Four walls compose a house. But, it’s the love, which converts it into a home. We had abundance of love in our home. Enough for the 4 inhabitants and more. So, we distributed the largesse to the flora and fauna kingdom too. Our house was a veritable zoo. Although it was a 150 Sqft single room in a Chawl, we had enough space for the entire world. We had homing pigeons, a turtle, parakeets, lovebirds, white mice, cats and Jackie.
Jackie was a crossbreed between a Rottweiler and a Dobermann. I brought him home when he was 10 days old. A small, whining puppy, belying the fearsome canine he would grow into! The Rottweiler is considered one of the most ferocious hounds in the world. And, the Dobermann is considered one of the most temperamental dogs. Jackie had the worst of the both. Ideal for our crazy abode.
In the summer of 99, I heard somewhere that a Parsi doctor has a Dobermann female , which has laid litters. I caught hold of one of my rowdy doglover friends, Reagan d’Costa and we went on my Royal Enfield Bullet, model 1972.
The entire process of acquisition was painless, except the separation of the litter from it’s mother. Dog’s have a way of communicating through there silent eyes. She was able to communicate to me that what I’m doing is unnatural. We left with the distraught mother’s cries echoing and resounding through the horns of the surrounding cars on the busy thoroughfare of Mazagaon to Khetwadi road. I separated a kid and illuminated my life!
The puppy was too young to feel any attachment to its mother. It slept soundly in the basket laid out for it. The next day my another friend Bharat arrived and christened it Jackie. He is a die hard fan of Jackie Chan. And, the puppy graduated from a ‘It’ to a ‘He’. It had a valid name and a bonafide family now. .
At an age of 3 months, which can be translated to a teenager in dog years, Jackie was a menace. He was loved by everyone, being so cute. He always used to steal things from other’s house and hide it in ours, without caring if he’s seen stealing. This endeared him to everyone as they found it too cute to see the small puppy running away with one of their socks in its tiny mouth, while they were trying to get ready.
One of my friends was a dog trainer. He tried to teach Jackie tricks. Like all belligerent kids, Jackie despised him and always hid somewhere to avoid his visits. I took mercy on him and sent my friend away one day. I took upon myself to teach him and found out a hidden talent in me! I was a great dog trainer! I taught him attack tricks, which I later regretted. Rottweilers have an inherent violent streak. Attack training made him realize that he has to kill to protect. The only problem being, he didn’t know how to kill. As he had never tasted blood, he didn’t know to bite. That was good enough. Whoever wants to question if the dog will bite, while the hulking brute is breathing in your face! I learned a lot about dogs. I researched and many myths were dispelled. While the dog learned tricks, I learned about human psychology, which I found uncomfortably similar to a canine’s!
I got married in 2000. Jackie went with me to Benaras. After all, he was a part of our family! He was very quiet and well behaved. Of course, I took the credit for that, but even I was surprised as I was expecting him to be angry and sulky.
They say that dogs are fiercely protective. Jackie showed this trait during 2004. My son Shanu was 2 years old then. I took him with me while going on the nightly walk with Jackie. One of my friends met us. We were talking amicably, while Jackie was trying to sample the scant grass near the curb of the footpath. Shanu is a cute child. Then he was just like a lovable teddy bear. My friend turned his attention to Shanu. Squatted down to his height and began the disgusting baby talk we grown ups are compelled to do when faced with a kid. Jackie stopped sniffing the grass and started watching my friend warily. Then my friend did the unpardonable. He pinched Shanu on cheeks. The hell broke loose! With a dangerous and mute growl the 5 year old, 60 pounds Rottweiler sprang on him, flattening the cowering and screaming friend on the ground. That was all Jackie was capable of. After pinning the offending person on the ground, he was kind of lost. I patted my left flank and called him off. Reluctantly he came to my side, while my friend – now ex friend – went away cursing. I was successfully protected from a friend by my loyal and fierce attack dog, who didn’t know how to bite. Now, try explaining this to my ex friend!
I wish I could tell more such tales of bravery, where my loyal dog saved me from a gang of bloodthirsty bandits or saved us from fire by dragging all of us out, but unfortunately a dog’s life is very unromantic and mundane. Just like mine. They have their 30 seconds of glory if they are lucky, or they simply fade away in ignominy. Apparently we humans mimic their life as well as psychology. It was an uneventful life for Jackie. Pampered by everyone, getting all his meals on time. No worries at all. The only blot on landscape being lack of a mate. But, he should have known that love is for the luckiest! He should have considered himself lucky that apart from a mate, he had all the love in the world! Don’t know about his thoughts on this subject. He never confided in me.
A dog lives for 12 years. In dog years, it’s calculated as 80. Jackie successfully crossed 2010. Still terrorizing small kids and random vendors in our chaw. I moved to Panvel in 2008. I was a proud father of a girl in 2009. Jackie doted on both of my kids and my brother’s daughter. My family visited frequently and I rarely. However, Jackie always sensed my impending arrival and was alert. I informed my boss in 2010 that if my dog dies, I’ll take an impromptu leave. He screamed and shouted, but I was obstinate. He finally agreed. When I visited Jackie next, he was having trouble recognizing me. He could smell me and whine. I announced in my office that I may require a leave anytime now. But, he was a fighter dog of a fighter owner. He survived. In my next visit, he heard me while I was climbing the stairs and nearly knocked me down!
He had the regular problems of old age. But, like a stubborn bull hound, he braved it. I joined Sutherland in 2011. My boss was dutifully informed of the leave in case of his demise. I never used the allocated leave.
I spent 3 years in Sutherland. And, then I got a call from my mom on a Tuesday. Jackie is dying. I had been expecting it since ’11! But, even though you have watched a horror movie 10 times, you can’t avoid getting shivers at the climax! I was numb. Wednesday was my off. I came home, changed and left like a man possessed. Wednesday, June 11, 2014. I was stuck in a traffic jam. Trains late. The world decided to follow Edward Murphy. If anything can go wrong, it will. And, at the most critical moment. I reached home at 5 pm. Mom said, ‘He’s waiting for you!’
Jackie was sleeping. Or dead? I whistled. He suddenly opened his eyes. Tried to get up, but his legs refused to cooperate. He looked at me with beseeching eyes. Begging! Asking me to prove that I’m his master. Daring me to snatch him from death. I looked at my boots. Don’t know how, there were 2 drops of water on the tip of my shining shoes. My soul howled! I couldn’t look into his eyes. I just went and embraced him. I cried, in the memory of the innocent soul, who trusted me and I cheated. He died in my arms. I, who began his circuit of life, ended it. It’s not my achievement. It’s my failure. A fighter till the end, he fended death till he gets the rescue. And, the rescue failed him. Broken hearted, he died in his master’s arms. Oblivious of the cruel world of its ugly fangs. Thankfully, he never ever knew that world!
It’s an eulogy to my ward! He even ensured to die on my off. A lawyer in 19th circa America once said…
A man’s best friend is a dog.