Yesterday, I finally watched 777Charlie, after the news that it won a National Award for the best Kannada movie of the year did the rounds. Much as it was a beautiful movie, in me it opened floodgates of emotions and tears I’d probably been bottling up for months. Losing a dog is one of the most painful experiences one goes through, and the last 15 minutes of the movie had me reliving the ends of both of my dogs whom I lost within the last ten months.
I realized I hadn’t allowed myself to fully feel the magnitude of what had happened, explode from the idea that the two people (they were people to me) that meant the world to me were not a part of it anymore within a year and drowned myself in wilful distractions to numb from the unbearable pain of acknowledging their stark absence in my life. That their physical presence - in all its licks, barks, locks of fur, is all but a memory now.
The protagonist of the movie took his dog on her last journey, to give her one final frolick in the snow and had her die in his arms. I got my Honey, all the way from Bangalore to Rishikesh, took her for a long walk to the Ganga, and had her die in my arms two days later. Only difference between the movie and my life is that he knew he was losing his dog in a few weeks, if not days, and I didn’t have an inkling. Honey was 14 and I knew it was a countdown now, but she went from being nearly normal (save for a chronic heart disease and arthritis), to no more in two days. Perhaps, divine intervention had meant for her to go this way. Maybe the whole call to Rishikesh and she dying right after a dip in the Ganga was exactly how it should’ve happened for her soul to attain the Moksha she deserved and then some.
But I still haven't made my peace with how I lost Cookie, a 13 year-old happy puppy, of a breed that’s supposed to live 15-18 years, without a warning or hint. In fact I was convinced that she’d be one of the anomalies who'd live until 21! During bursts of canoodling sessions with her (of which there were over a hundred a day) I’d often chide her “I WILL KILL YOU IF YOU EVER DIED ON ME!”
But no, she decided to give up on me when I was away on a work trip, got diagnosed with Cancer, but still stayed alive enough for me to come back and watch her go within days.
Even though I’ve grown up with dogs all my life, Honey and Cookie were the first dogs that were truly mine. I got them home, convinced my folks that indeed we could deal with another dog or two after prematurely losing our last just a couple of months before that, and then had them be a part of every milestone in my adult life. From my first job through my first serious relationship, going through friends, jobs, breakups, heartbreaks, houses and then to my first own house - we were together. Other things and people came and went, these two were my constants.
It was unthinkable to me that one day they'd be gone. Of course, in the last few years, their walks were getting progressively getting slower, vet visits more frequent, climbing up on the bed wasn’t as much of a reflex as a strained activity, and eating was more for sustenance than hogging everything till their tummies burst! Still, I’d convinced myself that my dogs were immortal. Other dogs die, not mine.
I’m no stranger to loss of loved ones, but the loss of my dogs changed me in ways I couldn’t comprehend. When Cookie passed, everything lost its meaning overnight. Money wasn't motivation enough. I couldn’t get myself to focus on work for weeks, eventually leading me to quit my job within a couple of months. My brand new home felt haunted after her.
"All this, for just a dog?" you say? I know. I know it isn't usual to be this emotionally invested in your
'pets'. But having Honey and Cookie was the closest I’ve come to appreciating motherhood. If today I relate with moms and their irrevocable love and support for their human kids, it’s because I’ve been that mother to my dogs. I’d fight the world for them. Nothing would make my day more than seeing them have a healthy and fun day and at the end of the day, even if it'd been a bad one, all that mattered was I had my Honey and Cookie breathing softly next to me, their furry little forms keeping my bed and heart warmed.
It’s been nearly a year since I lost Cookie and four months since Honey and even though the pain has been subsiding and the memories are blurring, not a day goes by I don’t think of them, their photos, videos (and there’s thousands of them) keep them alive at least in 2D. During my meditation sessions, the minute I’d close my eyes, all I’ll see was Cookie (Honey was still alive then), and tears would roll down like a river in monsoon.
The only solace, if any, has been the presence of another puppy whom I semi adopted when Honey and Cookie were both alive and has seen both of them off till their respective ends. She is a lovely dog in her own right, but is no Honey and definitely no Cookie (she couldn't care less about bananas!)
In the movie, the actor erects a statue and opens an animal shelter in the memory of Charlie, (who was a victim of the obnoxious puppy mills and breeding industry.) While I haven’t done either, I know one day I will start an organization that helps abused and stray dogs in the country and continue to be a foster mom to any other dog that I can help. Honey and Cookie would want me to. They were incapable of an emotion other than love and kindness.
I don’t know if the world deserves dogs but I know I did because I had the best.
To Honey and Cookie
April 2009 – forever.