky’s mother, but the boys would not let Rocky go out of their sight. He was now a favourite of the colonel and the boys and everyone loved him more than their own lives. And when Rocky’s mother saw Rocky playing with the boys and being pampered by them, she sighed in relief and joy. She knew she was wrong to think that the colonel had forgotten Rusty. He was as heartbroken by his death as she was. But now, things were fine. They were home, safe and secure, with the family that Rusty loved more than his own life. She knew that Rusty would finally be at peace now.