Monday, October 29, 2012


As Phoebe matured and began oestrus, mom wanted to get her spayed for the fear that she would have to go through the same ordeal as Cara if a stray dog ever entered our property. But, following several pleas from dad and us, she relented and said that Phoebe could have a litter just one time before the surgery. To make things even better, it was right around the same time that I had met a writer who was searching for a mate for her male Labrador Retriever.

Discussions were had and stud fees were fixed, and before we knew it, my sister and I were driving Phoebe to and from the writer's Tivim-based house for three consecutive days to facilitate mating.

At first, we thought the interaction would be unsuccessful. Despite introducing the dogs to each other around ten days after Phoebe began bleeding, all that the couple was doing was playfully chasing each other around the writer's garden. We didn't expect anything much when we returned home with her on the third day.

Three weeks later, however, we noticed Phoebe becoming sluggish...and heavier. A trip to the vet confirmed that she was indeed pregnant! She was immediately put on a slew of supplements. The vet feared that she might develop complications because the pregnancy was detected rather late.
BUNDLES OF JOY: A filmstrip of the delivery
Thankfully, the pregnancy was progressing normally and Phoebe was healthy and unusually cooperative. Even at the peak of her gestation, she would allow us to put our ears to her tummy to hear the gurgling of amniotic sacs and feel the kicks from within. Being a one-of-a-kind experience for us, we researched on canine pregnancies so thoroughly that our school and college projects paled in comparison.

March 27, 2006 arrived and mom noticed Phoebe getting restless and searching for a quiet place in the house. Her contractions had begun by tea time, and at around 5.30pm she gave us a priceless gift...her first puppy! Tenderly licking off the remnants of the sac from her first born, she graciously let my sister tie and cut the umbilical cord, wipe the tiny thing and place it near her teats for its first feed. It was a golden female (Phoebe's mating partner was the same colour).

We had read that simultaneous breastfeeding facilitates an easier delivery of the remaining litter. And, it seemed to be working. Everytime Phoebe nursed her puppies, her contractions came on stronger. 

The cycle went on for almost five hours, by which time Phoebe had delivered TWELVE healthy puppies, surpassing our expectation of a maximum of eight. They were immaculate. Nine females and three males. Six black and six golden. The last puppy had almost turned blue because Phoebe, tired and stressed by the time, refused to lick the sac from its face. A few pumps of air into its nostrils and several downward swings later, the golden female was fine.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


In October 2004, Cara got a new playmate in Phoebe - a Labrador Retriever we purchased from a breeder in a neighbouring village. Needless to say, Phoebe was a spunky and adorable little puppy whose features mirrored those of her mother, Slash. She was all of eight weeks when we brought her home, but her energy and cheerfulness filled the void that was created by Cara's silence.

WHAT DID I DO NOW? Phoebe caught ruining a broom
 We instantly fell in love with Phoebe. So did Cara. In fact, Cara doted over her like she would have over her own offspring.

Phoebe's mischief was what attracted us to her even more. For one, she would chew on anything...legs of sofas and chairs, shoes, brooms...anything that was chewable. And if she was caught in the act, she would put on the most apologetic face, that even mom - who would be livid from seeing her best pair of shoes between the tiny jaws of this black puppy - would melt like an ice-cream.

SLEEPING CHILD: One of Phoebe's countless puppy naps
She also had the cutest sleeping position - always on her stomach, head between her forelimbs and her hind limbs outstretched. If she managed to squeeze behind a vase or a sofa for a nap, that too would do just fine.

Like Cara, Phoebe also took an immediate fancy to Brownie, the cat. In fact, it seemed like he thought it was his duty to groom her coat with his sandpaper-like tongue, play with her, and be her cuddly bear when she slept. It was truly a sight to watch them interact. He, a rather large cat, could have easily scratched her tiny eyeballs out if he wanted to (yes, she used to annoy him to no end at times), but the camaraderie between them was unbelievable. The phrase, 'Fighting like cats and dogs', seemed unreal whenever I watched the duo spending time together.
TENDER MOMENTS: Little Phoebe with Brownie

Phoebe grew up quick and strong within the span of a few months, and before we knew it, she towered over the feline who had nurtured her as a puppy. But, the love between them hadn't changed. Perhaps Cara and Brownie influenced Phoebe so greatly that she became almost human-like in her interactions with others. Her maternal instinct was so well-honed, that I guess it stood her in good stead for the following years of her life...

Thursday, August 23, 2012


SHE'S GOT THE LOOK: One of Cara's rare poses
In the course of a few months, Little Miss Fernandes was turning out to be the most angelic pup we'd ever had. She was so prim and proper that mom sometimes called her (I know this is going to sound ridiculous) her 'best daughter'. She was a hassle-free, sun bathing little Dalmatian, hardly mischievous and extremely sensitive...almost as if she was half-human. In fact, the only mischief Cara had ever been up to was dragging our shiny new Canon digicam along the staircase right up to the terrace once, and stealing the occasional chance to lounge on our sofas when mom wasn't around.

