I said that there was a divine reason for Joey coming to us, didn’t I?
One afternoon when Joey and I were taking a nap that we heard a racket — the horrendous howl of many dogs that did not abate, for several minutes. It made me jump. Joey added his own tiny voice to the cacophony, and my first thought was, ‘Monkeys! Where is Joey?
Our neighbourhood, being on the outskirts of the city was home to troops of monkeys – not the regular rhesus variety, but langurs. These animals were aggressive and were known to wallop even large dogs that dared to bark at or chase them, injuring them grievously. So when I heard the racket, I rushed to an inside room with Joey and then after closing the front door I cautiously peeped out, fully prepared to see one of them sitting on our or one of the neighbouring balconies and baring their teeth at me!
What I saw instead was enough to curdle my blood and brought up uncontrollable nausea…three puppies — all of Joey’s siblings — were lying some feet from each other, their tiny bodies mauled. Some animal had done the gory deed and vanished. I gathered from the knot of people gathered there that it was not the langurs, but an apparently rabid dog from some other locality that had done it and all the combined efforts of the other dogs could not prevent it from killing the pups. Someone called the municipal corporation authorities, afraid to mess with a rabid animal, but it had run away by then.
It was heartrending to see the mother walk from one carcass to the other, whimpering and licking…
I rushed inside and hugged Joey and gave thanks to God.
I am a firm believer in divine cause and effect.
And I knew then that God had sent him to us to save his life. Born with five others, Joey now was the only surviving member of the litter. What would have happened to him had we not brought him home that day? Would he have succumbed to the disease that killed two of his siblings or become the victim of a rabid dog like the other three? But Joey was clearly meant to live and we had been the instrument that God had chosen to keep him alive! I took my surrogacy even more humbly after this incident.
Joey was an intelligent pup. His buttons of eyes sparkled with mischief all the time. But his exuberance was too much for two middle aged people! We had adopted a pup too late in life – the brats would have been perfect companions for him. Alas, they had gone away many years ago and we tried valiantly to cope.
He was also incredibly naughty. He would pee in an undesignated place and when I shouted at him, would run and hide in his carton home, slowly peeking to see if I was around and when he saw that the coast was clear, would emerge cautiously and then more boldly. There is no way you can be mad at such a lovable pup and I would be crooning to him soon enough and then he would start yipping away at my feet.
The house was too big and he hated to be inside the house, so we had to let him loose. If we did, he would begin sniffing around or run to the terrace, where large cats sometimes lurked. It was getting to be difficult to keep an eye on his whereabouts and in the absence of anyone to help, I was run off my feet. The L&M took him for his walk once he was a little older. We got him a soft leash and he made the L&M pant after him as he pulled on the leash! There was no way I could have walked him; even the after-meals-poop-walks I took him out on were beginning to turn into chases after him as he ran away with his leash. Some kind passerby would catch him and bring him back kicking violently.
And he was a joker! He would stand at the corner of ‘his’ street and bark away in his puppy voice at any larger dog. But if one of them so much as bared his fangs or took one step closer, our brave little puppy would scramble to hide behind me or try to run into the house!
Once, he was standing just inside the gate and a large Great Dane went past the gate with his master. True to his form, our Joey began barking his little head off, safe behind the gate and me nearby. But the big dog was not amused and growled back, which had the pup yelping in terror! When I lifted him in my arms, I could feel his little heart thudding away; it took a long time for it to subside.
I had failed at least in one respect: I had not been able to teach him how to behave around other dogs, small or large, as I was unaware of ‘canine etiquette’ as the pet sites called it.
There were occasions when he gave me near heart attacks. Once he had diarrhea became so weak that he couldn’t even stand. I was terrified that he had fallen prey to the dreaded parvo despite the shots. I held him in my arms as he lay limp. The L&M was away. The vet could not be reached and I called my sister who is a homeo doctor. She prescribed some medicine and I immediately gave the pills to him. He licked at the sweet pills weakly.
I prayed furiously, fighting with God for saving his life from the earlier calamities only to make him sick like that! But a couple of doses and half an hour later, he opened his eyes and jumped off my lap and was soon back to his mischief!
Another time as I lifted him, he squirmed and fell down. I heard the sickening thud of his head hitting the floor and was out of my mind with worry that he had a broken skull or something. I was reminded of the time the older one had been around three and had got a gash on the side of his head. I exhaled the breath I had been holding when he began jumping around. Thank God!
During the next visit to the vet, he explained that dogs don’t have the digestive mechanism for milk other than the canine one and sometimes even they apparently are able to digest it, they can suddenly develop intolerance to it. He told me to give him whey saying that it strengthens their systems. So I began giving him whey and buttermilk instead of milk. Boy, did he love that! It soon got to a stage when he would peep into his bowl of water and move away if it was clear. He drank water only when was cloudy or white! I was raising a brat, a canine one this time round! But to be fair to my other two brats, they had never fussed about their food as they grew up.
His mongrel blood asserted itself time and again. He loved to roam free, hated to sleep inside the house and wanted to sleep in the veranda even in freezing weather. I covered his chest up in one of the L&M scarves and then wrapped him in an old stole of mine and held him. He got so used to this that he would not sleep till he was ‘tucked up’ and held, sometimes going off to sleep the moment the stole came around him, his little body becoming heavy as he slept.
Did I say brat? Well, if he was, he was a very understanding one. He would wake up early and wait quietly till the L&M took him out for his morning job. Not once did he bark or make any sound till he heard my voice and knew I was awake. Then it was pandemonium! He had to have his milk then and there but before that he needed to be petted. The L&M was forgotten then, much to his chagrin!
One disturbing thing was emerging about his behaviour though. He was becoming aggressive and would only let you pet him if he wanted you to. He constantly wanted to run outside and howled if I kept him tied up. If you have seen the film Marley and Me, you’d know what I mean. But we were not as young as Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston were in the film, though Joey was every bit like Marley!
Discipline was a big issue. While I was firm and made him obey, albeit with difficulty, the L&M was soft putty in Joey’s paws. He would get away with the things that he never could with me as L&M never reprimanded him strongly enough. He had two masters each opposite of the other and whom he could manipulate at will.
He was clearly becoming the ‘master’ in our house and we had no clue as to how we should handle him and anxious lest we altered his canine personality and made him into a confused dog!