Heiko and I don’t think much about the significance of today. But if I had to name eternal, unconditional love, my puppies would make the list without any competition. They were and will be my forever Valentines. Each of them so distinctly different from the other in personality but all wanting the same thing- pure, unadulterated and undiluted love, and some food.
Starting with the first and eldest, somewhere in dog heaven at the moment is Max. He was a surprise to me; after a couple of days at my aunt’s, I came back home to a 15 cm tall puppy with beady eyes staring at me as I opened the gate. I was 6 and in retrospect, could have been kinder to him, more loving. He was my first furry friend- him chasing me around the house and me climbing on the couch to avoid his harmless excitement which I thought was ferocity at the time. I don’t remember a lot about him but something sweet and potentially stupid was that he ate only when Mamma mixed his food. He just wouldn’t eat from anyone else- not me or Daadu, not Paati. And this was why we cut short our holiday getaways. Here is what he looked like as a wise, old man:
Spike was second and arguably the goofiest one. He looked brooding and angry but he was a mush ball, desperately trying to make friends with Pluto, who was never seemed interested. His yellow-green eyes always widened when Daadu was home in the evening because they would spend hours sitting together- one with a drink and cigarette, the other at knee level, getting petted endlessly. It makes me sad to think of how he died too young and I wonder what he would have been like at our new house, with all that space to run around and fresh, suburban air.
Pluto was royalty the moment I set eyes on him at CUPA. It took me about 2 hours after that to convince Mamma, and we took him home on the way back from dance class. Pluto, I’m sure, was born with his nose up in the air- snobby and aristocratic. He was a weirdly well-behaved puppy; he never tore anything apart, didn’t run away with footwear, never fluffed up the cushions. Playing was running around like someone on 10 cups of coffee, while we looked amazed and scared that he would hit something but never did. He also took to biting the edge of my pants to make sure I’m slowed down while walking.
Much like Sheldon Cooper, he has a spot on the couch. His way of protecting it is a relentless stare at the guest occupying his seat and having one of us courteously explain to them why. Of course, this made them choose another seat, while Pluto promptly jumped and took back his throne.
Pluto, I think, was meant to be a single, spoilt child and ended up in a house where he has had to share with 4 others, 5 including me. He is the least friendly, which we worried about when Pepper and Leo came home. It seemed ok at first. He mostly kept to himself. Not until we found some insane and shady sibling rivalry, on his end. While Leo was adjusting to his new home, Pluto helped as a role model. But I think he had some fun of his own- he would pee in front of the pooja (prayer)room when no one was home and for almost two months, it seemed like Leo was the one doing it, because it just seemed more likely- all before we caught him in the act.
In addition to overturning his own bowl, the devious little sausage also covered Leo’s food with a blanket to make sure neither of them eat as a protest to moving to the new house. When you’re talking to him, it feels like he really understands everything- from becoming angry to anyone (except Mamma) saying “Moonji paara!”(Look at your face!) in Tamil to turning his face and being upset when we say bye or “I’m going to give him a B-A-T-H” or “We have to take him to the D-O-C-T-O-R”. Yes, we spell it! Guests get a prepared description and warning at my house about him as soon as they enter.
Pepper is my cute horse, with an even cuter nose! He is tall and radiant as he gallops across the terrace like the stallion of the princes, but much less graceful. You wouldn’t think of him as a large puppy when you see him but everyone who has made friends with him will tell you how wonderful and jumpy he is. The one thing I love about him is how his bark can change in an instant- the angry, threatening, deep voice bark at a stranger and the whiny, needy, talking-to-us bark when he doesn’t understand how he can stand in the rain and get wet and see no way out of it, unless one of us drags him to shelter.
Leo is a little bullet and my little lion. As fast and attentive as he is, (we think he might be a case of ADHD), he is also fragile and needy when he wants to be. However much the cuddling and the loving, I will not forget that time he ran out of the house and I ran after him. “Escape artists” the internet calls Min Pins. Escape artist he is! It was like a really fun game in his head. I have not run like that since high school, and thank goodness for the little boy who saw through the façade of his lion-ness and carried him as he stopped to see if I was still chasing him down the road.
Since bringing Jack home, Leo has taken on the role of a protective parent. With a shrill, demanding bark, he shouts at Pepper if he raises the wrong paw against Jack, which never happens, because Pepper places his paw most gently on anything that’s smaller than him, even if it is a squirrel that has made its way into the compound. This boy you see below is the one that’s growing up- he is the opposite of Pluto- naughty and destructive, but able to deflect any anger with his eyes. He’s a gift to my parents from Heiko and I and at the moment we only hear a lot of stories. He is the one that’s keeping my house active (that was our plan all along), with Leo as his mentor, Pluto as his Yoda and Pepper as his best bud.
What’s common about all my puppy faces are their love for my mother- the person who spends most time with them and the one that feeds them. I love her as well, of course, but it makes me realise how truly wonderful she is when I see how my four- legged brothers treat her and respond to her. It makes loving so simple- that love is everything, and it’s not so hard to give or reciprocate!
I might not have any siblings but I have learnt so much from all my dogs, and I feel privileged to be their Akka (elder sister)!
I’ll leave you with this- dogs in my family who I miss and love, and love me back, for no reason at all it seems, except to just love.
Happy February 14th!