Wednesday, June 13, 2012


LORD OF ALL HE SURVEYS: Bingo in his hay days
With a snow-white coat and symmetrical black patches around his eyes and ears, Bingo looked every bit like a panda bear and lived the lifespan of one too...19 long years! Unable to distinguish his breed - he looked neither like a pariah nor a purebred - my maternal grandfather finally decided that he was a mongrel. Bingo was Papa's cutest dog, and his last one too. 
The most attractive thing about Bingo was his tail...rolled like a coil and perched perfectly on his lower back. He was fairly tall, his legs rather skinny and often coated with the dark grey silt in which he loved to frolic. His eyes were truly a mirror to his soul, because even in his later years with us, they betrayed a glint of mischief through those many clouds of cataract. 
Bingo was one dog who had been there and done ALL that. Be it scouring the hills to chase stray cats or digging up the backyard to hide bones that Papa used to give him from the kitchen, or even lying right in the middle of the road and having motorists negotiate their way around him, there was very little he hadn't done or experienced in his years with us. I remember Papa saying that Bingo cheated death at least twice...once when a coconut plummeted onto his head during a siesta under a coconut tree and next when a drunk biker struck him hard in his hip after skidding on the road one rainy evening.

Unlike your average pet dog, Bingo was a nomad, a free spirit...unwilling to be confined to the four walls of a house or compound wall. He ate and drank at will and would be difficult to trace sometimes, much to Papa's ire. But he was a remarkable watchdog, and could smell a trespasser from a distance even during the darkest of nights. When Bingo barked, we knew we had to be alert.

Papa passed away in 1996 and Bingo, himself entering the winter of his life by then, relied on us for food and shelter, and on May - a British tourist with a passion for dogs - for support. In fact, I think he thought of May as his mother. All he needed was to hear the sharp ring of her bicycle bell every morning as she passed by our house towards the beach, and would dart to her for a treat. May made sure he got all his vaccinations on time and if he was sick, she would treat him gratis. By her own admission, she loved Bingo and cared for him like one of her own.

Eight years after Papa's death, Bingo began fading away. He developed hematoma in both his ears, was having problem hearing, was virtually blind because of his cataract, and became extremely frail too. But I must mention that till his last breath, he was a jewel. He took his medicines without a fuss and tried as hard as he could not to mess the place where we had kept him. Even if he did mess up, the apologetic look in his eyes told us that he didn't mean to.

It was a peaceful evening when Bingo closed those sparkling eyes of his forever. I was 20 at the time and he was nearing 100. But for me, he will be forever 19.

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