As dog lovers, we always had dogs of different species; sometimes one, sometimes two or even three dogs at a time. But after my husband’s retirement, we lost five dogs and three budgerigars (birds), that too two beautiful Alsations, one German Spitz, one Apso and a Pomeranian over period of fifteen years. It is really a heart rending experience to lose a pet, whether it is a dog, a cat or a bird. After this we, including our grandchildren, have decided not to keep pets. But, sometimes, I can’t help going down memory lane and remembering those darling pets.
Of all the dogs we had, Lucy stands out as a unique pet. She was a mixed breed, the offspring of a hill dog and a black Pomeranian. My husband brought this black beauty from Tanga valley, along with a servant, an orphan boy. On our first meeting itself, Lucy and I liked each other instantly. She lived for fourteen years moving with us from Jabalpur to Meerut, Hyderabad, Chindit Top (Arunachal Pradesh), Meerut again and finally to Delhi where she breathed her last. All the time she travelled with us in a first class coupe refusing to be separated from us. We could never put her in the dog box with the guard during travel. She couldn’t express her likes and dislikes verbally but was very firm in expressing them in her animal way. We had no other option but to buy her a ticket and put her in the same coupe along with us. This practice would sometimes create problems for us with our co passengers whom we had to request to accept her presence. After this problem was sorted, the TT used to question us. Our friends used to ask us why we took all this trouble for an animal, that too for a cross breed. Though a cross breed, Lucy was a beautiful, strong dog with a shining black coat and was like a member of our family. She was very understanding, almost like a human being. When she was about three years old, we moved from Jabalpur to Meerut. My daughter joined a good school and on the first day of school, she was to cycle down to one of her friend’s house from where they both planned to go to school. Lucy felt so responsible towards our thirteen year old daughter that she ran behind her cycle. It was a surprise to the girls. My daughter had to bring Lucy back, tie her up and leave for school, though grumbling. The same thing happened the next day and the day after. Thereafter, we started to tie Lucy in the mornings which she hated and she used to create a ruckus. We always left our dogs to roam around freely inside the house and never tied them except when we had guests. Of course, we taught them to behave and not enter the kitchen and the Puja room. If I was cooking, Lucy would sit outside the kitchen and wait patiently for me. If the maid was working in the kitchen and I was in another room, Lucy would never let the maid step out of the kitchen.
Meerut used to be very cold in the winters and equally hot in the summers. On one summer afternoon, as we were yet to buy a cooler, we spread a Dari on our drawing room floor, kept two buckets full of water on either side and the three of us settled down for our afternoon nap with the ceiling and pedestal fans on. Lucy, who was watching the whole arrangement felt left out, came and nudged my daughter, in fact pushed her to one side and settled down next to me. My daughter didn’t know whether to laugh or get angry at Lucy’s jealous behavior. During winter days, she would never sleep on the old sofa which we had provided for her, but would settle down on the nice bed in our guest room. Once or twice, when I was passing through the guest room at night, I caught Lucy sleeping on the bed. The moment she saw me, she jumped from the bed and hung her head in shame for doing a wrong thing and moved towards the sofa. But the moment my back was turned, she would settle down on the bed again. I had to accept Lucy’s whim and cover the bed with an old blanket. There was no explanation for her obsession to sleep in a separate bedroom except the fact that my daughter had her own room so Lucy must have decided to have a room of her own. We could have punished her in a harsh manner to prevent all this but somehow we couldn’t do it.
