Thursday, June 24, 2010


"If there is a heaven, it's certain my dog is going to be there because No heaven will not ever Heaven be, unless my dog is there to welcome me. Rest in peace Donnie- you are buried in our hearts"

I have always been fascinated by dogs. As a kid, I envied people who had pet dogs. The sight of people walking their dogs fuelled my imagination and I would picturize the day when I would be the proud owner of one. The collage of images of my pet walking obediently next to me, leaping at me with a wagging tail as I come back from school, fetching the ball that I threw far in the air- gave me an adrenaline rush. So crazy was I about dogs that I used to befriend people who had dogs and insisted on visiting relatives and family friends who had pets.

I used to feed stray dogs in my locality, give them names and feel supremely happy when any of them responded to my name calls. My happiness knew no bounds whenever I spotted pups on the street. I used to spend all my pocket money in feeding them with bread and Parle biscuits. I would experience the biggest joys of my life when any of them followed me after these feeding sessions. I would pick them up, kiss them on their faces, talk to them and promise them that I would return next day. Bollywood portrayal of dog as the most faithful (and often sacrificing) companion in movies like “Teri Meherbaniyan” and “Mard” firmed my belief that only my pet dog could be my best friend.

My parents were completely aware of this obsession of mine and cleverly dodged my umpteen requests to own a pet. They somehow believed that I would get rid of this obsession as I grow up, but with age, my resolve only got stronger and my arguments became more powerful and they finally succumbed to my demands when I was in teens.

I vividly remember my first encounter with my ‘pet to be’. It was a veterinary clinic and he made a rather grand entry, escaping from the doctor’s arms, jumping on to my parents, snatching and trying to chew up my mother’s purse and finally came to a halt after peeing in geometric circles on the doc’s table. My parents were sickened; it was their worst nightmare coming true. This creature was an absolute contrast to what they had in mind. The common archetype of a puppy- the coy, cute being was shattered by this wild, misbehaved beast, almost like an experiment gone wrong. Poor parents who thought a pet meant a furry Pomeranian were scandalized to see a three month old boxer. Let alone fur, it didn’t even have a tail. Being a brindle, it had stripes running all over the body that looked like dirt marks. There was more, the breed has a face which looks swollen like it was punched, a broad skull and hanging jaws.

My mother was numb from the shock and all my father could utter was “Beta yeh kya hai?” My younger brother who was my key supporter in my negotiations for owning a pet was now hiding behind my mother, scared if the dog would pounce on him next.

But I was determined; I only wanted a boxer, a breed that stands out in the crowd of dainty looking Pomeranians or spitz which most households had. To me they were plastic dogs and this was the real dog- the man among dogs.

Dad was unmoved “remember, if you get this one, we won’t have anything to do with him. You have to take care of him all by yourself” he said. But I had already made up my mind and like always my parents succumbed to my stubbornness.

The first thing the dog did when he entered our house, was running all around, sniffing each nook and corner and simultaneously peeing all over the place, as if it was marking its territory. Exasperated, my dad said “welcome trouble”

My father was indifferent to him, my brother was scared of him and my mother was a fence sitter. Dogs have a very powerful sixth sense and he could make out that I was the only one backing him. So for the first week, he just kept following me like a shadow- sit next to my study table while I was reading, sleep next to my bed and even follow me to the bathroom and wait for me till I came out. He used to desperately search for me when I stepped out of house and wait for me at the gate till I got back. From a distance he would pick up the hum of my vehicle and start jumping at the gate, vigorously wagging his two inch tail. He would not even let me park and jumped right into my arms, licking me all over the place. No one had ever given me that kind of undivided attention and affection and I felt like the most loved person on the earth.

Meanwhile, my brother grew jealous of this growing bonding between us, so, while I was away, he started making attempts to befriend the pup. Also, the maternal instincts of my mother got into play and she started pampering him. But my father was disinclined even now. The poor dog used all his antics to charm him but nothing worked with my dad.

Now it was time for the big decision, what should we name him? My mother and brother enthusiastically suggested few names but I had the veto. As a kid, I was always fascinated by the villains or so called dons in bollywood movies. The raw power they had, their weapons, the fear they evoke and the unflinching respect they used to get in their clan used to inspire me. At the same time I was aware of my own limitations of stature and physical strength. I envisaged that my boxer would make up for all my weaknesses and together we would become a force that would be revered and respected just like the ‘dons’ whom I idolized. So, I wanted to call him Don but then realized it would expose my hidden intentions and even sounded like a hyperbole. I finally settled for a ‘Donnie’- Don with a cute suffix. Rest of the family was disgusted with my choice of name but then came around as usual.

