If only there were rewind and replay buttons in life…

32

My first impulse, as I open my eyes every morning, is to swing my hand down to your version of ‘good morning’—a soft nudge of your wet nose or a furry paw in my hand from your usual resting place half under the bed. But there’s no wet nose, no lick, no paw of Chotu. Just a gnawing vacuum! You bailed out barely two months from my return. If only there were rewind and replay buttons in life…


You are no longer there but I see you everywhere, all the time. In the smudges on the walls, your favourite resting places where you slept with all your four legs ridiculously in the air, tail thumping the floor when you wanted to join the conversation, anointing the walls with leg or tail-grease; in the scraped knob on the drawer which you gnawed on as a pup, and oh, around all the tennis balls that you ‘retrieved’ (not stole!) from the children’s park that keep turning up around the house and lawn.

You brightened up my day

Then, you’re there on my laptop on my desktop, where you have resided for the last three years while I was abroad. One look at that picture was enough to brighten up my day. And yes, you got pretty well-known in the US too! Because, of course, you kept popping up in my teaching presentations, which brought classes to a delightful halt when my students needed to be introduced to you before I could get back to teaching writing. I shared with all and sundry your stories – of our very unique bond, your impressive vocabulary and the way you understood, tones and words, especially mine.

‘Heartbreak’ is not just a word

Chotu & Madhumita

I realise with devastating clarity that ‘heartbreak’ is not just a word. It is a physical truth; I can actually feel my heart being wrung every time any little thing reminds me that you, a crucial part of my life, are no longer around. That you left when I wasn’t there by you. Even as I adjust to referring to you in past tense, I find myself accidentally carrying an extra biscuit when I step out to feed your stray friends. Old habits, you know, I used to do that to avoid those wide, accusing eyes of yours – the sheer injustice of depriving you of a biscuit while feeding ‘outsiders’!

I hadn’t abandoned you!

You must have wondered how your mom could leave you for so long. Believe me, baby dog, it was the most gut-wrenching decision I’d ever taken. I wouldn’t have left you even for day, much less years, if I didn’t have to. My only consolation, all these years, was that you were with Papa – very well taken care of, and that we would meet at the end of these years. Your usual overall cheerfulness when I saw you during the long-distance video-calls reassured me about your trooper -like Labradorian patience and acceptance. I would like to believe that your doggy-heart knew that I hadn’t abandoned you. I wouldn’t ever.

Wish I get you back all over again

So, bad doggie, what made you give-up when the end was in sight? Papa had left you for just above two months, at the end of which we would both have returned. I was counting days and hours when we would see you, we were betting on who would get the most rousing welcome – me or Papa.

I found myself smiling and anticipating that impatient tug of your leash when we would resume our walks. We could have had tonnes of fun again on our multiple walks, you dumbo! You’ve no idea how much I was looking forward to getting back to my writing, once again with my feet either under the comforting weight of your solid, furry tummy, or on it, gently rising and falling with your contented sighs. That was not to be, you just left, just two months before that. Just like that. No illness, no forewarning, nothing. Not fair.

You might have hung on!

We left you in good hands, true, they were not ours, but it was just for a couple of months baby dog! You might have hung on! My very close friend consoled me that you were so considerate that you ensured that your ‘pack’ would be together, none of us alone, when you passed away. Believe me I would have traded that in a heartbeat just to get a few days, a few moments with you before you were irretrievably lost. I owed you that. Another friend reassured me said that dogs/animals do not realise that they are dying, they just drift off looking forward to a new tomorrow. I do, do so hope that that is so.

So, in your doggie heaven, I hope you woke up and were reunited with some version of us, and after your customary sulking eventually forgave us. Just know, wherever you are, you were among the rare dogs who made many hooman lives not just whole but so much richer just because they knew you.