A movie was blaring away on the TV. It was a modern-day version of a supposedly true story from Japan of a dog called Hachiko. The story goes that Hachi used to follow his master to the railway station every day as he left for work. Every evening, Hachi would wait as the train would pull in. One day the master died while at work. Hachi kept a vigil at the station for nine long years, hoping his master would eventually return. The townsfolk immortalized Hachi by setting up a statue in his memory.
The story made my wife raise one of her long-standing requests.
“Let’s get a dog!” she said.
I argued with her. As expected, that did not work. All the same, I was in no mood to relent. My problem is simple, I hated dogs.
I was not born a dog-hater. In fact, I come from a family of dog-lovers. My father was in the army. Over the years, we had lots of pets, including cute and cuddly Pomeranian to stretchy dachshunds.
After my father retired, we settled down in Kerala. One day my uncle came over and bought with him a Pomeranian puppy. It was the size of a tennis ball. We immediately christened him Bobby. Years ago, when I was a toddler, we had a Sydney silky called Bobby.
This new version of Bobby was a month old when he joined our family. We put a cushion in the garage for him. Bobby did not like it at all. During the day, he loved to explore the house and everything inside it. Bobby had a knack for squeezing into the most impossible of places. One day he squeezed through the car tires and landed on the car seat. Another time he managed to be stuck in the grill built under the main gate. It was a full-time task keeping watch.
Night-time was different and a whole lot worse. He had not got over the separation from his mother and used to roam all around the compound, wailing. A couple of days of this and the neighbours started complaining.
My bedroom was the closest to the garage, and I was having a tough time sleeping. Then I found a way out.
Bobby loved to sleep in my room. Every evening, I would carry Bobby into my room. There he would sleep on the carpet near my bed. He was afraid of the dark. Once the lights were switched off, I would hang my arm off the side of the bed. Bobby would cuddle up against my hand and doze off.
This phase lasted a few weeks. Bobby became an expert at chasing birds that used to peck at the rosebuds in our garden. He also excelled at killing rats that dared enter the house. He lost his fear of the dark and did not mind keeping watch while we all slept.
Then I got a job and had to leave my home. This job involved a training period of a year and working at locations spread across the country. A year later, I returned on a short leave of two weeks. I reached home at one in the night. We have a bell right outside the main gate. I must have tried ringing it a thousand times. My parents, who were in their seventies, continued sleeping peacefully! I did not want to bang on the iron gates and wake up the entire neighbourhood.
I was trying to figure out what to do when I heard Bobby. He saw someone standing on the other side and was running around in circles, barking his head off. The gate completely blocked the view of the house from outside. The lower part of the gate still had the grill-like structure. This was the same grill where Bobby used to get his head stuck as a puppy. Now he was grown up, and I could see his nose poking through the grill.
He was barking fiercely, so even though I was a bit worried, I held out my hand for him to sniff. After a few minutes, the barking stopped. I could see him approach cautiously. A cold, moist nose started sniffing my hand. Something deep in his brain must have clicked at that point. He started wagging his tail vigorously and began clawing at the gates. He had recognized me!!
I threw my bags over the wall, climbed up the gate, and jumped in.
Luckily, there were no policemen around, else I could have landed in jail for this daring midnight entry! Bobby had recognized me and seemed to be very happy. He was running all around me, licking me, smelling me. Yes, it sure felt good to be home!
We always kept the gates locked so that Bobby had a free run of the compound. A day before my leave ended, someone left the gates open. Bobby ran out into the street and came under the wheels of a passing truck. None of the wheels touched him, but the shock proved too much. His tiny- heart stopped beating. I buried him in our backyard. That night no one ate anything at home. The next day, I returned to my post.
Now that is why I hate dogs. They wriggle their way into your heart only to break it when their all too brief lives end.
I did not want to share all this with my wife, so I changed the TV channel and started watching Godzilla.