Barely a year into marriage, when our friends started getting babies, we decided to do something different. We decided to gift ourselves a puppy 🙂 . Doing complete justice to our profession (we were both IT professionals), we googled and did quite a bit of research to conclude that a Labrador retriever with its friendly, lovable temperament would fit the bill, perfectly! We made enquiries and successfully found a 70 day old black Labrador pup available locally . That’s how Cherry came home.
She was a darling, our bundle of love… or rather, a bundle of very sharp baby teeth ;-). Her innocent brown eyes would melt any stony heart. Her cute little tummy would inflate like a balloon after a cup or two of milk and deflate the same way, a few hours later. Her little black tail was more like soft thread. To keep words short, we fell head over heels in love with her.
We decided to put her up in the open space we had in our top floor apartment. The initial few days must have been tough for her, having left her mother and siblings behind. The moment we closed the door to the open space, she would start whining as though something terrible had happened. We would open the door and she would come running to us, begging to be let in. This ritual would repeat 3 or 4 times until we decided to let her sleep in our bedroom. We bought a nice doggy bed basket for her to sleep in and kept it just below our bed. From that night, every night, the doggy bed was never slept in more than 10 minutes ;-), while our own bed fell short of space. Slowly our bed became her bed too. She would invariably occupy the most comfortable part of the bed every day, right next to the vent of the old window A/C. It was a funny sight to watch her snoring away, her small velvety ears fluttering in the cool breeze of the A/C.
Slowly, the coarse brownish black baby fur gave way to shining metal black hair. We used to joke that she has just got herself a Teflon coating just like our new car. Sharp canines replaced the small baby teeth and the tail which once looked like thread, resembled a thick black rod. The gunny sack like tummy vanished. She grew up into a very beautiful dog. Anybody would think twice before entering our house. But only we knew that, at her aggressive best, she would probably just lick the intruder to death :-).
She accompanied us everywhere, except to work. We would travel 14 hours to our native places, ancestral homes, weekend destinations, everywhere, with her in tow. As soon as we took out our suitcases and bags to pack, she would immediately fetch her favourites to be packed as well. She had several. A soft doggie toy named Cutie and a green ball which makes a shrill whistling sound when squeezed accompanied us on almost every trip ;-). She was so well behaved in all these trips that everyone started adoring her. Even my mother-in-law who abhorred dogs, let her sleep inside the house and started gathering tit bits for her. She became an integral part of our family.
She displayed a very high level of intelligence. No wonder Labradors are used as sniffer dogs in bomb squads. She could clearly distinguish weekdays from weekends. I still remember how the mournful look on her face on Monday mornings exactly matched ours! Weekends, when we snored till 9 am, a very cold wet nose would poke us awake, wanting to play. If that didn’t work, she would fetch her favourite green squeeze ball and squeeze it by biting it and the loud shrills from the ball would wake up anybody within 1 km radius. Frequently she reminded us the need to keep our phone conversations short, using the same technique ;-).
Every Sunday was a ‘bath’ day for her and she absolutely despised it; and a Labrador is supposed to be a water dog! We used to joke that even Labradors got adapted to the city which faced severe water shortage. She used to try various techniques for avoiding a bath. She usually senses the event long before we actually did anything about it. She would just drop into the couch and sink into it like stone. No amount of coaxing or chocolate bribes would make her budge from there. The only other way to get the task done was to use force on the striking party! But it was no easy task to move a 35 kg dog turned into stone, from the couch till the backyard! Finally the strength of two humans would triumph over a very stubborn dog and we would reach the door to the backyard, only to discover our doggy stone coming alive and flying back at top speed onto the same couch. By the time we scramble back up the stairs, she would have again attained the consistency of a stone and would be sitting in the couch as though nothing happened. If you have ever read the story of Raja Vikramaditya and Vetal, you would know what I mean. Again the same drama would repeat 2 or 3 times, before she finally took pity on us and would stand like a lamb throughout the entire bathing procedure.
It was hard to believe that she was a dog. She had all the feelings including jealousy and she could communicate it very well through her eyes, a twitch of the ear, or the way in which she held her tail. In deep sleep, she used to lie on her back with all 4 legs up in the air. Dreams often entered her doggy sleep and it was quite funny to watch her kick her legs and make whining noises in her sleep. When awakened, she would often give us a look which said “I was having a nice dream. You folks spoilt it!”
Cherry celebrated two of her birthdays with us. We were living in an independent house by then. On that wretched day, a March 14th, we left her home lying on the couch, her favourite spot, as we left for work. As usual, her eyes followed us till we disappeared from view. Never did we realize that this would be last time we would be seeing our darling, alive. That evening, I returned home after work as usual and opened the gate to the compound and walked to the door, expecting her cheerful grin and wagging tail to pop up through the open window next to the door. But she was not there. I turned the key in the lock and opened the door. Usually she would jump around me all excited and happy and cover me with licks as though we were meeting after years. Still no sign of her! There was a sinking feeling in my heart as I walked into the house. I knew that something was wrong. Otherwise she would never break her welcoming ritual, at any cost.
My worst fears were soon realized. I could see puddles of vomit in 2 or 3 places in the drawing room. I rushed to the dining room shouting “Cherry…” at the top of my voice. There were more puddles of vomit and stool and finally… blood…
There she was, lying in a pool of blood just below the several photographs of our gods and goddesses. “Shock” would be a very inappropriate word to describe what I felt then. I ran to her and tried waking her up. But her body had already turned stiff. I felt like pulling my hair out… I felt like banging the wall and throwing all those photos on the floor… I felt that my limbs would give way underneath me, any time. I felt completely sick! Why did God snatch her away from us so soon! There were so many more hugs to be given…… So many more pranks to be played….. So much more love to be shared…..
Till date, we don’t know the exact cause of her death. But indications are that, she must have been poisoned. There were similar incidents in the neighbourhood and a robbery and an attempted robbery in the area. The culprits must have done away with the dogs likely to bark and wake people up. Whatever it was, our Cherry was gone.
After so many years, the wound is still raw and the pain is still there. But… I only need to close my eyes and reach out my hands… I can feel her soft head on my lap, her rod like tail thumping the floor, her cold wet nose poking my hands… I even hear the green squeeze ball … Surely, my eternal 2 year old prankster is still around!
All Rights Reserved © Forever Free 2014