By Dr. Kuhu Roy
I stepped into college life in 2005. I had little idea then that it would mark the beginning of my lifetime association with the seven resident dogs of the campus. The first one I came across, was a beautiful white female stray dog who must recently littered. She got named Goshi. She was overtly friendly. Lunch hour meant we would be together and she would finish off most of my tiffin, in addition to the daily food I got for her. A month down the line, she trusted me enough and brought along eight of her about two month old pups. One among them, a replica of his mother, was a philosopher. While his siblings played in the campus garden, all that he would do was to sit and stare at the Asoka trees. He was at polar opposite with his identical siblings; Honey and Hana, who were naughtiness personified. In just a fortnight’s span, one by one, five of the pups perished to canine distemper and only three were left; a brindle coloured female pup named Tuki, a black and white female pup named Jukjuk and the philosopher pup named Guchguch. They were disheartened as most of their family had perished in no time. Goshi was heartbroken and depressed, but for the sake of her three surviving pups, she put up a brave face when they were around. When the pups turned four months old and independent to live on their own, Maa took Goshi for sterilization, to put an end to emotional, physical and nutritional cycle of drain for once and for all.
Guchguch, with two female siblings left to boss over, all of a sudden, became a bully. His favourite punch bag was Jukjuk. Infact, even Jukjuk looked forward to the daily bashing from her brother as an appetizer before the meal. They loved each other, as all siblings do. But one thing remained unchanged with Guchguch, he was a loner. He loved to spend time with his own self. He roamed around a lot, but, with no company. He had one of the roundest nails ever and never needed a nail cut. He ate everyday in the morning with his brood; Bhaalu, Tri, Goshi, Rani, Tuki and Jukjuk and was the first one to run behind the autorickshaw Maa used to travel in. His face smiled, there was a glow in it that nothing in the world could replicate. Unlike Jukjuk, who kept waiting for my classes to get over (if she wasn’t attending with me), I would have to go to meet Guchguch after spending time with Jukjuk and wake him up from his deep slumber, outside the auditorium. He then would have a petting session, followed by snacks, while Jukjuk watched us from a distance. He would usually leave me after a certain point, find Tri to take a dig at him and that is when Jukjuk and I held hands and sat in the garden.
Life turned topsy-turvy for not only me, but for Guchguch also with Jukjuk’s untimely departure. The day Jukjuk had died, Guchguch and I had sat together in the evening, while I howled and cried, he had hidden his face in my lap and I could sense him crying from within. He knew his sister would never come back. I never saw the old Guchguch after that. Yes, he went for his walks but he returned to the campus to not find his sister around, who was his biggest ego booster.
Then, walked in three unsprayed females as they were left none in the campus after the demise of Goshi and Rani. They were full of energy; Vaijanti, Damyanti and Chashmewali. Maa picked them up on an immediate basis for spaying and post return, Guchguch found a friend in Chashmewali. The two started to go on outings. Guchguch had a bonus, when Langdu, a dog who lived a kilometer away, settled his base in the campus and became a faithful subordinate to Guchguch. However, Vaijanti, a strong headed female, refused to take Guchguch’s orders. They avoided each other even when Maa came to feed them everyday.
In the January of 2016, Guchguch began to bleed from his genitals (he was neutered in 2006). Turned out he had a tumour. He was aged eleven then. I flew down an expert surgeon to Baroda for Guchguch. I could not take any risk with his life. Just a day before the surgery, I picked up Guchguch and brought him home. The moment he entered, he behaved as though he had been living in the home set up all his life. His surgery took place on the 16th of March, 2016 and he developed fatal complications in a day’s time. Butter warned us in advance as she went and licked Guchguch’s forehead. With massive internal bleeding, he turned all white. If not for the local vet, Guchguch would have died. In those moments of crisis, Maa and me were lucky to have Wonder and his mother around and also Varsha, a courageous animal lover who stood the test of time when hostel wardens were busy making the lives of the resident dogs and the people who cared for them miserable. Talking of those nefarious wardens, things turned so ugly, that to protect the honour of my mother, who was responsible for keeping the campus rabies free and ensured zero dog multiplication (sterilisation), and that of the local dogs who were under threat, I resigned from my UGC Senior Fellowship just when I was in the cusp of completing my doctorate. I wrote an elaborate email to the VC along with my resignation letter and the police complaint that Maa had filed was taken up on an immediate basis. In the meantime, I also received a call from a Professor warning me whom was I going against. Arrived in the evening, at the police station, a Senate Member, an abusive friend of his who did not mind misbehaving with Maa and me even at the police station, and soon came a list of signatures of those who had a problem with the resident dogs, the signature campaign was organized by, goes without saying, the nefarious wardens. Hoping someone out of them would have bit of a common sense, I told the Senate member, “Let me explain in this manner. Say for instance, someone starts talking to you in an abusive manner or tries to hit you for just no reason, how would you react?” He understood and said, “I will retaliate in self defence.” “This is exactly what those local dogs are having to do after repeated attempts from those wardens to harm them.” They apologized at the police station, also on behalf of the wardens and the matter was quietly brushed under the carpet and my resignation was not accepted. However, that is the point I started detesting the college. It once used to be a place of peace and now had nothing else to offer other than hatred to me and the dogs. What a lovely price Maa and me paid for keeping the campus safe for every single day for twelve straight years! I also feared for the local dogs as those with a dastardly mind, sooner or the later, target dogs, given they are soft targets and the penalty is peanuts for killing a dog. Maybe, this is the reason why I never had the heart to leave Guchguch back to the college, a month later when he recovered. Even he could have been one among Adam, Langdu and Vaijanti who were later targeted the same year and the former two lost their lives, while Vaijanti survived.
