Thursday, November 18, 2010

What is it about dogs?

What is it about dogs that can bring a smile to your face at one moment and a lump in your throat the very next?

Having grown up with dogs and seen them through ups and downs - from teaching them how to climb down steps to holding them gently just before they died, feeling them almost clawing on to me and to life itself, I felt almost relieved that I was unable to keep a dog on campus.  There just isn't the space and the campus is overrun by strays who scavenge garbage.  And one thing I feel strongly now is that dogs need space.  They can do without it, but if one has ever seen them running in wide open spaces, just for the joy of running, one wouldn't want to keep them confined.

Despite my steely resolve not to associate closely with dogs, it turned out that dogs seemed to want to associate with me.  I had very little choice in this matter!  Somehow our neighbour's dogs and an assorted collection of abandoned puppies found their way up to my house.  They would stay for brief intervals before moving on to a permanent place.

The last of these is Blacky, a hand-me-down dog.  Her original owners moved off campus, leaving her here about twelve years ago, to be adopted by a second family- and then a third.  Despite this, she has never developed the wariness that one sees in such animals; she's gentle and friendly and never happier than when surrounded by people of all ages.

She was the first neighbour to drop in and welcome us when we moved in a few years ago and since then dropped by almost every evening for a quick hallo and a teatime snack.  She scratches the door briefly and sits back in a ladylike fashion until I emerge with a couple of biscuits.

But I really got to know her better once she began falling ill.  I once helped our neighbour take her to the vet. and after that each time she is ill, she comes up and sits on our little covered verandah until her owners come to fetch her or until she feels better.  I think she knows she will be undisturbed and reasonably comfortable and that I will contact her owners once they return from work.  I think she also likes to be out in the fresh air when ill and on our verandah she is not troubled by the gangs of stray dogs and football playing boys that roam the streets.

Last night, she walked up once more and I was just chiding her on her late hours, informing her that I was about to go to bed.  She wagged her tail, took a biscuit gingerly and licked my hand a little before settling down.  Just when I was going to switch off the lights, her owners trudged up, looking for her.  She had apparently just returned from hospital after receiving a shot of painkillers as she wasn't able to put much weight on her hind legs.  It was then that I noticed that she was still uncomfortable, had somehow managed the climb up two flights of stairs, but was reluctant to walk down.  Usually she sleeps on a thick sheet outside my door if she is unwell, but she had to be sent home last night as the doctor had wanted her to be kept warm.  Eventually, she had to be carried back and she quite enjoyed this stately ride home, gently wagging her tail to bestow appreciation on one and all who participated in the procession.

It was such a ridiculously funny yet heart wrenchingly sad moment to see her - obviously uncomfortable yet full of love and gentleness and appreciation for the moment.  I really don't know how dogs manage it.  I never can.

1 comment:

Nora Franglen said...

I am just reading a touching, funny, human novel with dogs and their owners in New York as one of its main themes, which I think you might enjoy, Sujata. It is called the New Yorkers by Cathleen Schine, and is well worth reading, particularly if you like dogs. She has also written another very readable book called The Three Weissmanns of Westport, which I recommend too. Both are what I call "feel-good" reads.

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