Short Story | ‘The Canine Connection’ by Deepali Patil, Illustration by Sherri Oliver
“Mommy when can we have a Doggie?” I have lost count of all the times my kiddos have asked me this question. Every time my heart says “yes very soon”, but my mind asks them to wait for the right time. I try to evade the question and change the course of our conversation to other lucrative subjects like which movie would they like to watch over the weekend, or what candy would they want to add to the grocery list this time. It’s very easy to distract them. But sometimes I give in and we talk about Dogs. Usually it starts with my recital of the basic commandments of owning a dog. And that’s to make sure that they know exactly what they would be getting into. They might think that it’s like picking a toy from the toy store, but they should understand that they can’t put it away in the bin when the playtime is over. It is like bringing a new baby in the world. It’s a big responsibility and commitment for life. It’s like welcoming a new relationship, even while knowing that it’s going to hurt you like crazy when it ends. This inevitable pain which comes with the package sometimes makes me look for excuses. But most of the time the pros make the cons look smaller and manageable. And the child within me makes it 3 to 1 in favor of a doggie pal for the family.
Our chats about dogs always lead to this plea:-“Mama, please tell us the story of Chotu!”
Neither the boys tire of hearing it time and again, nor do I, of telling it with the same zeal every single time. And together we travel back to that beautiful breezy April afternoon when Chotu arrived in this world. He was the last and also the least of the five White Pomeranian Puppies, born at our Kennel in the year 1993.
I named him Chotu: ‘the youngest’.
“Why is he half the size of others?” pointing at that frail little pink blob, I asked my Dad.
Preoccupied with cleaning the birth room, he replied, “Its normal for one of the brood to be small. Don’t you worry, he will catch up.”
“Uh-uh, not gonna happen.” I declared, looking at the other four little monsters scrambling their way to Lacey’s chest, while Chotu whimpered in a corner clueless of how and where to get his feed from.
Warm and still moist, he wriggled as I picked him up. His murmurs instantly nudged an unacquainted dormant instinct within me. I singled out a safe spot, at the far end of the feeding line for him. He latched on and started suckling. Shielding with my palm on the other side, I isolated him from the hungry hounds while they trampled upon each other in their feeding frenzy. Chotu was full in no time and contentedly fell asleep. I caressed his fur-less snout and gently placed him in between Lacey’s fore limbs. He snuggled close for warmth and went back to sleep. Watching out for him became a 24/7 ritual that I followed until he was strong enough to fend for himself.
Time flew and when Chotu finally opened his eyes I was staring at the most adorable puppy ever. He had a crooked upper jaw which made the tip of his tongue stick out. But that gave him a unique ‘cute-in-a-weird-way’ look. The shiny moist nose complemented his jet black eyes aptly. Soon he was a month old and all set to explore his world.
“Isn’t he the brightest of all?” I asked my brother one morning when Chotu fetched a toy for the first time.
“Seriously?” he gave me a mischievous smile and picked the heftiest puppy to play with. “Your Chotu is the last one to reach the ball and the first one to fall in the milk bowl! He cries after chewing his own tail and is scared to jump down a two inch step! He starts his chase when others have ended theirs and always follows sounds the wrong way! No one is taking him home.” He winked at me.
Rubbing my nose against Chotu’s milky-moist whiskers I prayed; please please please let this be true God. If only he had ears for me.
Some days later Chotu was picked up by a family and the following week I flunked my test on Anthology of English Literature.
Time dragged on. One hot July afternoon a loud knock on the door disrupted my siesta.
“He is sick and I am clueless. Please take him back.”
The first time pet owner chickened out handling a weak ball of fur to me. I struggled with that thick lump in my throat for a minute when I felt a familiar lick on my hand. Looking at me with his lack-luster eyes Chotu seemed to be asking, am I Home?
Yes you are home, and this time you are staying. I promised.
Nursing him back to health was not easy. Undaunted, together we fought and won that battle too. Chotu gave me wonderful memories of the five years that we spent together. ‘Blind Devotion’ and ‘Self-Less Love’ happened to be vague terms, before Chotu. ‘Shattered to the core’ and ‘Utter Devastation’ ceased to be clichés, after him.
He was my friend. He was family.
Chotu gave up the third time, and I decided not to have a dog again, ever. But after all these years my kids have made me drop my barricades. And now I look forward to yet another relationship, this time with a Golden Retriever. When the time is right and we are all prepared, I am going to get a puppy for my boys. I am sure they will enjoy teaching him tricks and feel great about it. But eventually there will come a time when they will figure out, who’d been teaching all this time.
Illustration by: Sherri Oliver