But Donnie grew up as an exact opposite of the menacing beast that I wanted him to be. He was the most docile, playful and friendly dog I had ever seen. While walking on the street, he would wag his tail at every passerby and pulled me towards anyone who gave him half a glance. The only reason I tolerated this behaviour was because it gave me an opportunity to strike a conversation with beautiful strangers. The only people whom Donnie troubled were the kids who used to play cricket in front of my house. Every time the ball fell on our side of fence, Donnie would quickly grab it, run inside and hide it in a place even we couldn’t find. As we couldn’t return the ball, the kids suspected us to be the partners in crime and eventually stopped playing there.

One of the reasons why people keep dogs is for security, but Donnie was anything but a guard dog. He refused to stay out at night and scratched the doors till we let him in. We acknowledged this very early and set up a small bed for him in the living area itself, but he refused to sleep there. He wanted an equal treatment and wanted to sleep in my room and my bed. My mother caught him red handed several times snoring away to glory happily tucked under my blanket in the wee hours of morning. He was punished and we (brother & me) were given strict instructions not to allow him on the bed. But Donnie was a clever dog and he found a perfect solution for this. He would pretend to sleep in his bed initially, then, as my mom went off to sleep, he would quietly enter her room, sniff around and carefully touch her toes with his wet nose to see if she was really asleep. Then he would come to my bed, put his front feet up and slowly slide his head under my blanket, stay like that for while and assessing the situation he would lift rest of his body up and sleep peacefully with me. In the morning, just before my mother got up he jumped out of my bed and inhabited his bed.

One underlining characteristic of his personality was his hunger…he was perennially hungry and gulped food in such a hurry as the food would vanish. His tummy was a bottomless pit and he would drool for everything that was food, including ants and the contents of our dustbin.

In one such excavations of the kitchen waste, Donnie tasted a mango for the first time. Thus started the biggest love affair of his life- his obsession for mangoes was beyond description. He could beat the best sniffer dogs if the search was for hidden mangoes. He used to create havoc whenever mangoes were brought home, standing by the kitchen door he used to bark continuously till he was given one. He had to be the first one to taste the fruit and mind you he didn’t touch the cut fruit. He only wanted the whole fruit with skin. He would eat the fruit so voraciously that by end of it his face would be smeared with pulp and he continued licking the seed till it went dry and didn’t give any taste.

He also loved car rides; he used to hop in whenever we took out the car and would refuse to get down till we took him for a ride. Settled on the back seat, he kept peeping out of the window thoroughly enjoying the gush of wind on his face. Once I remember, we took him for a ride and driving at a comfortable speed, I was engaged in a conversation with my brother when I suddenly had to apply breaks. I saw a dog running along the car, it took me few seconds to realise that it was Donnie. What happened was that he saw a push cart loaded with mangoes and jumped out of the car, on being chased by the vendor he started running to catch us.

Donnie had a girlfriend as well, called ‘Sonia’ a beautiful stray I used to feed daily. Both of them used to spend hours prancing on the opposite sides of the closed main gate, often taking a break to come closer and lick each others faces through the grills. Sonia used to accompany us whenever I took Donnie for walks and she was the only person in the world that he didn’t mind sharing food with- and that in the dog’s world is the true test of love and relationship. Once a pack of rowdy dogs attacked Sonia in front of my home, I heard her cry in despair and ran out with a stick to help her, they were four or five of them and suddenly charged on me. While I took a step back I realized that I didn’t close the gate and Donnie was standing next to me. I had never seen Donnie is such an avatar. Raised strands of hair, ears all lifted up and exhibiting sharp teeth clenched in anger, it was ready take on the pack. Before I could do any thing it pounced on them and fought so bravely in spite of being overpowered and bitten by them. By the time I could take stock of the situation, he was bleeding from several places but didn’t let the stray dogs touch Soniya or me. My perception of him changed completely after this and he became my real hero.

Years passed and it was time for me and my brother to move out of Agra. Age was catching up on Donnie too. The hyper active and impatient Donnie of young days who could hardly stay still at a place even for minute would now keep lying still at a place, with head sunk between the stretched legs. The wrinkles on his forehead and the lost look in his eyes gave him the appearance of a philosopher in contemplation. The reason for the inactivity was acute arthritis. The condition affected his hind legs the most and became even severe in winters, when he could hardly pick himself up. He needed help in getting up and needed a great deal of effort in lying or sitting down in a position that didn’t put too much pressure on the weak feet. Donnie also developed a cataract and in spite of treatment somehow couldn’t get his vision fully back. Where he would leap and jump all the time and didn’t let any one enter home without pampering him, now he would just lie quietly in the corner, looking at you with raised brows and wagging his two inch tail expressing his happiness on your coming home. Throughout my stay in hostel, my walls were adorned only with pictures of Donnie and invariably all my phone conversations with family would start with “How is Donnie?”

