Monday, July 04, 2005

Rest in Peace, my friend

A few days ago, I received a text message from my dad informing me about my best friend who was very sick. This was followed by another text message a few days later which carried the heart-breaking news that he had passed away. He was at the fag end of his life but I never expected this to happen this early. He was still strong and active when I last met him in January this year. Apparently, things started taking a turn for the worse the last month culminating in his death. I am talking about my canine companion of 12.5 years, Tommy.

Tommy was a pure breed German Shepherd. I still remember vividly that day of March, 1993 - the day he was brought to our house in Guntur by one of my dad's friends who was a dog-breeder. Tommy was just 25 days old when he yelped his way into our lives and our hearts. Even at that tender age, he was big and fluffy. He was the cutest thing I'd ever seen, a setiment shared by the others too. I was so taken by this furball that I persuaded my dad, who, at that point of time, had no real interest in animals, to keep him. But it was under the condition that my mother and I would take care of all his needs and that my dad would have no role to play, whatsoever, in his upbringing. No sooner than we let him into our house, he started to sink his tiny teeth into carpets, slippers, doormat - essentially anything he could lay his mouth on. He would play with us during the day and at night, we would leave him in our front room with a bowl of water and a bedsheet for him to lie on, just in case he felt cold. He would yelp all night and go to sleep only at about 4 or 5 AM. We would wake up in the morning only to find this angelic thing sleeping peacefully in a pool of water - he would have emptied the contents of the bowl on the floor and sleep in it. As days turned into months and months turned into years, he grew into a big, strong and handsome dog. Our neighbors were surprised at how this dog could be so big, strong and ferocious on a vegetarian diet(yes, you read it right. He was raised on a veggie diet). One other big transformation that Tommy precipitated was a change in my dad's attitude towards pets. While, previously, he used to be indifferent to our pets(we had a few stray cats we used to feed, which, in time, became our resident pets), he would bathe and feed Tommy. All who knew my dad were surprised at this big change(ofcourse, it was for the better).

After a few years, all of us moved to Hyderabad owing to my dad's transfer. Our house in Hyderabad was on the second floor and all we had for Tommy to run around was a balcony in front of the house(and the house ofcourse). So I took it upon me to walk him twice very day, once in the morning and once at night. I was a strong boy but even i had difficulty, initially, controlling him on our walks. I was amazed at the power he could generate with just his neck. There have even been instances when I would take him for a walk while running a temperature of 102 F, just because he had to do "it". All I had to say was "veleele polaamaa?" and he would jump around because he knew that phrase meant we were ready for his walk. My dad would buy him cake and samosas from the bakery(I don't remember my dad ever being so doting on us. But I am not complaining :-)) and he would finish them with great relish. During the hot summer nights, my dad would turn the air-cooler on and call out to Tommy, "Tommy, cooler pottirukken, vandu paduthukko"(Tommy, I've turned the cooler on. Come and lie down). Tommy would come running and curl up at the foot of out cot, in front of the cooler, enjoying the cool air. He was so ferocious(he used to charge at our gate when anyone neared it) that often people would call out to us from the road just to make sure he was on leash and tied up. He was very famous in our neighborhood because of his ferocity and antics. Our time at Hyderabad was awesome and then I left for the US, my mom was diagnozed with carcinoma of the breast, my dad retired and they moved to Trivandrum, my dad's native place. That was when Tommy's life started going downhill :-(.

My parents' frequent visits to Kochi for my mom's treatment meant he would be left in a dog care center for long periods of time and that was when he started feeling the agony of separation and the not-very-good treatment meted out at the care center. My mom would feel sorry for him and often blame herself(and her ailment) for his condition. We tried to find him a good home so that he wouldn't have to endure the stress anymore but none was willing to adopt a big and old dog(it was almost 12 years old then). And then the event we had all been dreading happened - my mom finally succumbed to cancer in January this year and my dad was alone in TVM and he was getting older(he is 65) and he couldn't take care of Tommy all by himself. So we decided to send Tommy off to Hyderabad again to a friend of ours. We knew he would good care of Tommy and we could rest assured he was being cared for well. But lately he started getting dull and sleepy and was diagnozed with having a liver ailment. We were contemplating the kind of treatment for him when the worst happened. He had left for the heavenly abode. I felt as if i had lost a part of me and what made it all the more miserable was the fact that I could do nothing for him in his last days being 10000 miles away. Well, as they say,"All good things come to an end" and so did my friend Tommy. May your soul rest in peace, my loyal friend.