At that time, I found her disposition rather odd, because although I had grown up around sensitive dogs, they had all had an equal measure of mischief and playfulness.

LITTLE MS. SUNSHINE: Cara sunbathing on the parapet
When it came to Cara's companionship, I think it was dad who enjoyed it the most. When on vacation from the U.A.E - where he used to work - he would fancy an evening scotch on the rocks. And although he was more of a solitary drinker, he spoke most to Cara. I still remember eavesdropping on his 'conversation' with her one evening from my bedroom window, and giggling to glory. But that was Cara's gift...being human and humane...and it was my dad who understood it.

Cara did find someone rather unusual as her own best friend...our neighbour's ginger brown cat, Brownie! They did almost everything together, including eating their meals side by side. Brownie, a roadside romeo, would often be missing for days, but Cara would always wait patiently for him to return home. And when he did come back, her vigorously wagging whip-like tail would say it all.

THE MEAL DEAL: Brownie and Cara at lunch
This petite spotty creature lived with us for almost a decade, in the course of which she had had a miscarriage (when she was just over a year old and a pariah had had his way with her) and had to be spayed because mom thought her to be too frail to carry a litter to term. In fact, we hadn't known that she was pregnant until the day of her miscarriage, when her body expelled a black, slimy sac, which she promptly swallowed.

Gradually, like Bingo, she began developing hematoma, and cataract in both her eyes. Her immune system began weakening too because she was getting rather choosy about her meals and would often go an entire day without food. What finally undid her was a common cold, which, over a few months, had spread to her lungs, despite our best efforts to rid her of it.

Cara left us in the first quarter of 2008, just as silently as she had entered into our lives.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Let me get back to my dog tales. You see, every time we lost a pet dog to death, we'd make an unspoken vow that we would save ourselves from further heartache by simply not adopting another. Major's traumatic death hammered this in ever more clearly. My mother, particularly, couldn't even bear the thought of having another dog after she lost him. Her silence and sorrow boomed throughout the house, a warning that the three-letter word should no longer be discussed.

September 1999 turned into October 1999. Just one month had passed since we lost Major. And we continued to miss him...our hearts as gloomy as the monsoon sky outside. But, October was soon drawing to a close. Cloudy skies began to give way to the glint of the smiling sun. The transition was metaphorical because it was about to happen in our home too.

RAY OF SUNSHINE: Cara, at three months
Wrapped in one of mom's old white blouse with black spots was Cara...a Dalmatian! It was mom's surprise for us as we returned home from school one mundane afternoon. I'd earlier thought Dalmatians were just figments of Dodie Smith's imagination. Clearly, they weren't!

Later that evening, mom confessed to us that she wasn't excited to have Cara. She had accepted her out of compassion - and also because she looked adorable, swathed with soft cloths in a cane basket, red ribbon round her neck. Cara, she told us, was the runt of a litter of 13 Dalmatian puppies. Since her mother began rejecting her and no one was willing to buy her, the owner thought it best to hand over the fragile life to us. "Amusing," I thought, because till then, Major was the only dog we had bought...the rest had been given to us gratis.

As a three-weeks-old pup, Cara didn't look one bit like the Dalmatians I'd seen in Smith's novel. Yes, she was nose, sealed ears and all,...but fully white with light liver coloured patches instead of spots. To my sister and I, she seemed like an exquisite breed that we knew nothing about. So, we took to Volume D of our World Book Encyclopedia to educate ourselves. Later, in the dictionary, we came across a glossary of names. I chose Cara, because I liked the way it sounded (apparently it means 'friend'). My sister chose Candita, which means white/pure. As we couldn't come to a consensus, we named our cherubic pup:


Incidentally, Cara was unknowingly bestowed the honour of being the first dog to take on our family surname.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012


While watching re-runs of Bollywood actor Aamir Khan's show, Satyamev Jayate (Sanskrit for 'Truth Alone Conquers'), I came across a poignant statement made by Harish Iyer, a victim of child abuse. If you aren't familiar with his story, I'd suggest you watch the following clip in its entirety:

On the other hand, if you are aware of his case, just watch between 8:01 and 8.54.

For those of you who don't understand Hindi, I will try my hand at translating what Harish said in those few seconds. It moved me to tears and it will you too!

"If anyone has helped me, it was not a human dog helped me. I had a German shepherd, Jimmy. When I would return home after being abused, I don't know how he used to know that something bad had happened to me. When I would return home, he would pull and take me away to the bedroom and, jumping on to his bed, he would to flay his paws and signal me to come and sit next to him. I used to go on talking, go on talking, go on talking, and when I used to cry, he would lick my tears. He has drunk my every the true sense of the word. And that gave me strength."