I have mixed feelings about pet dogs. While I want to kiss every dog I meet on its wet nose, I am unsure if it is a deep and purposeful bond. It seems to be a symbiotic bond between two emotionally-needy creatures. The Homo Sapien and the Felis Domesticus.
I had a pet Pomeranian called Terry. We grew up in the same household for 12 years. We were family. He came to us when he was two weeks old. Instantly, we became best friends. Because I lived in a neighborhood where there weren’t any other kids to play with.
He was mellower than the average Pomeranian. A goofball despite born an animal without a sense of humor. I loved him because he gave me a lot of attention. I suspect that he followed me around because I was a recurring part of his ecosystem. We felt safe around each other.
Most of my favorite childhood memories revolve around our routines. Every morning, he would wake me up by licking my face. Even when the room was locked, he would scratch at the door, hoping I would open it to accept his best wishes for the day.
Terry was a junkie for cheese cubes. Whenever I opened the fridge to reach for them, he was always there right behind me. Somehow, he knew. And he snuck up on me – like a ghost child in an Asian movie.
During evenings, we would roller-skate together. I held on to his leash as he ran as fast as he could. He would turn back to check if I was having fun. Weekends saw us playing pranks on the neighbors by annoying their pets into barking aloud and then, running away. People never suspected us because they couldn’t think of us as troublemakers. We were known for being timid and unsocial.
Terry also helped me get through difficult moments. He would sit down next to me, with his furry head on my lap. He would listen to me whine and complain for hours. It felt therapeutic to share my vulnerabilities with him. I tried to be there for him too. Whenever he got hurt, he would come to me with his tail tucked between his legs. I would pat him on his head, and tell him that it would be all okay. We might have spoken different languages, but we could communicate our love for each other just fine.
One summer morning in 2001, while leaving to college, I saw him – wincing in pain – under the couch in the hall. He was in poor health. His mobility was limited. His eyesight had failed him by then. It was hard to see him in that state. Not that he was very energetic when he was younger. It was just painful to see him hurting. I couldn’t see him as being an old mutt. He was just Terry.
When I came back home from college, I whistled for him. My dad was sitting in the hall, reading some journal. My mom was unboxing some stuff in the kitchen. She had tears streaming down her cheeks. I was confused. So, I asked my dad if something was wrong. In a matter-of-fact tone, he told me that Terry had passed away. He went back to reading in the same breath. Only later that night did I realize that he had just put on a brave face. He was devastated. We all were.
I didn’t react much I heard about Terry’s death. I merely squinted and scrunched my nose as though I had smelled hot garbage. Politely, I asked for my dad’s car keys and promptly drove to the beach. I parked the car by the side of the road. I sat there and cried. It happened a few more times during the week.
I still can’t reminisce about him, without feeling emotional. I don’t have a single photograph of him. Sometimes, I worry about growing so old that one day I might forget how he looked. I know that he probably didn’t look different from any other semi-bred Pomeranian. But he was Terry. My Terry. That means the world to me. And as the saying goes, “We may be through with the past, but the past isn’t through with us”.
I have since become one of those annoying people who talks about how I really like dogs. And how they gravitate towards me despite what we know (or don’t know) about canine behavior. It is debatable. One thing is for sure – I want to see Terry one more time and plant a big, fat and awkward doggy kiss on his nose.
I grab a piece of paper
to make a list of things
to shelter from the rain;
I write down “awkward doggy
kisses” twice and fold the rest
into a paper plane.
(Photographs: Chennai & Kodaikanal)