Our Family - The Four Legged Kind (1) Part 1 of Memoires by Madhu Kamath

Madhu Kamath, 4 January 2014

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A few weeks back I read Gerald Durrelli’s delightful book “My family and other animals”. It put me in a rewind mode, sending me down memory lane forty years back when I had my initiation into the world of four legged ones.

Sweety and Kaloo were my in-laws’ and hubby’s pet Lhasa Apsos gifted to them by Laotian friends. When I got married in 1973, they had been with the family for more than four years. My mother-in-law had passed away the previous year after a brief illness. I had been an occasional visitor earlier but despite the fact that I had become a family member, Kaloo was suspicious of me. The moment he saw me touch something, he would pounce on me. Sweety minded her own business. I had to be cautious about my movements and that kept me tense. Till that day four months later …

I had taken leave from school as I wanted to visit my gynaecologist. She had confirmed I was expecting but off and on I was getting mild cramps. After my husband and father-in-law left for office, as I got up to lock the door, I went blank and fell. It took me a moment to get up and lie down. The cramps had suddenly become unbearable and I was alone! Well, not really! Both Sweety and Kaloo jumped on the bed, emitting barely audible whines and sat on either side, looking at me mournfully. With tears in my eyes, I put my hands on their heads. I was pleasantly surprised that Kaloo did not mind. May be I was half expecting it as I had seen his affection for the other family members. He had finally accepted me although under distressing circumstances.

When the pain subsided a bit, I called out to our landlady downstairs who promptly got a cab and took me to a nursing home. I was undergoing a miscarriage. She stayed with me till my husband and father-in-law arrived. The good soul was always there for us in need.

Although Sweety and Kaloo had been there for four years, Sweety had never had a litter. A few months later we were surprised to hear sounds from our quilt. We woke up to find Sweety and six new born pups all over our quilt.

The previous night, she had been moving restlessly all over the house, whining. We thought she had a tummy upset and tried to comfort her with a hot water bottle. She was so hairy that no one noticed she was pregnant. When she sat, it was difficult to make out which was her front and which back. She looked like a huge, fluffy black ball.

The pups were so entertaining. Every afternoon, when I returned from school, it took me at least a few minutes to enter the house because the moment I unlocked and opened the door, all of them would gather around my feet, followed by their proud parents. Sweety started avoiding them when they started teething because their teeth hurt her, she could not nurse them any more.

We had a large circle of friends and finding homes for the pups was no problem. A litter of five and another of 4 came in the next one year and needless to say, there were more puppy seekers than the number of pups to be adopted. Our pets’ curiosity about the new family members lasted only a few curious sniffs when our elder daughter was born in 1975. As she grew Sweety became her best friend and playmate. Ajju, her grandpa, called her Bukul. We never asked him why. Bukul sounds sweet, doesn’t it? By the way, in their mother-tongue, it means tomcat. The way our association with four-legged beings grew over the years, her pet name seems significant.

Now ours is a family that loves travelling. When Ajju was travelling, we used to stay put. When we had travel plans, Ajju would be there to be with the pets.

As the months went by, Kaloo, inexplicably became vicious. With a small child in the house, we had to be extra careful. Sweety kept herself confined under the bed or the sofa. Kaloo bit Ajju as well as my husband. Both had to take a full course of injections after we took him to a veterinary hospital. We were advised to get him put to sleep. It was a sad day for all of us. The medication he was getting at the hospital was not helping calm him. His left eye had come out of the socket and he looked wild. Baffled by the change in him, Ajju insisted on getting tests done. He had contracted rabies despite getting tests done. He had contracted rabies despite getting his annual shots.

Sweety also left us in a year’s time. She seemed to be fine, her usual self. She just crawled under the couch, let out a loud sound, ostensibly her last breath, and that was it. The house felt so empty!

Ajju, too, went suddenly when Meghna, our younger daughter was four months old. A massive heart attack when he was getting ready to go up to his room after a hearty dinner of his favourite fish curry and rice, took him away from us.

With Ajju no more, we could not think of keeping another pet, for, there would have been no one to look after it, when we were to travel.

End of Part 1

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Articles and stories by Madhu Kamath - Index of writings on Kalpana