I went after few months in my first semester break and was surprised to see the turn of events. After we (brother & me) had left home, my parents had divided between them all the chores related to Donnie. My mother would take care of his food and other regular needs while my father was responsible for taking him out on walks and all his medication. For a person who was dead against bringing Donnie home, my father’s equation with Donnie now was beyond belief. The relationship they shared was nothing short of a father son bond. He loved taking Donnie out on walks and on many occasions he would actually talk to Donnie, from a distance it looked as if they were having an intimate conversation. In the evenings they would go to the nearby park and sit there, my dad on the concrete bench and Donnie beside him, watching the kids play. While Donnie had outgrown the habit of grabbing the balls that came his way, my dad often bought him colorful balls and tried engaging him in a sport. He even got a special low lying bed made for him and personally picked up a cushion with a design of stars and Santa Claus on it. On the nights that Donnie had aggravated pain, he would keep going to him and checking on him on an hourly basis. Stroking his forehead, he would every time ask him “are you feeling better Donnie?” My mother on the other hand would refuse to leave Donnie alone. In last five years, she has not visited me ever for more than two days and even in such short visits all she could think of was Donnie. She would call my dad several times to check if he has eaten the food or not, did he go for a walk or not. The affection was mutual, even Donnie was extremely attached to her- my mother had to stand there till he finished his food or he would refuse to eat. On the rare occasions when she traveled, he would not touch his food, no matter what was on the plate- even mangoes.

After marriage, when my wife came first time to my place, there was a traditional welcome ceremony where they do a small puja at the entrance. There were people crowding the entrance busy doing the rituals. Suddenly Donnie emerged to the front limping his way through them. He was very excited to see us and could make out that the new person accompanying me was important for the family. Almost like a special gesture to welcome Tanu Donnie wanted to stand on his feet to reach her. But the weak hind legs couldn’t take the weight and he cringed in unbearable pain. With a loud shriek, unable to tolerate the pain he started chewing the wooden plank of the door. Tanu quickly reached him and consoled him, while my dad ran for the pain reliever.

The next few days were mostly spent nursing Donnie and now it was time for us to go.

Donnie was able to at least stand now and walk slowly nonetheless with a limp. The family including Donnie gathered near the car to see us off. Tanu and I said a very personal goodbye to Donnie. The car just started pulling out when the Driver had to apply sudden breaks. Before I could ask him what the matter was, I saw Donnie next to my side of the door. He started scratching my door wanting me to open it. As I climbed down and sat on my knees to reach him, he started licking me all over my face. While I picked him in my arms, I could feel the tears running down from both our eyes. It’s true; there is no greater feeling of love in the world than your dog licking your face.

PS: Exactly two weeks after I wrote this blog post, Donnie Passed away.


Saiyed Saamir Hasnain said...

Hey Udai,

Good Write up after a long time, As you know my equation with Dogs or for that matter any pet is very opposing. I do like pet but from a distance. But I knew it from the very beginning that you have an in built bond with Dogs, be it as ferocious as DARA, Saumitra's Dobberman or any other stray dogs, you were very comfortable with them.
Your mystic relationship with Donnie was very obvious. It's only because of your busy schedules he is not with you else you would have loved to have him with you in Bangalore. isn't it???

Mee said...

Very sensitively written post. I wept and totally understood the bond Donnie shared with each of you in the family. May Donnie rest in peace and for sure I promise you is in heaven.

A relationship with an animal is of a very different pure level -especially a dog who seeks so little in return for all that he is willing to do for his master. Some wise people say that you have not live a blessed life if you have not been in a close relationship with an animal.

I wish you well and hope you will remember the good days of Donnie rather than the end days. All the best:)

Aaarti said...

Wow, brot back so many fond memories.. we had a boxer earlier too, she lived a long happy life and passed on around 11-12yrs of age..such a darling and an absolute angel....

i now have a 4yr old stray,picked him off the street wen he was a teeny tiny baby n now he is the love of our family :)

Lovely post and congrats on Blogadda pick,which is where i stumbled on ur blog.. following u now :D

Sundararajan said...

The bond between human beings and dogs is eternal.

Work From Home

gurudev prasad said...

@Mee: Thanks for the comment Mee. As someone said- Dog is a gentleman without any vice of a man

gurudev prasad said...

@Aarti: thanks for writing in Aarti. Would love to see the pic of your pet

gurudev prasad said...

Well said Mr. Sundarrajan

gurudev prasad said...

@Saamir:He is always there in my heart. Miss him so much.

Anonymous said...

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Carry on the wonderful work!

Naomi said...

I came across your blog at random, and reading this post made me feel glad about that. He seemed like a beautiful animal, your post touched me as I know the grief you must have felt over losing him, as I myself have also lost a dog very close to my heart, and am currently seperated from the pet I have now. Inspiring post!

gurudev prasad said...

@Naomi: thanks for writing in. Yes, indded he was a beautiful soul. Read some of the stuff you have written on your blog- really interesting. Keep up the good work.

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