Affectionately yours

We remember our past either due to associations with some people or because of certain unique unforgetable incidences. Past always comes to our mind not as a date or a period; but as its various association. There is no reason to think about May 3, as a date, but when I know on this day I came to Mumbai for good that makes the association and significance of a date gets established. In everyone’s life there are faces and voices that keep surfacing in memories.

But whenever I think of about love, affection, friendship; Jackie’s face emerges in my mind. Jackie was a female Doberman of pure breed. She was very agile, alert and smart. She lived with Babu Family, in the house of my sister-in-law in Pune. It is a large house, with open space all around, large trees and lot of foliage.

Jackie had company of Zara (again a female Doberman) and Gypsy (a female German Shephard). In the morning all three would be kept locked at the back of the house, because Zara was capable of attacking odd guys bringing news paper or milk. But all three of them were allowed to roam everywhere after awhile. Our trips to Pune were good fun because of these three highly entertaining dogs. All three were trained to not enter inside the house, unless it was raining or it was too hot. Pune does get very hot in summer…

Jackie was a very understanding person. It showed in her tolerance towards children. She was always very mild with them. She never ran up to them or played high energy games. Many toddlers in the family would sit on her, pull her ears or even try to poke her in the eyes; but she would sit patiently and take it. Only if the condition turned too difficult for her, she would get up and walk off.

Although Jackie and I met only on occasions, she became very close to me. I was always greeted with a lot jumping and licking every time we visited Babu Family. She wanted always my hand petting her head. If I moved it away, she would lower her head under my hand and put it back.

We hit out very well. We played games like grabbing the ball. But the ball would always end up in her mouth. Obviously it was impossible to beat her in it. She also loved ‘find the right stone’ game. In this, I would choose a stone, memorize its shape, rub my hands over it for smell to stay, make her smell it and throw it away hard. She would dash off in that direction, find the same stone and get it back. She it did every time. She was so swift that many times she grabbed the stone while it was still in hopping in the air. She had become so fond of playing stone game with me that many times her teeth bled while grabbing at the moving rough stones. But she would be too excited to bother about it. In fact I would stop playing or try to find lighter or smoother stones for her.

My best memory of Jackie is very sweet. It was during a hot afternoon siesta. Everyone was asleep. I too was sleeping on a mattress in the hall at the ground level of the house. Except for the whirring of fan and scant calls of afternoon birds, it was quiet…

And suddenly the silence broke with a loud crackling bang- very close to my own head! It sounded as if a piece of brick or concrete had fallen. With a shock I opened my eyes to see from where it fell. I looked up to see if any part of the ceiling had come off. It was not so. Then I saw Jackie was sitting next to my bed and staring at me anxiously. Just there on the floor was half a brick. I realized that it was her who had brought the brick and dropped it down as an invitation to play. I don’t have any memory of real people approaching me like that for anything.

Jackie was very affectionate, gentle and fun and she displayed it too very well. She was very sensible and attached to her family and vice versa. Due this she lived a very full and very long life. Of course she did turn very week towards the end. Once I was helping a vet who had come to check her up. I was holding Jackie while vet gave her an injection. After it was over, doctor said she must be very nice to you otherwise we always tie up dog’s mouth in case they bite due to pain.

It is nearly 5 years that she died a mysterious death. Early morning of Dec 5, 2002, she was found dead under a tree, some distance away from home. No one had seen her going out and perhaps no one saw her dying too. There are two versions to this mystery. Firstly there is a belief that dogs never like to die at home. When they know it is time, they just slip out quietly and meet their end. And perhaps that’s what she did. Another version is that when Aarti left for her gym, perhaps the gate was left open and Jackie followed the car without Aarti’s knowledge. Later street dogs chased her and perhaps she got cardiac arrest trying to outrun them. Jackie was nearly 17 years old, when she died, which is equivalent to 17×7 or 119 human years! I had felt very bad for many days after the sad news was conveyed to me in Mumbai. Everyone in her family mourned for days. Her memories are still cherished by all and that is why I took more than half a day putting this piece together.

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