Day 311: What do you need to make your wild heart beat?

Dogs, I tell ya. They’ve got my heart ticking in ways nothing has in many, many years now.

It’s been more than a few days since D left on her holiday, leaving the puppies with us. It seemed like a huge responsibility we were only to happy to take because of how fond of them we are, but also because of how familiar being around them has been thanks to the many many trips I’ve made this year. Not just being around the pups themselves, but knowing their daily lives and whereabouts, their routines, food habits and even the intricacies of their weird whines, barks and unique manipulative moves. I have loved these dogs for a while now, so there was actually little thought or consideration involved when D asked if we’d puppysit. All three of them have (Leo leading the way) have long wormed their way into my heart, so I was prepared to have my heart crushed by puppy love. But this much?

I honestly didn’t see this coming. I booked my return ticket to Bangalore today, and while I am excited to be going back to resume life all on my own, I am already prematurely heartbroken about going back to a puppy-less home.

Safe to say I am beyond smitten.

(Yeah, how did I get to the dark side? When did this happen?)

Since we’re avoiding leaving the two of them unsupervised and alone for long periods of time, I have been timing my errand runs during the first half of the morning when the help is still around, which means our days have fallen into a neat little routine. So much so that Olive now knows that I will step out between 9.30 and 10. So she begins to follow me around like a tail, waiting for that moment when my sunglasses come on and my bag goes across my shoulder. Then she begins to bark and bring the roof down, demonstrating a full-on protest with gusto, giving it her all in the hope that either I will stay or take her with me. In a last ditch attempt, she dashes off to the gate ahead of me, bounding in double-steps, and stands between me and the gate defiantly. She may be small in stature and size, but she is larger than life in confidence and determination to have her way. In that moment, in her eyes, I see the wild, unbridled firmness of a woman who wants to get her way come hell or high water. It’s like she is oblivious to the fact that her ground clearance is barely four inches off the ground and her height is not more than a foot in total. And it means nothing to her that I can actually just step over her and proceed. Because she has the grit of a woman who means business, she seems large. Massive, even. And it makes me stay a moment longer, get down on my knees and pet her and mumble a few weak and unconvincing words to let her know that I will be back really soon.

What she lacks in size (how can anyone be so damned cute and small and contort themselves into something that resembles a puppy-inspired sushi roll? HOW?) she makes up in her vivacious personality.

Lego on the other hand, is best known for the way he uses his lanky front limbs like hands. Grabbing, holding, pawing, nudging like a bloody human being. It’s like a constant defiance of his doggy-ness and a consistent effort to be human in the way he carries himself. Inside his large head with impossibly big ears is a small brain, from the looks of it because he is dufferest of duffer dogs I have ever come across. But aren’t they the best kind?

He is VC’s favourite, and vice versa. Nobody in this home greets VC with the kind of unrestrained enthusiasm that Lego does. When VC walks in the door Lego loses his shit and doesn’t know what to do with himself. So he darts back and forth, between jumping on VC to bouncing off pieces of furniture like a crazy ball. Except if VC walks in with his full-face helmet on, or with a broom in his hand like he did the other day. Then Lego has no idea who he is and the only way he will run is in the opposite direction. We’re major fattu like that. Despite his small brain and easily triggered flight response, he has the body language and demeanour of the man in charge. Restlessly pacing about, investigating and inspecting things all the time, always walking around with an officious look on his face that would make you believe he’s the boss around here and everything runs on his watch.

He is also completely oblivious to his stature and size which, when he is standing, is about four or five times Olive’s. So sometimes she gets caught underfoot, as he tramples over her like collateral damage to his attacks of excitement.

After a morning of all these adventures warding off humans from leaving the premise, or pacing up and down in anticipation of our return (which leaves them quite hyper and wound up, borderline traumatised on occasion), some semblance of normalcy returns at lunch time, which is when I am usually back home. Nothing settles them like the sight of a plate of food in a human beings hands. They turn into the quietest, most docile dogs with the sweetest, googliest eyes. They sit, transfixed by the food focusing all their attention on the plate as if willing it to float towards them. At that moment, they’re a picture of perfection, the most innocent, angelic dogs. Until Olive’s drool pool begins. Depending on what’s in the plate it varies from being a drippy, leaky tap to a full-on open tap.

Afternoon naps follow. For the first two days after D left, Olive staged a massive sulk by hanging around us but at a safe distance, refusing to respond when called, making no eye contact and generally avoiding too much contact. But after 48 hours, something switched and she has become my tail. If she had it her way she would be attached to me, I suspect. And so we regroup in the afternoon, almost to assuage the trauma of separation from the morning, usually clustered on the couch — me stretched out reading or working, with the two of them curled up on 2/3rds of the couch. If I so much as stir or move, they wake up. If I get up to leave, even to just go to the loo, Olive follows me while Lego looks on from a distance.

Evenings are easily my favourite time of day. I have been walking Olive, while VC has been walking Lego. I didn’t know it, because I have no experience with dogs, but there is something so very grounding about walking a dog every single day, on the clock. The rhythm, the trail, the clicking of their nails on the tarmac, the same spots they stop at, the other dogs we encounter, the predictable fashion in which they behave at all the known spots.

In all of this, I deeply feel the absence of Leo’s presence. I feel it the most when we walk because I remember how different it was walking him. He’d saunter like the King of the land, scoping his field as far as the eye can see, his head held high. I find myself wondering what it might have been walking three instead of two dogs and I yearn for the missed opportunity. Yesterday especially, I was lost in a daydream thinking about him when we were out on our evening walk carrying around a heavy heart like I was aching for a person.

Evenings have been passing in a mellow, quiet fashion. It really is the time when the frenetic activity of their days too, winds down. I’ve found comfort in sitting together with the pups in silence. Them chewing on a bone, while VC and I read or Netflix before we eat dinner and turn in. There is companionable silence and an unspoken togetherness in sharing your day so closely with animals who so easily make you their own.

It’s taken barely 4-5 days for us to make this our routine and figure out how to manage the two of them together.

It’s not taken much doing really. The simple life that a dog loves, makes it easier. There’s barely any managing needed beyond feeding them and walking them on time, giving them adequate pets, belly rubs, back scratches, watching their poo for anything suspicious and holding them close when Diwali crackers begin to thunder around us. They make it very easy because they’re ruled by their hearts, and they know nothing else. So they go after what they want, demand it with all their might and don’t rest until we’ve understood just what they need. And in return for just that little bit of care and attention, I’ve been at the receiving end of a love so, so very pure. Filterless, distilled, concentrated love that is very hard to fight and not feel. It has swept me in, into a life-long snug embrace.

This kind of filterless love, this way in which puppies go all-in with all their heart, the endless giving even in the face of everyday little betrayals and disappointments (I still leave every morning, I still withhold that little morsel of food), this is the stuff worth aspiring for. Who knew, these doggies might teach me a thing or two.

Two years ago: Day 311: Okaybye

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