When a beloved companion suddenly departs, it only has one effect- a stunning blow one doesn’t know how to respond to. A day of not eating, a day of listless breathing which I attributed to flatulence or anything (not that he ever suffered from that) does not really prepare anyone, until all the signs do not become a writing on the wall. But that one day gave me all the warning and prepared me- to the extent I was ready for it, for all the signs were slowly appearing. Towards the evening I even got a big hole dug in the garden, for I knew it would be anytime now!
When you love and live through so much together, your companions more so the canine ones, become such an invisible yet constant part of life one does not even look at them. What am I saying?! Of course this is not true. I looked out for him every single moment, more him than anyone else– because I could see his growing vulnerability, especially with the young dachshunds around growing stronger and bolder. I would ensure he was in the room with me wherever I went, especially with the heat now so intolerable. He would wait outside the door for fear of the younger dogs and I would just get up every time or usher him in before closing the door (i never fully close my doors even with the airconditioning). But this was only in the last year, and progressed as the youngsters grew older.
How long we go back
Dash had a long history with me. There are many dogs I adopted in life but having adopted a dachshund earlier, when I had an opportunity to get another home I did not think a moment about it, and promptly got him home. I still remember the long drive from Gurgaon to Faridabad; where I got him from a family who wanted to give him up due to some of their problems for that time. He was born in that home- his both parents were there too. On the day I went to get him he barked at me initially and I shook for a second thinking how would I take him back if he were to show an attitude? But he had a weakness for drives, and he promptly jumped into my car when I held his leash. And we drove away.
After awhile I think he figured that the drive got too long; it was almost 35 kms. And once he did and seeing a stranger at the wheel, he started howling! Now this was a lonely road and not much happening around, except for random people in their cars and bikes. But I felt embarrased seeing the people looking at the dog howling in the car. And this continued for at least ten kms, until we reached home. Once we reached home, the other three girls- Ginger, Nikki and Raga were waiting for me. They heard my car and started barking excitedly. Now Mr. Dash forgot all about his past life and decided that he had to deal with the adversaries at hand. All the howling stopped and here we were…starting a new life. I brought a small male dog into a home with three adult females- golden retriver, labrador and german shephard. He was four years old and by far the oldest for all my girls were younger to him.
It was a short process of befriending the retrievers and a little longer with Raga- but in time we all became a happy family. But happy families have to do things, manage stuff and when the family is dominated by canine members, then the human usually ends up doing a lot of stuff!
And so i did- managing a home with four dogs taught me everything about life, everything that I needed to know about humans, relationships, discipline, the value of timeliness, routine and so much more- remaining organized, remaining unwavering, not questioning the work that needs to be done, not making too much noise when suffering, because I saw how placidly animals accepted their suffering, whatever it be.
A Goan adventure
But happy families with an adventurous human also treat life like an adventure- which it is meant to be! And we all experienced the crazy adventure of the Goan holiday where we lived in a village and a city- one year each, soaked ourselves in the Goan country and then happily returned home. But not before we captured some of our experiences on this blog, which of course is now defunct, but which still holds in place some of our fondest memories from Goa. And in this one you can see how Dash would strategically place himself and seek Nikki’s comforting companionship.
One can see the silent exchanges Nikki and Dash were having- they were quite a pair really.
Raga was the first of my girls to go, even though she was the youngest. That was in October 2017, then it was Nikki’s turn on 8th June 2018. And now it was Dash- 28th June 2019. In three consecutive years three of my babies have departed. Dash has shaken me just like Nikki, for there was no illness, no warning- perhaps another sagely demise like Nikki. One day of not eating, not showing much response – a certain delirium, and gone the next morning.
He was having some hiccups and coughing and everytime he did, he expelled either from his mouth or his bowels/bladdar. I kept him clean till the end, made sure his sheets were changed, bed was clean, the towel under his head, to prop him up to ease his breath, was clean too. That was the most I could do at this stage I felt. My heart was very disturbed and I even postponed one of my music classes to the next morning, of the three I had, because I did not want to be away from him that long. I taught the other two classes because by then my sister was here, and she was by his side while I taught. By the time I came up from the music classes, she told me this was the final countdown.
Living in surrender
Between us we have seen so many dogs, from our earliest years that we can tell. I called someone and got ready for the next stage of life. It is a strange eerie thing that while someone you love still lives, you get ready for their burial. But I now think that this is the greatest acceptance of the inevitability of the circle of life’s circularity, that what is…will pass out of being, into non-being. If we were to only accept this wisdom and live in awareness of our short time, no matter how long it appears today, perhaps we would develop some insight into what we do, how we think, how we worry/fret/suffer or whatever else it be.
So these were the dogs because of who I chose to not go to the US for my PhD, and I am so glad I chose not to. The exact feeling in my heart was that my dogs were ageing and at a time when they were ageing and needing my tending to, could I just leave them with anyone and hand over my responsibility to another? Would I not suffer to remember them at a time when they would be ill and they would be dying? As though prophetic, this is exactly what happened. While the PhD still goes on, the dogs passed away- one in each year, as I mentioned earlier. In July this year, 2019, I complete three years of PhD research and three of my dogs have departed. It was them, my greatest companions because of who I am doing this PhD…and I think at least today I have the comfort that I kept my vows to them. If they have been faithful and loving to me, so have I tried, in learning from them the greatest of my life lessons, imbibing the values of dedication, commitment and contentment, regardless of what/who you have, or do not.
Now here is a collage of photos with Dash in each of them, the rest may or may not be there. I am unlikely to be there in most as I would be the one behind the camera, capturing vignettes of my life, my loved ones, my adventures.
But I do not write this note in despair…neither should anyone who reads it construe it thus. It is meant in honor, in love and in gratitude for lives shared and loved deeply, for companions who endure every season of life and for the circle that continues as younger dogs live on a reminder that even when we will go there will be others holding fort…so let us do the best we can, while we can.