In our family, we have always had dogs.
Tuppy was a beautiful little silky-sydney that my grandfather had before I was born. Mom told me that he had smuggled her into India from Australia – in his waistcoat pocket when she was just a tiny ball of fluff. What amazing, innocent times we used to live in – that one could get a little ball of a puppy on a flight from Perth to Bombay! Tuppy and I kind of grew up together – though she stayed with my grandparents, and not in our house. She would jump into my grandfather’s bed every morning at 8:00 am and lick him awake. What was amazing was that she somehow knew when it was a Saturday or a Sunday and on those days would let him sleep.
My uncle had a lovely bungalow in Matheran – a hill station near Bombay. We were lucky to spend the blistering hot Bombay summers in a beautiful, pleasantly cool, middle of the forest bungalow. The caretaker there had a dog – his name was Jockey and he would come with us on the lovely long walks we took all over Matheran. Mom and dad would allow me to go wandering in the forests there, because Jockey would always go with Anant and me – Anant was the caretaker’s son. The monkeys in Matheran are notorious for attacking you – especially if you are carrying any sort of food. Jockey had once attacked a group of monkeys who had snuck up and tried to steal the bhelpuri that I was munching away. It was quite an adventure for a 9 year old to be involved in.
Tuppy died when I was around 10 years old… And soon a neighbour gifted another beautiful little ball of fluff to my grandparents. Tuppy was white as snow, this new one had silky brown hair – and my grandparents called her Tiny. It was the first time in my life that I had encountered the devastation of death and the joy of a newborn, all in less than a month. I remember how Tiny would walk from Parel to Dadar with my grandfather every Sunday evening. My grandfather was a towering 6’5″ and the little dog would have to almost run to keep pace with him as he leisurely walked with her. She would be huffing, puffing and panting when the two of them would reach our house in Dadar.
By now, you can imagine how much I loved dogs. I always wanted to have a dog of my own – but in our miniscule Bombay flat, mom and dad would keep telling me there was hardly any place for the humans – how would we make place for a dog…
Bobby jumped into my hands while I was taking a walk – the poor little tyke was being chased by some other dogs. He had been abandoned by his owners. It always makes me wonder why people buy pets when they are not ready to take care of them. A pet is a responsibility. You are taking another little being with life – who will more or less consider you to be God. If you are gone for 15 minutes, and you come back home, you will be greeted by wags and yelps and kisses like you have been away a whole year. These little creatures ooze with love and cuteness. And there are people who would simply abandon them because they peed on their carpet. Makes me wonder about why we called ourselves Homo Sapiens – The Wise Ones. Maybe it is just an aspirational title… But back to Bobby.
Of course, I bought him home. Of course, my parents said a vehement no. And of course, everyone in the house fell in love with him that very evening. I finally had MY dog. My fondest memory of Bobby is how he would compel me to go to bed when I would be studying late into the night. He simply wouldn’t sleep until I had slept. When he thought I had worked enough, he would jump onto the table and just spread himself out on my open books and look at me meaninfully with those beautiful deep brown doggie eyes of his. I knew, I had to shut shop and go to bed then. He actually ensured that I got enough sleep! Maybe that’s how I became smart enough to get into IITB.
Bobby loved to go driving – in a car, or on the scooter. He would expect to be taken for his ride every morning before any of us went to college, school or work. If for any reason he was not taken, the little devil would go and pee on the pillows of the person who didn’t take him. He always knew which pillow to pee on. He had the sweetest temperament of any dog I have ever met and scores of people got over their fear of dogs when they met Bobby. I would refuse to shut him in a room when someone who was scared of dogs came to visit. This was Bobby’s house, and he would not be jailed because some silly human had a stupid fear.
