Monday, March 09, 2015

And Then They Got a Dog

And then they got a dog. 

It happened one night when there was a cyclone or a depression or some such somewhere near Sri Lanka, she hadn't been following the weather closely. It rained and the rain was much welcome in suburbia where the temperatures were soaring already, even though summer was still a few hurrying weeks away. The rain was welcome to the parched earth, to the few gasps of time they had left before parting, to the unhurried lives they would now live in their new places, welcome to the wish for petrichor to hit their nostrils after a hard day's labour. For labour it was, setting up home, hearth and a farm that stretched a few palms put together. 

It hadn't started lashing against the window grills, still not wholly dusted, as it would later that evening. And there he was, outside the lazily closed but unlatched gate. Brown, a shade of biscuit, that was the colour of the regular mongrels, each indistinguishable from the other and with big eyes that she knew, even before she looked at them, would melt her heart away. She had, all her life, being a sucker for those eyes professing innocence, even while knowing she was being played, every single time. Sometimes, she let the men in her life get away with it too.

Shouting over the water and the mumbled voices of friends in the other room, she asked him if she could let the mutt in. He said yes and she felt her eyebrow rise in surprise. She had expected at least token protest. Not waiting to see if he would change his mind, she dashed to the gate and let him in. A very friendly fellow. Knew how to shake hands and came to her the moment she called. Neither of her dogs at home did that, for the few days she visited for, she was their toy, to jump, chase and nibble on, and her half-hearted attempts at eliciting obedience failed miserably always. 

Soon, here, a plastic mug was found, the remains of planters the boys had constructed for the greens they would grow. He wouldn't eat rice at first, spoilt on the cheap, sugary biscuits the people on the street had gotten him used to. The friendly uncle across the road warned that he would demand rides on the bike, the little girl next door had named him Mr Angry, for he always chased her, she said. But it did not matter, none of it did, for here was a dog that had decided to stay.

Then a name was found for him, after a tie between two. She had liked both, but Kobri had sounded cuter. Kobri, what people in this city called a coconut. Where she came from, and where he came from, there were other names for the ingredient that was so staple to their diets. But this fella, she reckoned he must be four or five years old, was from this city where they were all living now. And he was a lighter shade of clean shaven coconut shells from Tiptur. So Kobri it was that they began to call him.

An old gunny bag was found for him to sleep on. In the rain, he seemed to like it. But then there was claps of thunder and lightning and he began a slow whine. She went up to the door and sat next to him, talking to him, like she had done hundreds of times to the dozens of dogs that had let her love them and broken her heart each time, when they died. He seemed to like that. She had worn all black that evening, also because that was the colour of her how she felt that day. But she talked and Kobri came and nuzzled against her legs. And she broke into a wide smile. She smiled because they had let her keep him, because really, that was just what she had wanted always, because it meant so much, all of this.

And now Kobri is pampered, and she suspects the boys mildly envy that. He has a shiny bowl to himself. He loves riding on bikes and creates a scene every time they leave. They gave him a bath the other day, and that was an adventure. He is adept at wiggling out of a collar and is learning to jump the gate. Every time she leaves after feeding him, he whines and barks and wants to come along. It breaks her heart but she is used to being firm, all the dogs in her life have been drama queens. She has to plan her day around his meals now and it feels like having accidently stepped into a very adult life. But as she walks up to the gate, he comes bounding at her, wags his thick tail in swift circles before he, without warning, leaves the ground far below and jumps up at her, already so trusting that she will catch him. 

And she falls in love with him and him, all over again, for making her so happy, for the way things are.

"Loving a dog means, among other things, making peace with kitsch, if you haven’t already. You don’t have to make goo-goo eyes at every puppy picture you see in a magazine or bake your dog birthday cakes. But if you resist too much the power of the big primary-color emotions that surround the dog, you’re missing the experience. … Dogs are a national religion with a catechism composed by Hallmark, so heresy is necessary. I suspect some people resist the dog culture with such passion precisely to avoid the kitsch, the appalling melodrama: if you give in to it, you’re trapped in a narrative you can’t control. You feel like a dope, buying into it. The emotions around the dog can be as neotenized as the animal itself." John Homans

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