At that time we were staying in a big bungalow with a round verandah and lots of open area. There was a small lawn onto the right side of the house with a mango tree in the centre and a huge big tree next to our compound wall. One winter morning, I was sitting in the lawn reading a book while our servant boy was working in the garden. Lucy who was sitting at my feet suddenly ran towards the mango tree and inspected something closely. After a few seconds she ran towards the servant, pestered him to follow her by barking and tugging at his sleeve. He accompanied her and saw a tiny baby parrot lying on the lawn. It was clear that Lucy wanted him to pick up that parrot and hand it over to me. Being from a village, the boy knew that once he picked it up, the mother parrot would never take the baby back. But Lucy being Lucy would not have any of this sentiment, became restless and hovered around us. Since there were so many parrots on the tree outside with nests we expected that one of the parrots would come to pick up its baby but even after waiting for half an hour no parrot turned up so I decided to give shelter to that tiny parrot. We got a small cage for the parrot and kept it on a table in a spare room. In the same room there was a pair of budgerigars kept in a separate cage on the fireplace mantel. All the time I was wondering how come a dog was so concerned about a bird, its natural prey, which she could have gobbled up easily. I got the answer in a flash. Back home at Warangal, my father used to breed budgerigars. On one of our visits, he gave a pair of light blue colored budgerigars with white and black patches, in a cage. We brought them to Meerut with great difficulty and looked after them in the summer. Lucy had observed us looking after these birds and accepted them as additional family members, though grudgingly. Now that she found a bird, she wanted us to keep it as a pet.
Since ours was an old bungalow, a couple of rats used to visit us during the night and create a big nuisance, though Lucy used to chase them away. One night when we were fast asleep, Lucy came to our room and barked so loudly that I had to wake up. She made me get out of the bed and follow her to the parrot’s cage. I couldn’t find anything wrong, either with the parrot or the budgerigars. I wondered at Lucy’s restlessness. She suddenly darted to one corner of the room where a rat had appeared. She did succeed at catching and even killing the rat. Now I got the answer to Lucy’s concern. The rat might have reached the parrot’s cage which was at a reachable height and the parrot might have screeched in fright. Lucy felt responsible for the parrot, her pet. She woke me up to investigate and after finding the culprit, finished it.
When my husband got posted to Arunachal, we took Lucy with us. She always hated brooms, long or short, especially if a sepoy was holding them. That area being a semi field, only sepoys used to come to do odd jobs for us. One day, a sepoy in his dungarees, came to our house to sweep and swab. He entered the study room where I was writing a letter. There was a single cot with an iron frame for the mosquito net. Lucy was sleeping under the cot. Before I could warn him, the sepoy, a six footer Jat started sweeping under the cot. Thereafter, there was pell mell. Lucy snarling, baring her teeth and barking snatched the broom from him. The poor fellow screamed, threw the broom and got onto the bed, holding onto the iron frame saying, “Memsaab, bachaa lo! “. It was a comic sight – a sepoy, that too a hefty one, who is supposed to save the country from enemies, begging a five feet nothing Memsaab to save his life. Luckily, the other bhaiyya, dusting in another room, came running to help me, rather to pacify the jat, and I controlled Lucy.
She never liked us bringing any other dog as a pet. Once we brought a Lhasa Apso pup, whom Lucy with her dominating nature reduced to a recluse not having interest in anything. After a month of the Apso’s arrival, we brought another pup, a German Spitz, which was actually for another officer. He couldn’t take the pup because of his sudden posting. Lucy almost killed the poor pup a week after its arrival as the pup slowly moved towards Lucy. Luckily, I was close by and could save the pup.
Lucy had pups twice but she proved to be a bad mother. After the first week, she never looked after the pups and left them to their fate. If they approached her, she would snap at them. It used to be a tough job for me to look after the pups.
After living with us for fourteen years Lucy ultimately breathed her last at Delhi where we were posted at that time. She was unwell, lethargic and dull for about twenty days. One afternoon when my daughter and husband were out, Lucy’s condition deteriorated. My maid and I tried to take her to the doctor but found that it was too painful for Lucy to move the slightest bit. I was sitting on the floor with Lucy in my lap, waiting for my husband to come. Within a few minutes, both my daughter and husband came and were shocked to see Lucy’s condition. The moment they came, touched her and spoke to her, Lucy gave up, as if she was only waiting for them. It was very painful to see the once bubbly, playful Lucy lying motionless. Losing Lucy was like losing a family member. It took quite a long time for us to forget the pain, but of course, we can never forget Lucy.