Friday, November 05, 2004

An obituary

Have you ever felt numb? Really numb. Like when someone close to you dies. Numb enough to not cry, numb enough to just go about the rituals that follow without batting an eyelid, like it’s just part of life? Have you tried to justify their passing away with phrases like 'He/she was so old; they were suffering; it was for the better. This is certainly the most dignified way to die.” And then when others are making a public display of grief, have you crept away to maybe the kitchen pretending to help yourself to a glass of water, and thought - 'Is this really me? Have I become so heartless, cold, does anything not affect me anymore? Where are my tears? Have I lost sight of my emotions? Who am I becoming?'
I have. I'm sure we all have.
The last time I remember this happened to me was when my dog Goofy died. Non-animal lovers may probably roll their eyes and think: 'Oh my God was she going on about an animal?' but to those who are extremely close to their four-legged pets, the death of an animal is an excruciating phase. And amazingly you go through the same set of emotions, excuses, thought process when you lose someone, a human, but do not dismiss the grief at the passing away of a pet.
Goofy was my 13-year-old apso. Now 13 years multiplied by 7 means he was actually 91 years old, which is old and he was unwell, and he was suffering. But that didn't kill him. He gave up. That killed him. Goofy was always one of those ultra hairy lhasa apsos who attracted ticks like honey attracts bees. It was almost routine. But let me just go back to when he came into our lives.
My dad flew him to Delhi in 1991 - he paid Rs 25 for his air ticket - bundled up in a basket, a little ball of white fur. I was still at boarding by my sister tells me he was adorable. Apparently my dad came up to them and just handed them the basket, no mention of a pup inside, and went back to get his luggage off the conveyor belt. Suddenly something started moving in the basket and to my mom and sister's utter delight, it was Goofy, named by my sister after the Mickey Mouse character. He really was goofy, would sleep all day, bark at family, and graciously lick the feet of carpenters, contractors, plumbers and all other unwanted people. Instead of being a guard dog, my dad would joke, it was he who needed guarding. So if, for example, we were all huddled in the bedroom and then got up to move to the dining room for dinner, the minute Goofy realised he was alone in the room, he would quickly come out looking and then settle down where ever we were seated.
Any attempts to match make failed, as a result of which, Goofy remained a bachelor. Not celibate of course, but he did not sire any children - none that we know of. Then, when he was around two-three he started getting these massive tick attacks, and the poor guy would suffer matted hair, ticks, and then a loss of identity when we would be forced to shave off all his hair in peak summer. He would look around embarrassed as if he were nude, and hide till some hair grew back, before he continued with his evening walks. He was also very prone to getting maggots (I don't want to get into it); suffice to say every summer was pure torture. But every year, I would take him to either the vet hospital at Moti Bagh or to a vet nearby and he would be quite unwell, but somehow, the guy would pull through. [Once my mom and I were at a temple and she told me later that she wanted to pray to make him die, to ease his pain, until of course she heard my praying for his well-being (the only reason I perhaps went to the temple). Anyhow, the prayers probably worked.] Gaping wounds, tick infested, he would still summon up the strength to bounce right back. And my sister and I would spend every morning pulling out his ticks, combing his hair, giving him a bath... Sometimes if we pulled the comb a little hard, he would growl, snap and run away but never bite.
Then I got married and moved away, and saw him less and less. But once I moved back, my parents had to move out, and he came to live with me at my in-laws house, full time. In two weeks, I almost forgot whose dog he was. Always faithful to the hand that feeds it, dogs change loyalties very quickly. So suddenly, my dad-in-law was his best friend; Papa would feed him biscuits, make him sleep in his room and talk to him like he was human. When I entered the house, Goofy couldn't care less. He was happily asleep by my dad's bedside. He also made friends with my husband's apso, Snowy. The two were old, frail and reacted to each other like a brother and sister who have got so used to each other's gout and arthritis... who don't communicate but just need each other there.
Then sometime last year, Snowy died. I thought Goofy looked a little down and out but soon he was back to his Garfield-ish lazy self. But early this year, he too began to venture out less and less. He would just sit in one place, forsake food (an old habit so I didn't worry too much about it), but then when he stopped drinking water, I knew the time had come. Snowy had a tumor and when we had suggested she be put to sleep, my husband reacted very badly. He was waiting for her to die. And she did.
With Goofy too, it was something like that. It sounds horrible but anyone who's been in a similar situation would understand. I was waiting for him to die. Almost wishing and willing for him to die. I think I couldn't deal with the guilt anymoreI . I just didn't have the time and the inclination and the patience to care for him like I did; and I could not see him suffer and debilitate in front of my eyes. And when he died, in his sleep, I was honestly relieved. And as I waited for my husband to come back home so we could go bury him (he's right outside my house wall), I walked into the kitchen, pretending to help myself to a glass of water, and I asked myself those very questions.
I still haven't found the answers.


Blogger writer-in-egg-style said...

The comfortable phase of numbness is often a trial in itself, toughest on those determined not to be caught showing feelings.

09 November, 2004  
Blogger writer-in-egg-style said...

'Brought people together. As equals.'

What an epitaph that would make... but how many ever get close to being worthy of it?

11 November, 2004  
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Anonymous priyanka said...

well.. i am a veterinarian.. and a veterinarian coz i really love animals.. not coz i have to be one.. i too have had many pets at a number of times..cats,dogs,rabbits,fishes,tortoises,parrots..
but no matter what it was.. i always had a very close bond with my pets..
your pet cud've been saved at an early stage.. but after some point of time ticks can really kill the best of pooches.. as what i see in my hospital everyday..
but i really appreciate your honesty in facing your true feelings.. unlike many who feel that it is small or childish or silly to feel for a pet..
may god bless you.. and may your sensitivity and empathy find place in the hearts of many others!!
take care!!

10 July, 2006  
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