The only possession he could drag out along with him was the torn and tattered rag, which had kept him warm during the rains.
Luckily, the rains were at their fag end when he was kicked out of the house. The lady, who had sheltered him, fed him and at times pitied him, stood helplessly transfixed as her burly husband mercilessly booted him out.
"Why did you bring this mongrel in?" he snarled at the lady. "Couldn’t you wait for three months? See what beauties I have brought you…. they are in my Jeep."
He did not exactly remember how he had landed up at her doorstep three months ago. It was a rainy night, windy and chilly. He was cold and hungry. He whimpered. After what seemed to be an eternity, the door opened and the warmth from within engulfed him.
And then, she appeared on the threshold, a tall and stately figure of a woman.
"Oh!, you poor thing!" she exclaimed and suddenly bent and picked him up. "What’s your name?" She turned him over to check if he was a male or a female. "You are a he," she sounded relieved. She carried him to the kitchen. "What shall I call you?,? she muttered. "There are droplets of water on your nose, like pearls…Moti…yes, I will call you Moti."
She wiped him dry with the same rag which he was now dragging out…..
That minute, all he wanted was something to fill his growling belly and a warm place to cuddle up.
And for the next three months that followed, he got more than this.
Slowly, he came to know more about this household and a wee bit about himself – his name, Moti, to say the least.
She was staying alone with a maid, her husband being away in the estates for quite a few months during the year. The maid, it was obvious, did not like dogs, particularly, him. However, he was happy that there were no children in the house to tie empty tin cans to his tail.
The lady was an animal lover all right. She had a lovely Persian cat, a pair of lovebirds and two budgeries. There were half a dozen stray cats on her kitchen windowsill waiting to be fed.
Her wealthy friends dropped in every evening for some stupid card games. "Oh! Where did you find this mongrel, dear? Look at his tail pointing straight up like a candle! Your man will never let this creature stay," they said. The fear, which these words had instilled in him, had now come true.
The night was cold. A few minutes after the gate closed on him, he could hear the newcomers, the ‘beauties’ in the Jeep being brought in. He could not see them but he could very well imagine a bowl of warm milk and a warm place to cuddle up. He wanted to do what the humans very often did. He wanted to cry. But he did not know how.
What seemed to be an endless night had a dawn after all. When it came, he dragged his aching body to the gate with a faint ray of hope. The new comers had taken his place, perched majestically in a well-padded cardboard box placed in the car porch. Beauties indeed. They watched him with curious eyes and did not respond to his whimpers.
Then the door opened and the lady appeared. As she spotted him at the gate, his candle straight tailed wagged in full tempo.
"I’m sorry, Moti," she said sternly, but with remorse written all over her face. "I know you spent the night out in the lane. But no, no more of this. I have faced enough last night for sheltering you." She pointed a finger at him to move away from the gate.
His face fell. The icy hunger was telling upon his senses. He forced himself towards the huge garbage drum at the end of the lane.
What a stench! He could not believe that these posh houses had so much of stinking garbage in them.
A blob of fatty meat was all he could find. The day had thus begun and many more were to follow.
Moti the mongrel survived.
…As the noose tightened, tears welled up in those doleful eyes and the expression his face almost turned human….
The neighborhood was not that bad after all. Almost everyone, including that lady threw him a morsel or two. There were quite a few dogs around, all breeds, well-groomed, tics free and with fine, lovely collars. They went for joy rides in their masters’ cars, proudly poking their heads out.
Why is that only he had to seek his food in the garbage bin? Why only he had sores on his shriveled belly? He could bark, he could run and take orders like any other dog. But why then, no morning walks for him, no joy rides in the cars, not even a pat on the back?
Then it flashed.
He had no collar. With the collar missing he was an urchin, an orphan, the humans would put it. This reckoning made him sad, he longed for a collar.
The season had changed. There was fragrance in the air and a strange crispness in his body. As if in tune with this new feeling, all the dogs around him turned friendly. They came and brushed against him, sniffed and nuzzled, of course, much to the dissatisfaction of their masters.
There was fun and frolic all around as all the dogs, along with him, ran up and down the roads and gullies in gay abandon. Next to those three months in the house, the memory of which was now on the wane, this was the best period in his young life.
But yet, he felt incomplete without a collar, an alien to the melee that was rampant around him. The collar, by now, had become and obsession with him.
It was a lovely morning.
Quite a few of the dogs have been running up and down the road and the main junction, panting and foaming when a huge cage-like vehicle appeared from nowhere and stopped. There was absolute silence all around as the dogs froze in their tracks, sensing something.
And then, as if responding to a signal, they took off in different directions, leaving him alone.
He stood there, trembling uncontrollably, panting and foaming at the same time, as two men emerged from the vehicle with long sticks in their hands.
There were shining loops at the tips of these sticks. They looked something like collars.
Thrilled, he stiffened for a brief second but relaxed instantly.
Somebody had atlast come to him with collars.
Why are you approaching me with so much caution, he wanted to ask them as he stood in benevolent anticipation for the collar to adorn his neck.
And it did.
"Very strange indeed!" muttered the first dogcatcher to the other. "This one hardly struggled," he peered as the last tremor ran through the dog. He began to drag the carcass to the vehicle.
"Looks like the dogs too have learned to weep!" observed the other. "As the noose tightened, tears welled up in those doleful eyes and the expression his face almost turned human!"
Originally published in Deccan Herald.
Translated by the Author in Konkani and published in Raknno.
Published in ‘PRATEECHI’ A Literary Digest of West Indian Languages 1992-93, Sahitya Akademi.
Translated in Kannada by Shri M.P.Prakash, present Home Minister of Karnataka and published in Kannada Prabha on 6 November 2006
Author: Edwin JF DSouza- Mangalore