I got into IIT Bombay and moved away from home. Then I became an Art of Living teacher and started to travel all over India to teach courses. I would always get a rousing welcome from Bobby whenever I came home. Our entire family started to meditate with Gurudev Sri Sri Ravishankar’s techniques, and turned to a cleaner, greener lifestyle – choosing to be vegetarian. Bobby too, turned vegetarian. He had always eaten the food cooked for the family – Dhansakh and Dhandar Patio were his favourites. Our neighbours would say – it’s ok you guys are vegetarian – why are you making the poor dog suffer? Hutoxi, our neighbour would give him some leftover chicken or meat, and he would just sniff it and disdainfully look away. He started eating and loving raw tomatoes, salad leaves and cucumbers.
After Bobby died, for the longest time, we had no dogs. My sister was quite broken when he passed away – his last lick was for her. I was not home when he went…
Fast forward almost two decades, and I found myself living in Art of Living’s Bangalore Ashram. We have two dogs now – one of them Donny is a beautiful, but horribly bad-tempered stray who adopted us. He showed up at our doorstep and refused to leave. He is so handsome, everyone wants to pet him. If it’s anyone he doesn’t know, he just bites.
Whenever we go for our walks, Donny comes along with us. He becomes quite miffed if we decide not to go on a walk a particular day. The one thing he cannot understand is why we take a walk around a circuit – he doesn’t approve of this silly human behaviour of walking around the same place over and over again. He just plonks himself somewhere in the middle and waits for us to finish.
Gowrishankar, my dearest friend is even more dog-mad than I am. He is a brilliant film maker and designer and along with Abhi and Mayur had been directing, shooting and editing our videos for almost a decade. Then he had to move to Chennai… And started rescuing strays in his spare time. Actually, I think he makes films and does his designing work in his spare time.
Irresponsible, heartless humans seem to routinely abandon beautiful dogs. Gowri goes out of his way and rescues them, and finds homes for them. If he had his way, he would open a dog sanctuary. By the way, if you want to get a dog, please adopt a stray and don’t get one of those showy pedigree types – they are a product of massive animal cruelty. And an Indie dog is as good as any of those fancy breeds when it comes to love and companionship.
A few weeks ago, Gowri found a little pup in distress – a cute, little black and white and brown doggo with brown eyes that somehow manage to glint a shade of green. When I saw on Instagram that he had this little pup, and was looking for someone to adopt her, I asked him to give her to me. He hesitated a lot, because he knew my life involves a lot of travel – but then he relented and trusted me with her.
Our little bundle of joy arrived from Chennai. Gowri had named her Akira – Japanese for Sunshine. And she fit right into our little family on the ashram. Donny didn’t quite approve of her to being with… but he is growing old, and soon welcomed her boundless energy and enthusiasm. Together, they manage to keep other dogs away. And if some stranger comes, Akira barks and by now everyone knows that Donny bites.
I love to take breaks from work, and play with Donny and Akira on the grass. It clears my mind. When I am stuck with something that doesn’t feel quite right or if I am struggling to understand a tough concept, playing with the dogs or going for a walk with them almost always resolves my problem. My dogs spark my productivity. I get ideas I never knew I could come up with – just having fun with them.
The dogs give me so much, and all they want in return is love and attention… and some nice doggie treats. My dogs light up my life, and elevate my heart, as they squeal with joy – tails wagging, their entire being thrilled with the simplest of happenings – Me coming back home. And if I am feeling a little down and out, there is nothing better than being sprawled out on the grass with Akira licking my nose, and Donny flopped down almost on top of me to make me feel great about life all over again.
Thank God for Dogs!
PS – You might ask – what about Dinesh and the dogs? Well – he is not as enthusiastic about dogs as I am… but he is getting there. Akira didn’t help by chewing his favourite slippers yesterday… Though, I did see him going to the lawn and actually calling out to Akira and playing with her this week… And he routinely takes Donny for a bike ride.
Dogs grow on Dinesh.
Do you love dogs? Or other animals? How did your pets make their way into your heart? Tell me your pet stories in the comments below!