I believe in a heaven I’ll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.
~Pablo Neruda, My dog has died
On the eve of Ruskin Bond’s birthday, Kaalicharan died. 14 winters young, she exhaled for the very last time, late last night. She didn’t push the daisies or kicked the bucket but died. No euphemism can conjure, conceal or cure this pain.
Far off in the bleakness of a summer night in Delhi, I heard her last cries – the muffled barks, so unlike her. And the clock hasn’t been normal since. The cruel hours wouldn’t just pass. It is all quiet in the cold cellars of my heart. And once every few seconds, pain plays a cacophony I can’t bear.
With a calm indifference, the pines and the berries, and the gurgling Gola river were all the same as Kaalicharan was laid to rest near Rusty’s shrine. The twin rosebuds from Rusty’s resting place caressing the wind to greet her little sister. The cruel hands of May, took in turns, both my furry friends.
And everyone keeps reminding me of the long happy life Kaali led. They say that I of all people, the Dog with Blog guy should know how to handle this grief. But I know no better. It feels as if my life force, the elixir has left me. Like mercury in May, this pain in my throat shoots up to the center of my head and wouldn’t just die.
14 years, truly is a remarkable life span for a huge mountain dog-like Kaali. But why it can’t be 30, wasn’t there a dog who lived that long? What you lose when you lose your dog to death? Is it just your composure or an entire childhood melting away like ice cream scoop in the midday sun?
I don’t have pictures from Kaali’s pup days when my father rescued her from a garage. Her proud dark face with a snow-white French cut looking at everything around cautiously. How I hid her in my denim jacket as we came downhill. How she looked at the sun, unflinchingly. How she saw me through my heartbreak, unlike those who promised they’d stay but never did.
Unlike the world and worldly common sense, a dog’s happiness isn’t defined by square feet. Not measured in spoons or bowls but even a tennis ball is happiness. So often, she would come running and throw herself at the freshly mowed grass and if you happened to be sprawled on the lawn reading Bond or Bukowski, you’d feel her bear weight on your limbs or back. Ain’t no massage like that!
Over the seasons, her eyes turned from the honey shade to a cloudy vacuum and I could no longer see myself in them. No, she wasn’t blind but the signs were telling. Age and all the ailments it brings. Yet, she remained a hermit.
When you lose your dog, the one who has seen you mature (or not) from your childhood fancies, you lose the scale that pits you to reality and relevance. You lose the glue that bound everything for you.
And now I see her coal-black fur everywhere, as if looking for me- winter coats, books shelves, TV rack…maybe if I could just collect enough of it, Kaalicharan would come to life.
Kaali, I wish there was a secret frequency I could call you at and you’d come. But no matter how many times I give voice to your names— Kaalu, Kaali, Kaalicharan, please?… I know you’d never return. Your paws would not come dancing to where your lad stands now. Alone. In dead silence.
She always loved me, even when I didn’t deserve it. And she loved me more than I’ve ever managed to love myself.
I wish I could have been a better boy to the wonderful friend that she was. Pulled poles apart in this grist mill called life, I saw her way less than I should have. With choked tears as I think about her at this moment, I can smell her coffee bean breaths, her glistening black fur, like that of a stallion. My own private dire-wolf.
Love at the end of all things should be like this. Like how a dog loves you. You may be lost to the world’s design, little goals, planning that blueprint for life while standing patiently, the dog waits for nothing or no one but you.
I’m sorry Kaali, for all the vacations, I didn’t come home. For those lost chances where I could have slept beside you, putting your giant paw on me, the weight that always made me light at heart.
As another stray gust of wind brings her fur, coiled like cotton candy, I know no vacuum cleaner can ever wipe her memory. Ever.
Dogs never die.