Musings Of A Pet Parent

Sometime in early January this year, my better half Subha announced that a niece of ours had a friend who was looking for a good home for a Labrador puppy, and that ours would be that home. With all the firmness I could muster up, I put my foot down and said that we would not get a puppy.

So this Republic Day, Bruno made his entry into our lives and home.

Don’t get me wrong—I have been blessed with canine company for most of my life, beginning with Moti, an Indie, who thanks to my grandmother, crawled into my life when I was around seven or eight years old.

Over the years, Moti’s daughter Julie and Julie’s son Heera followed and for a few happy years, we had these three romping through our home.

All three were equally loved, but the bond I shared with Moti was special. She and I grew up together, till suddenly one day, she was much older than I.

Though more than 35 years have elapsed, I can still feel her in my arms as she passed away, almost at the stroke of midnight.

That was my first encounter with the death of a loved one, the first time I learnt what grief meant.

Julie and Heera too passed away in the next few years, and after a small gap, Mini, a feisty little Spitz entered our lives, and she ruled it till she left before her time due to an undetected cancer.

It was a couple of years after Mini had passed away that Subha decided that our home needed a pet, and on Ganesh Puja day of 2007, Tasha came home.

A yellow Lab, Tasha was everything a Lab pup could be, and before we knew it, she too had occupied everyone’s heart.

She was about six months old when she contracted Parvo. As any pet parent knows, this is one of the most dangerous illnesses that can afflict a pup. Luckily for us, Dr SK Ray took one look at her and immediately started intravenous fluids.

For nearly a week, even with twice daily IV’s, Tasha hovered between life and death till one day, she once again began wagging her tail on seeing us, and within a week, had recovered to her regular boisterous self.

During the time she was barely conscious of what was happening to her, I used to sit beside her, caressing her, talking to her, and I think this registered somewhere in her mind, so as she grew better, she adopted me as her special person.

This meant that if I was at home, she followed me wherever I went, and at night, she slept at my feet.

Labradors are one of the friendliest breeds, but Tasha was so possessive and protective about me that she didn’t hesitate to growl and bark at anyone who held me (even Subha was not spared) or tried to take her away from my side.

She stayed this way till her death in 2019. As she lay in my arms that afternoon, exhausted with the pain, barely conscious, she suddenly growled softly, the way she did when anyone tried to pull her away from me. A few seconds later, there was a rattle from her throat and she was no more.

As I caressed her fur one last time before she was taken away, trying to make a memory to last me for the rest of my life, I once again relived the same grief that I felt when Moti passed away.

Tasha’s son Spikey, born in 2010 was a handsome black Lab who passed away a year later in 2020 during the lockdown.

Spikey passed away after suffering from the effects of the tumour in his mouth which grew so large that at the end, he was unable to drink or eat. A tumour that doctors at the OUAT Veterinary College repeatedly assured us wasn’t malignant, wasn’t life threatening.

Deeply disturbed by the lack of proper treatment to pets, after Tasha passed away, I had created a page on Facebook for Pet Parents of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, in the hope of providing a forum for likeminded people to share useful information.

After Spikey’s death, I resolved that I would not get any more pets till such time that I could ensure they could be cared for properly.

This is the reason why I raised my futile objection when Subha announced Bruno’s imminent arrival.

But Subha, like always, was right.

A partially empty nest with both our children being away at hostel, I guess she deserves better and livelier company than yours truly, and she is happy as spends half the time chasing after Bruno as he ventures from one mischievous act to the next.

There’s one other thing about Lab’s —they look so alike to each other that it can sometimes be disconcerting.

Today, as I play with Bruno, though he is a male, his face is a bit different and I know he is a completely different personality, I am invariably reminded of my Tasha, and as I run my fingers through his fur, I cannot help feeling that I am caressing her once more.

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