At the home front, Butter and Guchguch began to tolerate each other. Infact, thanks to him, Butter mended her eating habits. After complete recuperation, Guchguch gifted me two exploding pillows and an unrecognizable mattress. How mighty delighted he was after causing the destruction.
With the same energy, Guchguch approached Butter, pretty much like he did Jukjuk and got beaten up by Butter on two occasions. Thereafter, he maintained distance with Butter, but the two would stick to each other, come what may. Both would sit in the same room, go out to take the sun together and sit in the same posture any hour of the day, but rarely communicate. They looked like Siamese twins, albeit, one thin and the other, obese. Both were born a year apart to different mothers and yet they had such striking resemblance.
Soon, cupid struck Guchguch when he got to meet Georgina at home. He was head over heels in love with her. But, Georgina rarely reciprocated. On the contrary, she gave a royal snub to Guchguch. The story became more complex when Natasha fell in love with Guchguch and he did never reciprocate. Who says only human love stories are complicated! Guchguch, although lost his freedom to roam around, it bought him more time to live, which would not have been the case, had I left him back in that campus. But, he did enjoy home. He loved to sleep all throughout the day and developed a protruding belly. With his two loves around; food and his human mother (me), and Butter for company, life was all good. The three of us were a pack; Butter, the leader, me, the nanny to Butter and Guchguch, the nanny’s son.
His and my world turned upside down once again with Butter’s death on 2nd November, 2019, that too due to medical negligence by the same vet who was flown down for Guchguch’s surgery in 2016. He looked for Butter at every possible place in the house, with questions in his eyes about her whereabouts. He saw me as distraught. The two of us quietened down.
In the meantime, Maa and I began to observe a strange habit in Guchguch. He would never ever wag his tail for any dog. But he stepped forward and wagged his tail vigorously for those who were about to leave for the rainbow bridge. That is exactly what happened as in case of Matalu (22nd November, 2019), Orange (16th January, 2020), Tri Babu (13th March, 2020), Sundae (14th April, 2020) and Disco (22nd November, 2020). Basically, he was a gifted dog who had a premonition and could sniff death coming. Infact, as in case of Disco, much before his own condition deteriorated, he wagged his tail in advance for Disco, who left just five days after him.
I saw hope in Guchguch’s eyes when Sundae was rescued and brought home on the 23rd of January, 2020, after Kaabri’s death under mysterious circumstances. He sensed the same DNA of Butter in her sibling Sundae. He indeed was a gifted dog. He loved to sit in the same bed that Sundae did, and he would just watch her. With Sundae’s death, he lost that hope yet again. He was a sensitive dog who was bearing the brunt of losses with us.
Guchguch was diagnosed with renal failure on the 10th of November, 2020. Infact, so to say, if not for his illness, Jammy would not have got timely help to survive. Guchguch spent the Diwali in a comatose condition. That was so not him. He was mortally afraid of the crackers and all his previous Diwalis he had panic attacks. On the afternoon of the 16th of November, 2020, Guchguch left at the ripe old age of fifteen. Fifteen? Where did those fifteen years’ fly? I lost my son, my only remaining pack member. All that I am left with are the memories of the time we spent together. I still wait for him to cradle up on my lap and come across the room with his smiling face. Butter and Guchguch must be taking care of each other over the rainbow bridge. Jukjuk must be there too, to boost her brother’s ego. With that thought in mind, I often roll off to sleep at night with a wet pillow underneath.