Every piece of my childhood memory has a dog in it. Like in Tom’s cartoons, they were ubiquitous in my life sequences. Even if they had no role to play in the scene, they would be there; if no particular emotions to express, then with a puzzled look. But most often they were there- barking, biting, panting, watching, or wagging their tails so vigorously that even their bums shook.
The one who had spent the most number of days with us was the chocolate coloured dachshund Pakku. He lived for 17 years and 7 months, considerably long for a dog. With his short stubby legs, long body and floppy ears, he remained a wonder for our villagers who were only used to Pomeranians and mongrels until then.
He was a head turner when he travelled in our car. He loved the front seat. He would stand on his hind legs, keeping the other two on the open window, his long ears flapping in the air and his eyes shrunk as he felt the wind on his face. One had to hold him tight as he would thrust himself forward for more of that on him.
Pakku could easily balance himself on the back seat of my father’s bajaj scooter. His scooter rides became an everyday routine at home before we left for school. Achachan would take him till the main road and back, a ride of 300-400m, which he thoroughly enjoyed. He would sit, looking around, ears flapping backward, and making short sharp barks if a cow or a dog comes in sight.
His fascination with journeys came to an extend that we had to put him in kennel every time we went out. There were times when our neighbours found him chasing our car on the busy roads.
I would like to believe that it was just not the love for a ride that prompted him to run behind the car. It was also the thought of being left back. He loved to be with people, wherever they were. He would find a cosy corner somewhere, a mat or at least a sheet of paper to lie on. He would scratch his bed till it crumpled to his heart’s content, go round in circles, before lying down with a sigh. Even till his last day, he used to loyally lie outside the bathroom when my mother got into it.
By his last days, it was only my mother that he longed for. He would wait patiently on the verandah for her to come back, sometimes dozing off in the meanwhile till his chin hit the floor. He could not hear or see properly the last one year of his life.
What guided him then was his sense of smell. It just did not fail him. Amma would vouch on how he would land up beside her feet the moment she start making banana fritters. That was his ever time favourite. He would hop beside her till she hand over the plate to Appan. And he knew Appan would invariably give him the first piece.
Pakku had amazing levels of patience. He could wait beneath the dining table till we would run out of topics for discussion for his share of food. At the end of it, he had to compete with at least six dogs in his life time for those precious crumbs that would fall down from the table.
And his competitors were no meek ones. Sundaran (handsome), his litter-mate, was the toughest to crack. Sundaran was obese, twice Pakku’s size. Pakku’s only advantage was that he had bigger brains, leaving the handsome guy the joker among the clan.
Jack fruit was an obsession for Sundaran. He loved it in all forms—raw, ripe, fried, cooked, preserved. The fattie was once caught stealing jackfruit from the kitchen. And he limped around the whole day with the sticky white juicy latex of jackfruit under his feet.
The dogs ensured that they peed on every chair in the living room to maintain their claim over the territory. The competition went on to the extent that Sundaran once failed to notice Vinu Vellyappan leaning on the pillar when he lifted his leg to make a mark.
Pakku was never a winner in these competitions, but he outlived them all. I don’t know whether he ever missed them later. But during his last days, he did not enjoy the new pups’ presence. Their naughtiness annoyed him. He just wanted to be left alone with humans. He spent most of his time sleeping, or waiting for food. He did not know when his tummy filled. He could eat on and on.
He was us. Our lives were woven around him. We would mechanically watch our step near the switch board where his bed lay, looked out for him when we saw the first lightning strike, habitually kept a portion in our plates for him and tried to get back home before he would wake up the neighbours with his wails.
He was our childhood companion. He grew up with us. As one amongst us. Pakku died a peaceful death. He had finished his race, and in style. Just that we hadn’t had enough of him. Pakku, love. Lots of it.