Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Death of Ricky

From the very first time he came home, we knew that he would never amount to anything. He could be a darling, make us laugh and when one wanted to take a stroll, they’d always feel like taking him along. But that was as far as it went. In the end, his survival depended on much more than just good looks.

He was a handsome mutt, really. His fur was the whitest white you ever saw on a dog and he seemed to have more games up his dog sleeve than your average dog. He found two other dogs but he took charge of the compound, like he had been there for years. Yet, Ricky was a puppy. He was two years younger than Bright, the long, black one or Rabbi, the proud, fat, hairy one.

Ricky was full of life. So much so, that my aunt had him grounded to his dog house because she feared that he would bite some one some day and we did not want a legal battle with the villagers. Because he was a feisty one, that Ricky. He would bark and growl and show his teeth at whatever shadow passed. Half the time, we did not know whether he was just happy to see humans or he was just being a savage beast.

His incarceration started one day when he gave chase to some little kid who was taunting him. It was a Sunday and everyone was home. It was supposed to be a peaceful day and I guess our collective guard was down. The dogs were chilling in the tree shade, basking in the glory of God on a lazy Sunday.

Not for Ricky, it was not a lazy day. He wanted to play and he was a dog possessed. He must have tried to get his two friends interested but they snarled at him whenever he jumped around them.

Then the kid came along. Personally, I believe Ricky was just being friendly. It could have been her swaying yellow dress that swung hither and thither as she skipped gaily along. It could also have been the racket she made. I guess we were never meant to know. For in a second, Ricky was up on his feet, chasing the tot. He was maddened by the rising crescendo of the noise around him, I guess and suddenly it was not a game anymore.

Anyway, by the time the first human adult got to the scene, Little Girl was down and Big Dog was over her growling. It was not as bad as it looked but the damage was already done. Retribution was to come swiftly for the big white dog. Neighbours with long concealed vendettas got their chance to voice them at that moment. There were queries about rabies and generally, Sunday was so gone.

Two years down the road, Ricky had become a jailbird. Well, maybe, a jail dog. He lost the light in his eyes and whenever we brought him out to give him his daily meal, he slouched over like he’d lost the faith he’d had. I guess Ricky was not dreaming anymore. He would go over to the dish and first sniff the food then take a few lazy steps around his house then go back inside. Sometimes, he actually refused to eat. He was so broken, he didn’t even bark anymore.
Then he developed a strange illness. No one knew what it was. No one really wanted to be bothered because we all had gotten busy in the past two years. No one had time for a boring dog. Someday, when there was time, we would maybe, take him to the vet. But not today, big dog.

Unbeknownst to us, Ricky was dying. We could have seen it, if we really cared. His dog house was smack in the middle of the back yard. As one passed on their way to the latrine, they could have seen the pain in those huge eyes, silently pleading, asking what was happening to him.

One evening, he just didn’t come out to eat. The jail dog did not want to smell the fresh air of freedom. We thought it was a dog idiosyncrasy, maybe and that he would straighten out. But he did not. He just stared at us as we tried to revive his interest in the food. And the breathing. He was breathing like a beached whale! Something was happening to the most handsome dog in the world.

This morning, Ricky did not wake up. He did not turn his head when I called him. He will never turn his head again. Ricky is dead. He died without enjoying his short dog life. He died because he tried to be a different dog. He pushed the limits and terrified the humans who were supposed to understand him. We did not.

He lies in an unmarked grave. It is not really a grave, actually. I just bundled him into a kutiya and looked for the farthest dumping hole I could find, where the stench would not come wafting back to us. Right now, we are having our supper and one of the topics under discussion is where to get a good dog. What a loving family we are!

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