Monday, December 17, 2007

Chp 2.

Although I had named him Field Marshal Jango, we all called him Chinoo. He was a complete odd ball. He made up for what he lost in height with his personality. Mischievous to boot, he always got his way. Couple of days after he was a month old, I gave out an ad in our local newspaper the Times of India for adoption of the six puppies. Including him and his brethren - all mix breed. A young guy of 24 year living in Dahisar (close to where we stay) walked in one day to adopt a pup.

His mistake, he chose Chinoo. Adamant Chinoo barked, nipped and refused the invitation outright, he tore the trouser leg of this visitor completely. Eventually, the visitor laughed and requested my sister not to give him away, for this dog was precious and had expressed quiet well that my sister was his owner and no one else could take this place. Eventually she gave away four pups, keeping back two, the first born Chinoo and the last born the youngest Snowy, his sister (cause she was and still is pure white in colour) in her family. They became the newest members of her family.

(Well, it seems appropriate that I mention here that one of the male dogs given to a Sepoy in Central Excise Department, died ten months after Chinoo died. He was being kept on a chicken farm near Pune, Maharashtra and was bitten by a poisonous snake, the doctors could not really decipher which antidote to administer he treatment in time. Maybe if he had been in the city he could have survived.) My sister had kept insisting that it was a mistake to breed my male dog with her female dog was a mistake. She kept insisting that we will not be able to give them all a loving and caring home. The two female pups are living pretty far from where we stay, and there is almost no news except a call that we make once in a while. One pup stays close to our place and has now become a father to four pups. He has shifted base from the city and is staying on a farm with his large family close to his owner’s father.

Chinoo, means Chinese in Hindi, a name given to him, cause someone in the family found his eyes too close to his forehead which gave him a little flat and chinky look. His sister Snowy, the last born in the litter of six , all of whom had a combination of black, white and golden hairs. She was pure pink in colour when born and is white where her hair covers her but pink in places not covered.

Chinoo had floppy ears, one that fell over his ear and the other almost stood sideways, giving him sort of a wonky look that made him look as though he was born mischievous. Short legs, a tailed that curled around twice and remained tight against his back, and would spring back into shape no matter how long we held it straight out. He walked with pride, his head always held high. His only problem was, he could never hold his bladder for long and always needed to go ‘every hour on the hour’ for a pee.

He usually sat with his head on his paws, and could remain asleep for hour’s altogether; no amount of noise from the TV would wake him. But an intruder's knock on the door and he would be on his feet, growling and barking. He would stop only to wag his tail if the visitor was known to him. He never slept at night, no matter what time you got up, he would be awake, to keep an eye on things and give you company.

He loved one person fiercely and that was my sister. He always waited for her to sit crossed legged on the floor, and he would promptly find a reason to jump into her lap and cover himself with her dress. Pick himself and work his paws on the dress and settle down again, closing his eyes and catching a nap. There was no way he could be forced to move till he finished his nap.

He had a glint in his eyes that stole everyone's heart. I noticed many people getting irritated with his behaviour, going to pee every hour, growling and barking incessantly when he did not like somebody, but no amount of anger and reprimand could dissuade him from doing exactly what he wanted to do. He jumped, ran and scrambled all over the house, the entire a one storey cottage space. No corner was left un-smelt and untouched. There was no barrier that could stop him - the sofa was meant to be jumped over to reach the window and the grill. People were meant to be scared with a speed run that imitated an express train coming towards you but halted just in time.

Each escapade brought a nervous laughter from the newcomers and the householders. For they knew he meant no harm, it was his way of playing games and may be it was a 'test of strength of character'. This seemed to hold a lot of importance for this tiny dog.

The story continues....

I gave him the name of Field Marshal Jango - why? Cause he was a fighter - street fighter to be exact and could push back even the hardiest and biggest of dogs compared to his puny size. His bark and growl would easily clarify and inform the hearer that he was probably facing a bigger and fiercer dog.

Born on Feb 7, 2003 he died on died May 4, 2004. About a foot and half tall he was covered with fur - in shades of black, gold, and white. A mix breed he had 21 toes - which many considered to be very lucky (what we call in dog terms the dewy claw).

