<--Added on 8/22/08 for migration to TPB -->
An unlikely friendship short-lived
I'd always been scared of dogs in my early childhood. The fact that neighbours and cousins occasionally owned one did little to alleviate my fear. There used to be a dog roaming the compound of the house abutting the lane where we pitched stumps and played. All through the summer evenings, he used to follow our running around, barking madly through the grills of the gate separating him from us. He made no secret of his intentions: we would be ripped to shreds the day he got a chance to get near us. I dreaded him till we moved house. And then Gruffy arrived.
The relationship with Gruffy stretched to a decade and a half. There exists a mysterious medium which dogs use to communicate with humans. Anyone who's raised one would easily understand this: the twinkle in the dog's eyes, the body language, the shake of the head..and you should be able to interpret that in human terms. As time went on, I and Gruffy pretty much mastered this art of communication. He had formed a certain opinion about me that led him to treat me with a large degree of contempt - every morning he would greet Appa warmly, wagging his tail to every word directed at him, stretching his head to be patted. Such niceties were extended to all in the household except me - since I spent the maximum time indoors, he probably regarded me as a fellow canine with lowly responsibilities, only a little higher than himself in the hierarchy. On exam days when I would be free to study in the mornings, as soon as everyone left home, he would gain my attention with a couple of barks, then look at me with a gleam in his eyes(Isn't it time for me to be a little free?). I'd unchain him and then he'd go roaming inside the compound. Noon would come and I'd be ready to leave, but he'd refuse to go to his corner. Ultimately I'd lead him back to his due place, chain in one hand and a mug of water in the other, for he absolutely detested getting drenched. When I'd go to pick up The Hindu early morning, he'd look up casually with a nod(Oh, so it's you?). Strolling to the gate, he'd hang around for a moment to check my mood(Are you going for a walk? Let me out then). I'd never shouted at him or raised my voice, so he always had his way. One word from Appa and he'd return back to the food he had wanted to ignore. With me, he wouldn't budge from his corner, his eyes looking the other way(I'll eat it when I feel like, now don't you stand there like you don't have better things to do). When I opened any refreshments while watching the telly, he would saunter to my side as a matter of principle, with a business-like air(Since we're one of a kind, it's only fair that you hand me a fair chunk of whatever you get). If his rubbing and pawing got too frequent, I'd mutter 'hmmmmmmm' in protest, at which he'd move away but still stay in the vicinity, knowing that I'd toss him the last piece. On the occasions I caught him cornering chameleons and garden lizards that strayed into the compound, he'd give me a warning growl, wagging his tail furiously(This territory has been my domain for years and I consider it my sovereign right to convey a fitting message to every transgressor). He'd incapacitate the reptile by stamping or leaping on it, then amuse himself by grabbing it by the tail and dashing it against the wall.
But there was one occasion when Gruffy got outsmarted, and how! Amma told me one morning to go out and drive away some cat or crow which got him barking all morn. I shooed the crow but he promptly came back and perched on the wall. Gruffy went after him with malicious intent but he switched to the branches of the mango tree. I observed the contest for a while. Pretty soon it was clear there were not one but two crows in the vicinity. While in flight, one of them had dropped a dead fish within the compound and Gruffy wasn't letting them retrieve it. I sat in a corner watching the game of cat-and-mouse unfold. Every now and then, the crows would perch on the wall, looking for a chance to pick up the dainty lying inside. Gruffy would roar and leap, forcing them to take to the high branches.
And then came the moment of genius. One of the crows flew a little farther and made as if to land inside the compound. Gruffy made a dash for him, only to see his partner retrieve the booty at the other end! Precariously holding the fish, the crow dropped it on the wall, then pushed it to the other side and flew aside as the dog leapt at him. Success at last!
Years passed by. I was home for a month long vacation, having been away for a year. Gruffy was then ageing but still able to move around. I took him for hour long walks for a week. Then went back to work. A week later, he breathed his last, one month short of his 15th birthday.
But a more interesting tale concerns a different canine. It was February 1991. After a few years with Gruffy, I had become completely at ease with dogs. A grumpy and sour man lived down the far end of the lane. I used to pass by his house while going to school. A white and friendly-looking dog with black patches(similar to the one in pic) used to stay around his place.
I would leave home with Amma, we would walk together for about 5 minutes, then part in opposite directions. Another 5 minutes would find me before the school gates.
Pretty soon I got the white dog to follow me, showing him some friendly signals. I would walk a long way in front and he would follow keeping a distance, exploring the place. At times, I would stop, wave at him and promptly he'd come bounding to narrow the gap, ears flapping as he broke into a run. He followed me to my school and I quickly sneaked inside the gates, concerned that the watchman might scold me thinking it was my dog. The whole day I sat wondering if he got home safely. There was no sign of him in the evening and I was feeling guilty.
But the next day my four-legged friend was enthusiastically waiting at his regular place for my arrival. Giving a look of familiarity, he would start his stroll. It became a habit for about a month. My school friends would watch for us at the gates - I would go with this chap and once near the school, would sneak inside without looking back, hoping he didn't try to get in.
Then suddenly he went missing end of the month. I'd linger at the corner of the lane, hoping to spot him somewhere, then proceed alone. It was most unlike him to miss the appointment.
It was the last Saturday of the month. I was busy doing homework that night. Amma informed me that around noon that day, Mr.Grumpy dragged the dog all hurt and sick from dogfights and tied him up in an isolated place in the sun! He was looking too sick and diseased. After yelping piteously for a couple of hours, he passed away. They bundled his carcass into a bag and tossed it into a huge sewer that evening.