Age Rating: 7 +
Picture Credits: personal collection
We were expecting the arrival of puppies any day. My wife had already spread a mattress and some old bed sheets near the top of stairs on the fourth floor. It was definitely going to be a unique experience for all of us, and especially for my daughters who were more than excited.
October 26th, 2008 was the day when, I think, God had decided to release rain with full force, as if the Divinity did want to add some spectacle to this live show. It seemed as if the sky had joined the powers to be an active participant by providing the show of light and thunder.
It was about 11:00 pm when I opened the door of my study. I looked up and found Tyson with all shining motherly glare in her eyes, perhaps, trying to convince me that she was absolutely ready for the blissful moments when she would dazzle us with the puppies she was inevitably going to deliver. I smiled and called her softly. The obedient wagging of the tail was to convince me of her loyalty to me, the master, which I am ashamed of now, for the ensuing lines will reveal the reason of my saying so.
At about 11:30 pm, Sita called me. My wife’s voice at this hour could only be the result of the long awaited miracle which we all had been praying for. Marie and Sherry came running from their room. Though their eyes showed sure signs of much needed sleep, the tokens of curiosity could not escape my fatherly observation. The little one seemed to be somewhat tense and worried but Marie stood firmly. Tyson was breathing heavily, panting and convulsing.
Suddenly, my daughters shrieked and jumped with joy. A tiny form of life had just dropped from the dam. In the dark and shiny background of the mother, the white little puppy presented the image of a slow moving moon in the absolute darkness of the sky. The scene was really spell binding, and we all stood firmly, holding our breaths.
Had he been a human, Bolton must have felt like a proud father, sharing his delight with others, but he was comfortably snoring in my study, having enjoyed the special meal that evening. He was unknown to the arrival of new lives, one by one, five altogether. He must have been in the dream world of dogs, perhaps, requesting his God for a shower of chicken bones some day.
The snow white puppy thrilled everybody, and we had our eyes fixed on Tyson who was pushing hard once again, the indicator of the second one. Unfortunately, the next puppy was delivered dead. We felt sorry both for the mother and the offspring. But, the joy of seeing more of the newborns suppressed the gloominess. Had it been the only one and that too delivered dead, perhaps, the next day would have been spent in mourning, but the four living souls transformed the following day into a feast.
Tyson gave birth to three more; she was her own guardian, preparing herself for every circumstance; she was the midwife, cutting off the umbilical cords and swallowing them quickly and cleaning and licking the puppies; she was the mother who felt motherly gratification seeing her four children sucking her milk. I could only marvel at the mystery and beauty of the creation. Glory to God!
Next morning, having buried the dead one in a nearby field, we started making room for the four new guests. We named them Jackie (the black one, a male), Romy (the white one, a female), Teeny (the dappled one, black and white, a female), and Juliana, the little beauty with her furry coat of black, brown, and white. A tiny spectacle to behold! Every one fell in love with her, for she was made so.
After about a month, Romy and Teeny were given to two of my students, who I knew would take good care of them. We were left with two, Jackie and Juliana. Jackie showed all the characteristics of his father, Bolton, when it came to running and snapping at thing. He is a kind of cringing dog, and even now while I am typing this, he is sitting near my feet, staring at me with his wistful eyes.
Juliana was quite unique. She did suck her mother’s milk but I fed her cow milk as well, for she appeared to be weaker than here brother and sisters. She was so beautiful that one could not take one’s eyes off her. When she was forty days old, she refused to suck her mother’s milk. Now I was here parent and care taker. I fed her in tiny morsels the things she liked to eat.
It was the time of winter, so I mostly carried her with me in the comfortable coziness of my warm jackets and pullovers, even to the class room. The students loved her. When she began to move freely and independently, she decided to make herself comfortable in a sofa in my classroom. After the last period, at 8:00 pm, she would quickly jump onto her paws and follow me downstairs, where she knew Jackie and biscuits would be waiting for her. Brother and sister played for some time, and then came to me with a conviction that they would get goodies to eat. Jackie would eat anything which he thought was edible but I really had a tough time in feeding Juliana, for whenever I offered her something to eat, she would fall into a reverie, as if trying to assess the situation and the propriety of her ensuing action. Sometimes, I mused that a human soul had been enveloped in a dog’s body, or a transmigrating soul had come to us during its transient period.
Juliana was the name which remained on my lips. She was my constant companion. Every morning, at 4:00 am, she would wake me up by licking my cheeks. She would wait patiently outside the toilet. Seeing me out of the toilet, she would leap and jump. In her excitement she would bound and make strange noises. Taking her biscuits from me, every morning, she accompanied me for the rest of the day.
Somewhere in my mind I had a premonition that she was with us for some special purpose, perhaps, a message to be delivered. I often noticed that she kept on staring at my face for hours but never got distracted by the noises to which, generally, dogs are sensitive to. I often told my wife and students that Juliana was not a dog. They must have thought me crazy, but now I am sure that I was right.
Last Sunday, I noticed that Juliana was behaving strangely. She began to avoid us; she refused to eat. First day, I did not take it seriously but the next day I caressed and persuaded her to eat a few pieces of roasted chicken. She seemed to be fine after that. But, the following day she went on a kind of fast. We tried our best for two days but in vain. Finally, Marie took her to the hospital. They fed her glucose intravenously, and after about two hours she was back with us.
After her arrival, I noticed that she gritted her teeth time and again. At first I thought it might have been because of the pain which she felt after the injection but it continued. It was strange. My daughter informed me that the drugstore had given different bottle of glucose while the prescribed one was different. The nurse had protested against it but the doctor agreed to use the bottle, perhaps, he was more interested in the commission which he collected from the drugstore in the evenings after his duty hours.
I phoned the doctor in the evening but, to my shock and surprise, he casually said that Juliana may have got Distemper from the hospital. According to him, three dogs had already died in the hospital. I knew that Distemper is a contagious canine disease and it is almost incurable. My Juliana was alright when she was sent to the hospital but she came back afflicted with the fatal disease.
Next morning, I sent for a specialist Vet. He gave her some medicines and two injections. Juliana was suffering. I could read her eyes. Her eyes were, as if, saying, “ I don’t want to die, daddy.”
Only after three hours, Juliana was in my lap, a lifeless body of my dear dog. Tears began to roll down my cheeks and I buried my face in her coat. I was shouting like a madman, cursing the doctors and myself. Who was to blame? Had she come to tell me something? Did our doctors prove that human is superior? Questions were appearing and disappearing in my mind.
I kissed her thrice before burying her body. I did not teach for two days. In fact I did not want to. My mind was not ready to spread false human values. I agree that millions of life forms take birth and die everyday but this question ‘Was Juliana merely a life form?’ will keep on haunting me to the very last moment of my life when I will seek my rightful place in the lap of Death. I don’t want to be absolved; I do want to carry the abysmal guilt, for it brings back the comforting memories of the moments which were full of Juliana. This human world is too much for the animals.
In loving memory of Juliana (Oct 26th 2008- March 4th 2009)
You, black and white furred soul, brought smiles to me
When I saw you lick my hand with a glee.
Non-human angelic grace deciphered
Believed you will stay, but days were numbered.
My cute little angel, you dear to me
Your soft barks music sublime and free.
House had smiles, bells around your neck jingled
The joy you brought eternally lingered.
The doctor and I endeavoured our best
But, Juliana, you chose eternal rest.