He spoke in volumes and his presence left an impact on everyone - children to adults and animals. The day he died was an eventful day, we took him to the doctor for he had not been eating for two days now. He had a lump in his throat, his lymph nodes had become swollen.

The doctor gave him a couple of injections, and glucose and gave us instructions on what he could and could not eat, we had already given Chinoo's urine sample for tests. We went back home, got his lunch ready, he ate just a little and seemed lost, my sister put it. He kept walking into the kitchen and would sniff the place and curl himself up and sit down. (He was the first born of Jack (my dog) and Sonia (my sister's dog). He had been born in the kitchen of my sister's house that had been under renovation during that period.) I stepped out to go to work, it seemed that the day would be as any other normal day, but before 4.00 pm in the evening I got a call saying that Chinoo was not breathing. My sister called the doctor, but the attempt to revive him was futile, she tried to resuscitation -it did not work. He was asleep - forever. My sister became inconsolable, she tried but it seemed as if she could ever stop her tears again-ever.

It changed her completely (and she has never been the same old sister – somewhere lurking in her is a bitterness that I have never been able to fathom, even today) it was as if he had been the missing child in her life and now he was gone.

I called back and asked her to wait for I wanted to go together for the funeral. I had in fact just bought a camera, to take his pictures and of my dog Jack - his father while was not meant to be, it seemed. We called the SPCA and asked them how to go about the funeral arrangements, they called us to Lower Parel, a two hours drive from our place. They would keep him on ice till morning and then consign him to flames the next morning, as everything was shut at that moment, it being a Saturday. It seemed as if his death would tear our hearts out (writing this down still brings tears to my eyes and makes my heart heavy, that how was it possible that we could do nothing for him).

We called the doctor again, he said there was a burial ground in Goregaon for pets, but that closed at 5.30 pm in the evening and it was already six. We wrapped him in a bed sheet and some white cloth and carried him on my lap till electric funeral parlour in Borivali, 20 min from our homes. We, me, my sister accompanied by her husband three nephews, quiet and helpful they stood by us through the entire thing. God bless them. At the funeral parlour they told us, they did not have the permission to give final rites to animals. But they were kind enough to direct us to the shamshan bhumi (open funeral ground) at Dahisar to try our luck (you call that luck???). We moved on and here we have to thank the people at this place for they were helpful in giving Chinoo, the funeral rites of a human-he was consigned to the flames by proper Hindu customs.

By this time it was 7.30, but we stood vigilant by his pyre, the un-named person told us to leave -very kindly and to come back the next day to collect his ashes, which he promised he would keep safe, bound in a cloth...for it would take many hours for the ashes to cool.

We all trudged back home, tired and world weary. Everyone lost in their personnel thoughts about what had happened, none could say anything to each other, but all my sister kept saying…she could not save him, he was all that she had to love. We reached home by 8.30, paid the rickshaw driver a good sum, for he had been kind to take us to all the places till we found the place where we could lay to rest our family pet Chinoo.

It was at this moment I called the doctor to enquire what had Chinoo's urine report contain. He said, "His liver was completely infected, no matter what we would have done, we would have still lost him."

May 5

The next day, my sister left at 6.30 for the bhumi and collected Chinoo's ashes, which we buried in my mother’s garden at our home. It was a way that he would always remain with us. I also got an evergreen tree planted over the ashes. His clothes - towels, sheets; bowls everything was given away or consigned into the sea. For that is the Hindu tradition, when a person dies his belongings are given away to the needy, except for pictures nothing is kept back. It seems cruel for someone whom we loved so much, we have to remove every sign of his existence in what had been his home.

I started writing his story - it seems - long ago around eight months after his death, and I continue it now...

Eulogy To A Small Friend

Today, I start writing the story of a small but great friend, in fact he was four legged. This is a story for all who love dogs and others who do not.



Death , Be not proud

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;

For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,

Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee do go,

Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.

Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell;

And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well

And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,

And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

-Holy Sonnet by John Donne (1572-1631)

Two years on I can still remember this little devil, as I would call him many times, as if it all happened yesterday, everything comes back - picture after picture, frame after frame like a movie, but in stark black and white. This book is dedicated to this little fella my dog’s first born son – Field Marshal Jango aka Chinoo.

(No offence meant to military personnel)