Heart cannot be a muscle. A muscle is supposed to strengthen over time, learn from adversities, and get hardened in bleak times. It is not supposed to get crushed every time a chunk of it is pulled away. Our hearts broke once again today. We lost Kiara, the pug who considered herself to be the pack leader. Every time Death visits, the heart gives in and pulps down to a mixture of emotions. There is confusion – the seeking of signs of life. There is guilt – Did I do enough? There is doubt – May be I should have taken her to Dr. X rather than Dr. Y. There is overpowering resigned grief – Stolen tears, valiant efforts to keep the spirits afloat. And then there is the weak resolve – I will never get another dog.
She came to us around 8 years back, wrapped in a hand towel. Over the next few days, as the winters set in, she spent most of her time cuddled up in the man’s arms. A sock was sacrificed to make her first coat. A few months later Dobby joined her and she resented him a lot. She was not sure of any dogs joining in thereafter either. She preferred to stay alone and considered the whole ‘let’s chase the ball’ routine below her dignity. Another thing she could not stand was anyone hugging the man. All one had to do is declare to her, ‘he’s mine,’ and she would come running to scratch you away. She would always nibble at the corner of his t-shirt. That habit she continued even when her hair greyed. She always remained a puppy to him.
She was everything the docs said pugs weren’t. To start with she was aggressive. Her anatomy prevented her from biting chunks of flesh away so she had to stay content with simply barking her head off. On normal days, we weren’t too sure of her sense of hearing, smell and sight. Pugs are like that. But the days I baked, she transformed into a blood-hound. Many a cakes succumbed to her attacks before we developed a strategy to keep her away. Out of nowhere she would devise ways to climb on top of the dining table to polish them off. Take her for a walk and expect her to jump over a tiny puddle and she’d look baffled.
Every winters, the other dogs would paw my hand and get all puppy-eyed, seeking permission to sleep on the bed with us. The queen mother never asked. She just hopped on. No one dared to push her off. Her terror was such that the labrador who was possibly five times her size with a jaw capable of locking itself on to her neck firmly, usually took a detour if she was standing in the way. For the last one hour the boys and I have been recalling all such stories. Remember the time when she snapped at me for wiping her nose? And the time when she came and sat in your lap because you were upset? That is what she has become a – a bunch of stories, wisps of memories, and aches in four hearts.
They always do that. When they come in, they add a beautiful colour to our hearts; make a special place in them. When they go, they tear a chunk of it out. We are stumbling to carefully take her out of our days. The helper called out to Dobby-Kiara-Mirchi for the evening walk. The man in his sleep mumbled, ‘Please ask Bhagat for a cup of tea once he has walked Dobby and Kiara.’ The younger one has hidden her dog-tag in his memory box and the older one is trying to put up a brave front. Amidst all this, the rest of the bunch keeps the optimum sanity levels maintained. The wagging tails and cuddles are trying to mend the broken hearts.
Tomorrow Kiara’s ashes will get a place next to Jenny. She will have a plant of her own. And the boys will share treats with her just like they do with Jenny. It still seems surreal. But then the ache in the muscle that the heart is reminds me of the grim fact. She is gone.
On our way back from the crematorium, the younger one asked ‘Do you think she will finally get along with Jenny, Ma?’
‘Nope. I don’t think so.’ They pretty much coudn’t stand the sight of each other when they were alive. I doubt if they will have a change of heart across the rainbow.
‘I’ll never get another dog now. It hurts too much, ‘ the older one’s voice quivered.
We hugged some more and I whispered, ‘But what have all the future puppies done to not deserve your love?’
There will always be dogs in our lives. There will always be joy and with the joy heartaches will creep in. Yet, they will always be there. Somewhere in the Doggy heaven, there is now an impatient scratch at the door. She would strut in and decide on her favourite spot. There would be no permissions taken. She will rule there as she did here. Forever.