A family got a dog and kept it with great love and care. However due to some unavoidable circumstances they had to donate him to a new family. How it feels to see that same dog after few years and the feeling of being stranger-zoned by the dog is what this story is about.
I took a deep breath and rang the doorbell.
I heard a dog barking.
Easy does it.
A lady clad in a dirty sari opened the door. I assumed she must be the maid. She looked at me questioningly.
"Is Rajesh Uncle here?"
She looked at me suspiciously and said "I'll just call him"
I waited. The maid was clever. She didn't let me inside the house and closed the door in my face.
One minute passed. This was my moment. I could run away.
The door opened and a man in his 50s looked at me and smiled
"Namaste Uncle" I greeted him
The last time I saw him, he had more hair on his head. Now he was almost bald and the remaining hair on his head were almost white. He looked tired. Oh well, people are allowed to look tired on a Sunday morning.
"Hello beta, sorry , the maid doesn't seem to trust anybody here. Come inside. I hope you did not have any difficulty finding our house?"
"No no uncle" I smiled. Giving fake smiles was one of my greatest talents.
I looked around for the dog that was barking.
"He's outside in the balcony. Don't worry" Uncle seemed to read the look on my face.
"Thank you Uncle" I sat down on the sofa.
I looked around. It was a huge house. Well furnished and beautifully decorated.
The dog started barking once again.
"Hello beta" A friendly lady came. I assumed she must be Rajesh Uncle's wife, Preeti Aunty.
I stood up and greeted her. The same maid came again and placed a tray filled with a glass of juice and biscuits and dry fruits. She smiled at me too this time.
Preeti Aunty asked me about college and how I was commuting and how my parents were. I patiently answered all her questions.
"He's eating right now. You can meet him after that"
I could feel my own heartbeat. I wondered if my heart was visibly pounding or something. I wondered if Aunty could see it too. Sometimes my brain thought really stupid things. Right now was that time.
The dog barked again. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat.
A few minutes more baby.
The maid came inside again.
"He's done eating. Come inside"
My pulse started racing. Tachycardia, yes that is what was happening to me. I felt like my heart would come out of my ribcage. My head started pounding.
The last time I saw him was two years ago. I wondered of he remembered me.
The barking intensified and so did my heartbeat.
And then Uncle opened the door. What hit me back was the familiar waft of dog smell. Brought back so many memories. And there he was.
Black and furry and magnificent.
My Don. My baby.
" We call him Fred now" Uncle informed me.
But for me he'll always be Don.
I looked at him. He was barking on the top of his voice after seeing me. I knew it wasn't the ' I recognise you' bark but the ' who are you, stranger ' bark. I had mentally prepared myself for this.
"Fred , look who's here. Do you remember her?" Uncle asked him.
Don wouldn't stop barking. He was pulling the leash. He was tied to the window. It pinched. We never tied him anywhere.
"He bites. Don't go near him please." Uncle warned me.
I stopped. I hadn't expected this. I wanted to go near him and I want him to lick me the way he used to do. He had grown so big in two years. Last I saw him, he was a medium sized puppy.
"Hi Don… Fred (I looked at Uncle) Hi baby, remember me? "
Don kept on barking. It didn't sound like a happy bark at all.
He showed me his scary teeth and was barking at me like the way he barked at other strangers.
But it's me Don. I cuddled you and rubbed your belly. I fed you milk and bread and chicken. I cleaned your pee and poop. How can you bark at me baby?
Aunty came in the room. "Fred, keep quiet "
She sat next to him and let him lick her face and and ran her hand through his fur. She signalled me to come to her. She held his face the other side and asked me to run my hand through his fur. I used to do the same when scared children wanted to let him.
He barked as soon as he felt my hand and tried to reach my hand with his mouth.
I stepped back. I had had enough.
The maid came inside. Apparently Don loved her as he was jumping and licking her lovingly.
It was time to leave.
"I should go now Aunty. Mom and Dad will get worried and I have college work to do too"
Aunty gave a me a friendly smile. She asked me stay for a little more time but I refused. My heart had suffered enough anyway.
The whole ride back home was like a blur.
The pain of giving Don away had died its natural death a long time ago. But now a new pain was born. It seemed familiar to the old one but slightly different.
We got Don on my 21st birthday. He was a naughty boy when he came. He didn't let us sleep the first night as he kept scratching our bedroom door (mom didn't let him sleep in our room). German shepherds are supposed to have erect ears. But when he came he had small tender ears. His bark sounded like a squeak. As Don grew, he became a very obedient yet naughty dog. He broke four vases and ruined the sofa covers. Yet we loved him. We treated him like a prince.
And then one day it happened.
Mom developed dyspnoea and couldn't breathe after awhile. Her body was burning with fever and had to be rushed to the Hospital.
Diagnosis – Severe hypersensitivity to dog hair.
And what was the solution – giving Don away.
It was a tough decision. My little brother who was 10 at that time, cried and hit all of us and shouted and threw tantrums. Mom cried too as she felt she was the reason why he had to go. Dad kept quiet. Out of all of us, I knew he was the one who loved Don the most. I shed my share of tears too but the new onset of maturity told me that family is the biggest priority.
Rajesh Uncle got to know about our decision to donate Don for free from a mutual friend. The last moment with him was unforgettable. I had read that animals sense stuff that is happening around him. So I expected Don to behave exceptionally well. But he acted as normal as he could he be. He tried to bite my hair as I tried to hold him. It was hard holding the tears back.
The pain of losing Don was immense. For days, looking at other dogs became unbearable. Dog posts on Facebook were always skipped and concentrating on anything became horribly tough. I felt even sadder for my brother. He learnt about sacrifice at such a young age. But he was young and I knew he would forget and move on easily. He didn't even bother to accompany me today.
I tried to play the moment again in my head. Don had forgotten me. And why wouldn't he? I couldn't gather the courage to meet him in two years. He was somebody else's dog now and would remain theirs. I was history for him.
I wiped the single drop of tear from my eyes.
I know I had to make peace with it.
Don isn't Don anymore. He's Fred now.