She waited to die in his lap. She waited for three whole weeks. And when my father returned to find that he didn’t get his usual welcome at the door, I saw his eyes well up with tears. I knew something had changed in my home forever. We would never be the same again without Rosy. She died in his arms, just as he had carried her when she first arrived home, thirteen years ago.
Rosy coming into our lives was as dramatic as her exit. My father first saw Rosy as she was being cornered by a gang of street dogs. He rescued her and brought her home. “Only for a little while, until we find her a nice home”, he said. I was thirteen.
Rosy, was a rock star. As a little pup, a boy – a punk – accidentally discovered her. The boy’s noisy, obsessively patriarchal family ran a snack bar near Lakshmi talkies in Chittoor. The prodigal son, who would throw plates of food at his mother if he didn’t like the preparation, or hit his elder sister on a lark, had strangely picked up the little fur ball from a litter of 6. If their daughter had brought home the dog, the burly, ruthless father would have thrown the daughter and the pup out.
God knows why the heartless punk wanted to adopt Rosy. Whenever I walked Micky, I would see ‘the son’ with her. I was bewildered as to how a boy who throws food at his mother could be good with a little pup.
One day ‘the son’ found another dog. A male. By now I realized a dog was just another plaything for him. His father didn’t even bat an eyelid. “I already have two bitches, what I am I going to do with this third one”? He appeared to have told an inquisitive neighbour. So they took Rosy in an auto, and left her somewhere near Kanipakam. A good 12 KM away from Chittoor.
The next day, Micky and I found him walking a new pup. I could tell Mickey never liked ‘the son’. I guess, dogs are more concerned about whom they hang out with than us.
I asked him about Rosy, he gurgled and said, “We abandoned her. We always wanted a boy.”
With sheer horror in my eyes, I went back home and told my parents the story and my folks were stunned. More so my mother. When I was born, my mother wished for me to be a girl. It was her way of coming to terms with a loss of her four year old daughter, who died before my birth.
I believe my sister was a lively, little intelligent girl whose pretty life was snuffed out because some pharma company didn’t bother testing their drug properly. Back then, there was no Barkha or Arnab to bang their fists on the table, look you in the eye from behind their perch in the idiot box, and dramatically hiss, ‘Will justice be served? Time will tell. We will take a small break now, don’t go anywhere!’
I don’t think mom loves me any less but somehow I think Rosy coming into our lives, filled that soft spot for girls that she has. That night while serving me dinner, mom said, ‘I hope the poor dog is alive.”
What happened next morning blew my mind. My father, after his morning walk, came back with Micky. And, Rosy.
Rosy had walked all the way back into Chittoor, to her masters’ home. But the poor darling didn’t know just how degenerate humans could be. The son and the father collected stones and tried to hit Rosy out of their way.
Mickey was an eight-month-old, feisty German Shepherd when dad carried a frail and wounded mongrel in his arms into our living room. Rosy had off-white fur that was accentuated by small patches of tan. Micky probably accepted Rosy because he was still young and before long they became great friends.
Rosy exuded an aura of maturity and grace. She was a correcting, stabilizing influence, whereas Micky was prone to consistent displays of impulsiveness and naivete. Micky chased butterflies and garden lizards in our backyard. Rosy knew better. Micky picked fights with the street dogs, and Rosy always touched noses and made friendships. Micky was the brat and took things for granted. Rosy was a survivor and was happy to just be.
Micky was a high energy, adventure seeker, which meant he would regularly runaway. The daily routine started with, Rajamma, our maid, forgetting to latch the gate, then Mickey would scurry out, followed by us running behind him leaving a trail of my mother yelling at Rajamma in the background. Mickey was an imposing pooch. Big enough (and menacing enough) to scare people out their socks or patta-pattis.
So, when were doing our routine with Rajamma and Micky, Rosy would sit in quiet repose, watching the drama and probably thinking “hmm…how dumb can a dog get”?
By evening dad would be back home and the sound of the gate opening then meant, Rosy yelping with joy, running to the door, doing an “x marks the spot” by circling him and swishing her tail until both would settle down to do their nosy-nosy routine. While this tribal ritual continued day in and day out, Micky and I filled the frame as enthusiastic extras. I am sure Micky was wondering about Rosy and thinking “how boring can a dog get”?
By the time we moved to Chennai, years later, Micky was no more. He died of throat cancer. God knows how he got it. I still suspect the Vet was on drugs when he established the diagnosis. All of us were sad, Rosy included, but there wasn’t much anyone could do. And it was a quick death. In the sense, it didn’t drag on for weeks on end. From then on, it was just Rosy and us.
It was in Chennai that my dad became closer to Rosy. He walked her. Bathed her. He had just retired and had a lot of time. I had just started working. I was 26 when Rosy left us. I practically grew up with her.
And here I was lying next to her fragile body, desperate to see her eat or drink. Mom was numb, just waiting for dad to be back from his journey, which seemed to take forever. Rosy was prolonging her pain just to see him for one last time. We knew this but the vet gave up and told us to put her to sleep. We fired that vet.
Those two weeks are still so clearly etched in my mind. For the sound of every foot-step in the room, she had just enough energy to open her eyes slightly, thinking maybe father has come.
I would lie on the ground, next to her, look into her eyes and touch her nose. It was mostly dry but just to reassure me that she is alive, she had a little moist look in her eyes and as I stared into them, those beautiful brown eyes told me a million stories. I was constantly frustrated that I couldn’t do anything more to help her ease her suffering. Finally, after what seemed like forever, my father arrived and when he didn’t find Rosy at the doorstep, I swear at that moment I heard his heart crumble.
I could have hugged my dad, picked up poor ole Rosy or held on to my mother. But I just stood there, just like old times, filling the frame like an extra. This time without Mickey. I wished he were alive. He would have pacified them just by being himself. It was a terrible sight. Dad just drowned in the couch in the living room and stared at the Gods in our pooja room.
In the wrong side of sixties, he was not exactly agile but he jumped to his feet when he saw Rosy. She had heard him and while we were all in the living room, she called upon herself every last ounce of life she had and dragged herself into the living room.
Father let out a strange noise, ran up to her, and collected her in his arms, and buried his face in her fur to muffle his sobs.
Ten minutes later, lying on his lap, she breathed her last. She waited to say her last good bye to her best friend. I don’t know what part of my father stopped living from then on.
My father wanted to give Rosy a decent resting place, but that was hard to find in Chennai. One of our friends suggested the land adjacent to the Kotturpuram fly-over. After much hesitation, my father consented. The other problem was that none of the auto guys were ready to go on a funeral procession of a dog. Despite offers of large sums of money that is.
We found a kind auto-rikshaw driver who agreed to take Rosy’s remains. So we boys took her away in the auto. My parents were inconsolable. As the auto drove away from the gates of our apartment complex in Alwarpet, I turned back to see my parents standing on the road and crying.
My father never brought the topic of having another dog again. I tried convincing him that my nephew, who was a toddler then, might want a dog, but my father was unshakeable. He just didn’t want another dog.
As for me, I moved out of Chennai and never really thought of getting a dog. But when my daughter was born, I remembered Rosy.
I have been thinking about it for a while now. If I am getting a dog, it is going to be a girl. And, you know what I am going to name her, don’t you?