As a kid, if someone asked me about my favourite animals, I would say dogs, elephants, and dolphins. I knew I could never keep the latter two. As for dogs, well, I was scared of them, but my dad was also strict enough to say that I could have one the day I become responsible.
That day was Sunday, 30 May 2004.
It was probably our good karma that brought him to us. A tiny black ball of fur sitting away from his mom and siblings in the home of a nanny who worked at my mom’s school. We were told that he was the most “shaitaan” (naughty) of the litter. I and my mom smuggled him into the house without my dad’s knowledge. No permissions were taken and no questions were asked. After all, I was working now and felt responsible enough to take care of a pet.
Bebu (yes, that was the name I gave him; after days of googling and discussing with friends, I zeroed in on a name that came from my heart) was born to a white Pomeranian mother and (we assume!) a mountain dog father. He had a beautiful brown mane, which many think that he was a GSD puppy. He was short and stout so many people called him junglee (nickname for indie, desi), which hurt me, but I learnt to live with it.
I just understood that people who don’t matter don’t need to appreciate him. What he meant to me was all I had to care about. To say that Bebu brought some discipline and order in my life would be an understatement. He gave me much more – passion, purpose, motivation – something that no one has ever been able to match.
I don’t remember Bebu ever chewing a shoe, scratching furniture or even peeing on the bed. When he transitioned from pooping in the house to daily walks, even we did not realize. In fact, I altered my routine to keep up with him. I would wake up early for his walks and, on sunny winter days, even give him a bonus walk with a quick game of fetch in the park. When possible, I would rush back from work just to walk him in the evening. I have sacrificed numerous social gatherings just to be with him at home (much to the chagrin of my parents. And, if we did leave him home alone, I would ensure that every electrical switch in the house was turned off except the bare essentials.
Remembering my dog…
As a teenager, Bebu became a curious explorer, dragging me to new places and befriending new strays everywhere (though he did have fights with a few). I happily obliged because I felt that if he ever got lost, he can sniff his way back and his friendship with the local strays will be an added advantage. Some strays even became his protector on our walks. And when I narrated these stories at home, my mom would often gloat with pride at how Bebu was such a “pure soul”).
And this, I did not know, was the start of the most beautiful passion in my life – dogs! As I did more research on how I should nurture Bebu, I began understanding what animal cruelty meant and why animal welfare is so important. Over time, I quit non-veg, ditched leather, and maintained a list of all brands that practice animal cruelty. I developed a keen eye for all the strays in my neighbourhood and frequently managed their sterilization and medical treatments with the local welfare organization. These efforts brought me closer to a number of strays with whom I developed an irreplaceable bond. And, I even made a few human friends on the way.
I got married and moved to a different city but continued to visit my parents to spend time with Bebu and my beloved strays. The time that I did not visit them, I fostered puppies for some local volunteer groups. Our last foster was an adult rescue Labrador (named Buddy) who seemed terminally ill and spent an amazing 2.5 years with me and my husband before we lost him during the lockdown.
In all of this, I know that Bebu was my sole inspiration. He was the medium to make me realize my capability and determination to help others. Many criticisms came my way, but over time I learnt to ignore them as well. “If you don’t do what God wants you to do, then God might as well give that passion to someone else” – is what I would say!
The time around Bebu’s death was eerie, to say the least. He had been bedridden for a week. I knew that we had to let go but my mom wanted him to go the natural way. I spent all weekend trying to discuss this with her; I even checked with the vet if he could come home and which pet crematorium we could visit. On Monday morning, my mom agreed so I spoke to my vet, and he said he can come on Wednesday (I actually wanted the Monday after, but I knew Bebu would not make it till then, so I reluctantly agreed). The same evening, as I changed Bebu’s bed and lay him down, I suddenly saw his breathing halt and rushed to call my parents.
We all sat with him for 10 minutes and then realized that he was no more. As we picked him up, I turned to my mom and said “mom, Bebu was waiting for you to say yes, and he heard what we both wanted; he has gone the natural way and, on a Monday,”.
That day was Monday, 14 September 2020 – just five weeks after I arrived to be with Bebu. I might have taken a big risk during covid, but I certainly did not regret it.
It has taken me more than a year to realize why I am losing my sense of purpose and direction in life. Bebu was meant to be with me, to bring a certain amount of equilibrium and motivation to all aspects of me. His absence has made life a bit hollow and me a bit lost. As I realize this, I am also slowly trying to live by what he taught me when he was alive.