I observed him carefully as he walked to the door. I knew that time was running out but suppressed the urge to check my watch. I took a deep breath and started counting in reverse under my breath. "Ten, nine, eight, seven..." and as I counted, panoramic view of life with Ditto flashed in front of my eyes. I looked in his eyes. He agreed. We understood each other. It’s a bond for over twelve years now. I touched his paw, frail with the burden of cancer, yet responded with a little tremble. “Wait for me up there…”, I whispered. There was calmness in his look.
Somehow I could pack trillion moments or more in those ten seconds. Fifteen day old puppy to a colossal black Doberman , he had been with me for so long and now ready to play and run freely up above. No leash can restrain him, no command can stop him.
Choosing euthanasia over painful death for him, was the hardest decision I ever made.
He never did any great deed, like catching thief or thwarting a bank robbery, but his every deed was great to me!
Married into the army, attimes I felt lost. I took long strolls and wandered in the cantonment. The planned shopping complex, childrens' park, swimming pool and gym seemed such a contrast to my locality in Kolkata with unwanted and loud horns of rickshaw, private bus, occasional honking of trucks and hustle bustle from the fish market in the vicinity.
Gradually I started liking the quietude of the cantt. I had many queries regarding my new life. Well, I chose to observe and learn, yet I needed to unwind. I wanted to share my thoughts, woos and worries, constantly. But with no avail, I got perturbed more until one day when a family friend gifted me the little black dog.
A pet lover to the core of the heart yet I had my reservations, because a dog meant a minimum ten year commitment. With constant shiftings of army life, why to tangle another life. But my anxieties assuaged, when I looked into his eyes. “Ditto”, I called, and he snuggled in my arms. And life took a turn.
I was thinking less about my new life. I was in toes always, judging his next chewable prospect and trying to outsmart Ditto. He was a hyperactive young dog, chewing all – from socks, brand new shoes, to worn out mops. But his favorite was toilet cleaning brush and any mobile charger. Attimes I thought God must have sent him to destroy all lines of modern communications! Sometimes, I regretted the decision of getting a dog. Like, one day, when I was busy writing my blog, I heard a squeaking sound. Atfirst I ignored, but then curiosity and suspicion regarding Ditto’s uncanny silence got better of me. I scurried to the drawing room, from where the noise came. To my horror I found Ditto completely turned white. Not a spot of black was left and it was all due to the flour! The packet was ripped open and the floor was slippery white. Aaaaaaghhhh…I cried out. It was out of sheer anger. Ditto was petrified. It was not due to my anger but his own reflection in the mirror scared him! Later when I thought of the episode, I found it amusing!
When my daughter was born, I was apprehensive of his reaction to the new member of the house. I heard stories of dogs getting jealous and that they harmed the infant in some cases. When I came back from the hospital, with my daughter Juhi in my arms, Ditto greeted us. He jumped once to have a closer look at the baby. I was a little scared. But then I sat down, and he slowly came to me. He licked her feet. Then, got up and brought his chewable bone (his most favorite stuff) and placed beside my daughter’s head. I patted him gently and I knew, he would protect my girl, always. I was right. He was her play mate. But yes, attimes, tried to eat her porridge and had an added attraction to her feeding bottle, too! He hated the day when Juhi would get her vaccinations. She would be cranky and Ditto would stay right beside her all night, refused to go his kennel. When Juhi started going to play school, Ditto was particularly unhappy. He missed her and stood near the door till she got back. He received her with such gusto, that atimes she would loose balance and fall!
Ditto greeted my son, with equal love and affection. He was happy to get another playmate. By that time we have moved around seven places, and Ditto adjusted to every place with ease. Yes, I tried to follow him. Pets teach us a lot, only we have to silently get connected to understand it! It was a pleasure to watch Ditto and my children play together. He was particularly careful about my son, Jai. Even during snatching the ball games , he left the ball when Jai crawled towards him! When I got tired managing two rambunctious children, I sat down with Ditto and shared my worries. He listened. He got used to them for long!
Another day, I remember, Ditto’s non stop barking alarmed every body in the quiet Army Mess in Poonch. He would not stop for anything. He seemed to get off his leash and became very aggressive. Within minutes I got the news , that my son banged his head while playing in the nearby park and was bleeding. I rushed to the park, which was just about 500 meters away. To my surprise , Ditto already, broke off his leash and was by Jai’s side. My son, was bleeding, but his fear was much alleviated by Ditto’s presence. He followed Jai to the Field Hospital about 3 kms and back.
Gradually, Ditto became less active. Recoiled more in the house, by the fireplace, refused to go out and play with the kids. His look disturbed me. He wanted to say something. Even when my husband came back from office, he reluctantly looked or stood up. Noticing a lump on his neck, I took him to a Vet Dr. Jagdish. The Vet, told me he feared cancer, but would only confirm after the scan. He called me the next day confirming our worst fears. Ditto’s days were numbered. The metastasis gripped his whole body, but being a brave dog, he only recently showed signs of discomfiture. The Vet praised his grit and determination. He had to undergo a series of tests and he went with me to the hospital with slow and steady strides. He stopped attimes and gasped for breath. We walked all through the way, paused in between, looked at each other and perhaps tried to understand everyword.
Children, cared for him. They knew his time was limited. They hugged him often gently, cautious not to hurt him. One day, I was as usually brushing him, when he looked at me for long. I saw tears in his eyes. I watched how he dealt with pain, but at that moment I felt the pain. I had to free him and he wanted so. I discussed it with my husband and he favoured the decision. Now the biggest worry was how to break the news to my children. Ditto had been their part of Fairy Tale. Ditto was their pride and a most faithful friend always waiting eagerly at home. My son would threaten his friends after a quarrel that he would get Ditto to settle the matter. Well, eventually he had the privilege and always sorted the matter in the field. So, Ditto always played an important role. My daughter would spend hours with him specially when she got upset. Whether being berated by us or ignored by her friends, she would seek solace in Ditto’s company. Ditto stored many secrets!
I consulted the Vet and he promptly agreed stating that euthanasia would be the best decision, to relieve Ditto from the excruciating pain. He also told me to tell the children the truth about the condition of Ditto and the measure that had to be taken. The same evening, I asked the children to sit by Ditto. He was his happiest best, his expressions changed for good. He rested his head on my daughter’s lap. I told them the truth. I mentioned them about the decision. I fully expected the barrage of questions, and howling cries. But there wasn’t any. Tears rolled down my daughter’s eyes. My son asked, if Ditto would suffer in Heaven. When I said , that there was no pain in Heaven, he was relieved. They loved him so much that, they were ready to let him go. Next day, when they were going to school, it was the longest good bye ever. Ditto stared as long as they were in sight, and even after that.
The pungent smell of various medicines and sound of heavy breath of my pawed love brought me back to reality. Six, five, four, three, two, one….zero. I counted involuntarily. My beautiful friend, lay still. There was not an iota of pain. Our family became incomplete but he would compensate by being the first one to greet us in Heaven.
By the time I hope he would get free space to play, and lots of goodies to chew!
Click Here for another story on four legged friend.