Monday, October 29, 2007

Laika

I remember I had fallen asleep after an elongated tantrum. This wasn’t the first time. Neither was it the last. What my parents had written off as just a fondness for puppies, had grown into a full blown obsession. Ultimately, after countless tantrums and promises of standing first in class, they finally caved in. This is how Laika entered our lives. Don’t know why suddenly today I am writing about her. It’s been 2 years since she passed away. But I had been carrying baggage from her death for a long time and finally decided to set it free on the web now and find some closure. Laika came to our family as a shabby little one month old pup who couldn’t even climb a flight of stairs without tumbling down a couple of times. Lapping up her milk was even messier. For a week, the house smelt like a dairy. Seeing her transform from this awkward, clumsy pup into a graceful German Shepherd was like a parenting experience for me. Right from cleaning her crap to staying up all night when she fell sick. And she bore into all our hearts. Even aaji was not spared. She became the constant companion to all of us. Every time you turned around, she was there, staring at you, tail wagging, and a strange anticipation in her eyes. It was her eyes that always caught my fancy. Maybe it was the fact that she was brought up in love and care, but her eyes never resembled those of other dogs. That fierce, guarding gaze was absent. It was a look of total submission. Sometimes it made me wonder, if by domesticating her, we had accidentally killed that wild spirit. Maybe what we thought of as obedience was actually a corroboration of the fact that she was absolutely dependent on us. Or maybe she always held the pain of separation from her mother, which we brought about. But we never heard her complain. That constant companionship was soon upgraded to a family membership. And a privileged one!! She became the queen of the house. Anyone who came in through the door first had to meet her. Then the rest of us. And not just meet, but shower a minimum of 5 minutes of admiration. Her welcome ritual became as much a part of homecoming as the quintessential "gajar ka halwa" that the hero’s mom always has ready. It was always heart warming to come back home after the day and be greeted like you just came back from prison after 20 years. And with her, you always knew it was sheer love. No ulterior motives. Even aaji, who dint particularly appreciate the concept of pets, came around. Laika proved her part too. Usually she stayed out of aaji's way. But when aaji was alone at home, Laika took up the duty of not letting her feel alone. As if she knew that aaji is old and may need help. Aaji later confessed that it was a big moral support for her. The lupine instincts of protecting the pack had endeared Laika to a non-believer.
3 years later, we decided that her genes ought to be passed on. Laika became the proud mother of 7 pups. 3 boys, 4 girls. It was chaotic, to say the least. A team of 7 rambunctious pups, combined with a protective mother, and 4 family members, at the end of their nerves. Their appetite was a no holds barred contest. One whole pack of Cerelac a day. Table manners were taking a serious hit. Their motto: if you can’t get enough from standing outside the bowl, jump right in the bowl and eat around you. So we had 7 pups, smothered in Cerelac running around trying to eat each others' limbs. Soon, time came to bid them farewell as they all went to their new homes to start a life, like their mother did 3 years ago. However troublesome, giving away that last pup was awful. It was like we had betrayed Laika. She started gathering toys and placing them in the bed where the litter had been. I guess she was trying to fill the void. But that’s a dog’s fate. To be born to a mother. And then to be reborn as someone’s pet. I just hope all those little Laika's are keeping up their mothers reputation.
A couple of years later, Laika’s health started degrading. She suffered from stomach blockages and was operated twice. The third time, she kind of gave up. I saw her; motionless, lying on the operating table with her stomach being stitched, and saw the gleam in her eyes fade. She felt no pain even without an anesthetic. Or maybe she did, but dint show. Laika never complained. The decision had to be taken. What is termed as humane death, or "putting her to sleep". No matter how much you round the edges off the name, it still stings. And it stung badly. A decision about letting someone live in pain or die in peace is never easy. Because nobody asked Laika what she wanted. In the end, it was her pain filled whine that tipped me to make my decision. I decided to let her go. I could not keep her in pain for my personal gratification in making the right decision. A tearful goodbye later, Laika drifted off to sleep. Everyone feared going back home, knowing the fact that there will be no greetings at the door now. No wagging tail drumming the door. No playing fetch till you got bored of throwing the ball. No wet nose searching bags for goodies. No muddy paw prints anymore. No Laika anymore.
I still sit and doubt whether I did right. That just by being her owner, did I have the right to end her life? What if she would have made it through? I guess these are questions Laika should have answered.
I buried her favorite tennis ball in her grave. I hope wherever she is, somebody’s playing fetch with her. Because she loved it when you threw something, and she brought it back. I had to throw her life away. Laika, fetch.
It doesn’t end here. We finally mustered up the courage to move on and bring a new life into the house. Sarah. I won’t tell you if she's better or worse than Laika. My only prayer is that she doesn’t give me a chance to write such a blog for a long long long time. And another thing I hope is that Laika, wherever she is, doesn’t get too jealous of Sarah. But as I said, Laika never complains.

6 comments:

renu said...

dont know what to say..i wish u hadnt written this..it's lke a resurrection of old demons..but to your credit, a beautiful resurrection..never knew u cud write so well..and it's not just abt words..it's also about what's restrained, what's unspoken. keep at it. u're damn too good.

Animesh said...

i am left speechless after reading this. keep blogging...

Clever Doll said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Clever Doll said...

A most beautiful and moving eulogy for your true companion. I am deeply touched by your true love for your friend which you express with so much openness and economy of words. I feel sincerely for your loss and hope the best for you and Sarah.
I remember all those times in high school when I used to come over to your place and was always greeted by an ecstatic and snoopy Laika, inspecting me with her big wet nose. I was scared, as I am to this day, of assertive girls, but eventually I accepted it as a standard protocol of entry to your home.
I hope to meet you this Diwali in Nagpur and say hi to Sarah. How old is she? What's her latest trick?

pooja said...

dude...this blog will make any pet lover feel the happiness of getting a pet and the pain of loosing a companion....my saying "its well written" does not mean much but i insist you should think of writing rather seriously.

Ritika said...

Hi, ok I'm not good at this, but yea, I couldn't read the last paragraph cz my eyes were filled with tears... Exceptional blog... Good Luck with Sarah. Yes, in this case, first love/pet remains special :)