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Musings Of an Aunty Who Never Ever Messes With Fate

by Niranjana Mittal

Dolly Koghar looks back on nostalgic times with pets that made going on possible.

Man’s Best Friend

The shift in ‘95 to a hitherto-unknown place like Bangalore wasn’t easy, but it was especially traumatic for my youngest, who’d already experienced with me one of the biggest quakes we’d felt to date, the Great Hanshin Earthquake. So our resettlement, which was both sudden and without much forethought, made things worse. Thus, when she wanted a dog, we got her a golden retriever. Although a pedigree breed, Ozzie never grew to be brawny, with a deep bronze coat like his award-winning sire. In fact, he was almost effeminate; slightly built with a ginger mane and a longish snout. He wasn’t the first dog for me; I’d seen many impressive breeds in my parent’s house, but they stayed outdoors to ward off the commonplace Sukhumvit burglaries in the 60s and 70s, and never graduated into pets.

But Ozzie didn’t remain anonymous; he anchored us through the transition instability and became a confidante to my daughter and me. When sad and forlorn, we’d sit him down and pat him, then we’d mutter everything that we couldn’t even express to each other. He’d gaze up with those doleful brown eyes and wordlessly acknowledged that he’d heard us, and all would be okay!

When we once again began the unexpected process of resettling back into Bangkok, by then, even my little girl had flown the coop. Having no home of my own here to bring Ozzie to, I was forced to give him away. After which, he lived a fruitful life and sired many pedigree puppies, who sold at good prices. But to us, Ozzie had never meant an investment; he was a pal.

Returning to Bangkok and starting life from scratch was anything but a homecoming. So, to brace myself, I got myself a beagle and he, like Ozzie, tided me over with his theatrics, fuddles, and muddles. But life has hiccups. One weekend, my son noticed a dark dot near Snoopy’s right iris. I took the cook along with me to the affordable government hospital a daunting distance away, somewhere near Don Mueang; and was I glad that I did! The corridors of the huge hospital had every variety of mammal, winged, and reptilian life I could ever imagine. The wait, though long, wasn’t all bad; the hospital was squeaky-clean, and the staff, besides being caring and polite, were super efficient. The doctor treated him like she would my human child, and was gentle when she relayed his diagnosis: cancer. The cook and I were lost for words, and then with tears streaming down my face, I looked into Snoopy’s innocent, trusting eyes and mutely begged for his and his Creator’s forgiveness for the decision I was about to take; to scoop out his eyeball.

But it didn’t end there and in less than two years, his remaining eye needed to be removed. This time, my daughter and I took him to Chulalongkorn Hospital and brought home a blind Snoopy. After bumping around for a few days, he found his bearings, but through it all, his love never waned, he neither whined, nor complained, nor blamed; not even when the disease ravaged his whole body and water oozed from every pore. We put him into a clinic hospital in Thonburi, requesting them to neither prolong his life, nor to end it; but to ease his pain and suffering for whatever time remained; which wasn’t long. My last visit with Snoopy hails him a valiant hero. He’s blind, with pus-filled skin clinging to his gaunt skeleton, and dying. But, hearing my voice, he forced himself up on wobbly legs, and mustered whatever strength left in him and willed himself towards me.

It’s then I comprehended A.D. Williams’ observation, “When I look into the eyes of an animal, I do not see an animal. I see a living being, I see a friend. I feel a soul.” Snoopy couldn’t see me, nor could I gaze into his; but our souls recognised each other, as kindred spirits, regardless of our forms!

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