“There are animals and then there are pets. It is the bond that you share with your animal that makes it your pet. If the bond is built, it is all yours otherwise it’s just another animal. Money can buy you a fine dog my friend, but only love can make him wag his tail.” So said my knowledgeable friend who was an avowed dog lover and had many dogs as his pet. I doubted that the last sentence was his. He must have borrowed it from someone for an avid reader he is but he did make sense.
Sheroo had come into our lives just like that. Sheroo, the golden yellow stray dog who had decided to adopt us as his family. We were sure that he had inherited the fine genes of a Labrador from one of his parents. He had the chiseled features, limpid eyes and soft ear flaps just like a Labrador and loved to sit ‘Sphinx’ like on our compound wall. I don’t remember when, but there he was at our doorstep one fine day. May be it started with us giving him a chapati but I remember one instance when we returned very late in the night from a party or something and as we entered the colony, he appeared from nowhere and ran alongside the car all the way to our home barking and wagging his tail displaying his love unabashedly. Mom made one big chapati for him to eat which he devoured hungrily and then just sprawled in front of the door. The next day we were told by our neighbour that he had sat in front of our house through the evening while we were away. Am sure the bond became stronger from then on.
Every time mutton was made, usually in the evening, Sherooji would make his presence felt by generously tapping the iron gate and barking vehemently. He was not a very touchy feely kind of person and usually loved us as companions on the side but the day my Mom would wear a light coloured saree he was always tempted to come and hug her, often leaving his muddy footprints as if the painter in him was tempted by the plain canvas. He was fiercely possessive of each of us. He would follow us till the edge of the colony, his territory. We all felt protected under his watchful gaze. He hated anyone who he felt had come to disturb us and we had no voice in the matter. So, no beggars, no kids whose ball came into our compound, no postman and no nosy neighbours. The only person who had some control over him was my father. One “Sheroo!” from him, which was not often would stop him in his tracks. May be the lion in him recognized the Leo in my father and hence treated him with respect while the rest of us were his wayward kids who needed to be watched over.
Later on, he became a little old and sick. The whole winter he would lie in our porch or drawing room. My brother had got a gunny bag for him to lie down and he would only drink milk and keep lying quietly. But even then, his ferocity never waned and he protected his territory, now our house with the same zeal. There was this bunch of kids whom he did not like at all. They would hit him with pebbles, tease him so that he would get up and bark at them or chase them. It got to such an extent that he would start barking the moment they came near our house. We tried to intervene but could never broker peace between these warring factions.
One day I went to college as usual and when I returned Sheroo did not get up to greet me. This was unusual, I called my brother even before I touched the gate and before he came out, our neighbour’s daughter called from above and said, “Your Sheroo is dead. Those boys poisoned him.” We had no proof and who could we go to, to get justice for our Sheroo? We just went ahead and buried him.
I had read somewhere, “Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” I don’t know if I have an awakened soul or not but yes something died within me with Sheroo’s death. I think I am the kind of person who cannot bring herself to go through another experience of the same kind. So, there is no place for another dog in my life.
But a cat? Yes, I fell in love with a cat as well and he too had to make an exit because whoever comes has to go. ‘Katchoo’ will surely catch up with you on this platform soon.
You can read about Katchoo at: