Kuttush lives in Bhopal with Meghna Ghatak. She sent in a heartfelt story about her love of dogs and life with her puppy.
'As a kid, the best thing about getting to school was my routine encounter with the love and friendship of numerous street dogs. I wouldn't take vans or buses made available to me but instead chose to walk in the trail of street dogs. Everyone had declared me pariah along with the dogs I associated with. Little did people know then that dogs, be it street or 'pedigree', were the best remedy for the scars left behind by bullies.
Imagine life with and without colours, imagine seasons without the flood of emotions that they bring, imagine food sans its taste, and imagine camaraderie without the love and loyalty of a dog.
Much has been written about dogs and the way they bandage broken pieces of our heart or the way they stitch our days with more affection and mischief than is imagined possible. We have extensively documented their breeding and the purpose of their breeding for racing, looks, military work and transport and so on and so forth. Little has been said of the dogs that were untouched in nature, or the so-called untouchable dogs in India. They are an ancient pure breed perfectly demonstrating Darwin's theory of evolution. They have achieved the marvellous feat of adaptability to the Indian climate, and temperament of the people, and have become sturdy, hardy and meek.
I had long nourished the idea of jumping into Rudyard Kipling's famous 'Jungle Book' and being brought up like Mowgli, amongst a pack of all sorts of hounds. The 'hounds' would have a solution to every problem; they shared a bond that I couldn't share with beings of my own kind. I lived in the human world and did my best to fit in, regardless of the wounds it inflicted upon me. I bounced back every time, healed by the love of street dogs. Somehow, whenever I looked into the eyes of these pariahs, I found myself reflected in their irises; something I never could with my own species. Hence, when all was lost yet again, in the fall of last year, I again found myself being pieced together by the licks of a dog.
A scarce-bodied bitch had given birth to a litter in the parking lot of my workplace. I had taken to stealing my lunch hours and spending them in the care of these pups. Passersby could be seen occasionally fondling them. Slowly the pups went missing one by one, and so did the mother; reducing them into playthings of slum children. I decided to gather enough courage to take one home where I knew they would be unwelcome. I packed a five-inch snowy bundle on my two-wheeler and dealt with the reluctance of every family member.
Today after six months of care, it is difficult to say who saved whom.
Kuttush is a robust busybody with white, erect ears and matching agile feet. With a bushy tail and little wriggling nose, he resembles a rabbit and has been dubbed the same by the neighbourhood kids. He chases his playmates around and performs little tricks of fetch and jump, pleasing them even more. His fur has just begun to shed, moderately. He has cost me little in medical bills when he fell ill; he instinctively refused to eat and drink and got well almost on his own.
Cleaning up after him has been the most annoying business regarding Kuttush, as he vomited a lot during his illness and also whenever he gobbled up something unpalatable, not to mention the innumerable messes on the carpet, bedding and doormats. Since he was encouraged to interact with people of all age groups, he is a social animal. He loves pursuing any kinetic entity and has an insatiable hunger for everything that we eat. It took some time to house train him, but that could be because I had never trained a dog before. However, he responded well to the recipes and treatments I found for him on the internet.
Kuttush, meaning 'small' in many regional dialects, is yet to learn manners. He is yet to learn that he is getting bigger every day and his nails, teeth, and mere playful pouncing may hurt or scare guests. He has yet to know that biting and scratching on furniture is a bad habit, and every reachable object in the house is not a toy. He understands well enough that running away with any accessible object garners attention, usually negative.
Being a pet parent is a full time occupation that has granted me a healthier heart, mind and body. My house is always clean and well-arranged (read baby-proofed) and I know the calorie intake of everything we consume. I have a permanent alarm clock, a practical joker, a vacuum cleaner, a security guard and most importantly, a loyal loving friend in my dog. He has kept me so busy that I forgot my scars and if I noticed them, he licked them clean. He taught me that we need to bark out all our problems, and that tearing apart a beloved toy helps ease out tensions.
Street dogs aren't the scary monsters that we are made to be afraid of; it is us. Stray or not, raised correctly, they can become efficient caregivers.'
Story and photos: Meghna 'Phoenix' Ghatak
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