Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Life of Brownie

At the start, a confession. This is a true story. My discomfort with stray animals is well known. But a small change in attitude and perspective, opened up a another dimension in my life. I am truly grateful to all the wild and stray animals who inhabit earth and try to remind us daily, that life is short, enjoy it don't be attached to it and other material things. 

This is the story of Brownie - An adorable, stray dog who adopted my family. Yes, she adopted us and we were and continue to be completely spellbound by her. 

A couple of years ago, we moved to our present house due to my professional requirements. The house we moved into was small but cozy but the surrounding area was amazing. Next to the sea, landscaped gardens, hammocks under the trees, water fountains, duck ponds, a lovely walking track lined with colourful bougainvillea creepers - It was and is paradise. Where in the big, bad, congested city would you find such a haven of peace. 

Coming back to Brownie- This new place had many stray dogs, which I found irritating, but somehow tolerated them. One night, after returning from a party, Brownie came and stood in front of us and looked at us very expectantly..wagging her tail. We stood there, looking at her for a few seconds, and were about to move on, when she did the most unexpected thing - she lay down folded her legs and exposed her tummy to us! looking at us with pleading eyes to pet her, rub her belly. I looked at her for a few seconds, thinking she would get up, but she continued to remain in that pose. So, I bent down and rubbed her belly and neck for a couple of minutes. As soon as I stopped, she got up and went away.

This became a regular occurrence. She would "waylay" me on way to work and be there when i returned. My kids were a little scared, but when they saw me, they too started to pet her. My wife joined in somewhere along the way and the conversion was complete. We now looked forward to petting her daily... :)

One fine day, after a month, as my wife opened our front door, she saw brownie standing in the corridor, looking at us, waiting for us. After the mandatory petting session, which we all referred to as the "Brownie Tax" , my wife gave her some biscuits and she just lapped it up. 

Thereafter, it was a given. She had fixed meal timings. She would come for her morning breakfast, lunch and dinner. At first, we gave her our normal food, which she would lap up with reverence and devotion and look at us for more. But a few tips from other dog lovers had warned us about the dangers of overfeeding and sweet meats, so we used to  refrain. 

A month later, one fine morning as I opened the door to head out for a walk, Brownie lay sprawled across our door foot mat, in deep slumber. No amount of calling or pushing her made her budge. She had claimed the space as her own!!! I finally jumped over her and went out, thus setting the tradition for the next couple of years. She had achieved her aim. She was now our pet but with freedom to move around whenever she desired. 

One day, she lay listless at our door. We were all worried as to what had happened to her. So we started looking around for a Vet. In the meanwhile, she vomited. Oooh.. this was not expected.!!! Simultaneously, a security guard came up (lets call him Bharat), and told us that she had eaten a dead fish, washed up along the shore, inspite of his efforts to stop her. This seemed to be regular occurrence. He told us not to worry and gave her a pill. We asked him about brownie and how he knew her so well. He told us his story:-

Brownie and her two siblings (all females), were born in 2010 in the same complex. After birth, the little puppies used to play around in a secluded spot. One day, a municipal van came to collect stray dogs. mother was picked up and the puppies got left behind as they were playing hide and seek else where. The guards and the caretaker found these puppies squealing for their mother and were hungry. Seeing the defenseless little creatures, they fed them from their own tiffin box. Thus started their saga. These puppies - Brownie, Cocktail and Blackie (all named by my wife and kids), became the guards pets. They took care of them as their own children and used to get food from their homes (milk, chapattis, rice , and meat on occasion). In the meanwhile, as they could not afford a vet, they came across a gentleman, who gave them the address of a young vet, who would come to tend to them and give them their mandatory shots, free of cost. In fact, he was on call and whenever anything happened to these three dogs, the guards would call him and he would come there to treat them, free of cost. And thus they grew up to be healthy (though skinny) dogs with pretty good manners.   :)

We were the new entrants to the scene. Bharat, the guard, was quite perplexed when he observed Brownie was missing from her usual place and was not eating well for the last couple of months. So he followed her to find out where she was going. We were touched by his concern. He seemed a bit sad that she had found some one else , but also seemed happy to see her well fed. 

Thus Brownie became our pet. She would accompany me when I went for a walk or jog, play with my daughters, watch them play basket ball and come and lie on her doormat. She figured  out how to get our attention without barking (she would put her nose on the flap of the letter slot and knock). She would spend all her free time at the doorstep. In the morning she would go to meet bharat and her sisters and play with them It was such a sight to see these siblings play hide and seek!!! The basketball court was her territory and she guarded it fiercely. She still guards it fiercely. 

And thus we settled into a comfortable relationship with her. She wouldn't come into the house. She would hang around her mat and after a meal go, burn it out, playing with her sisters and the guards come back and chill. The look on her face while she would look up imploringly at us to give her something to eat, was so heartbreaking. She loved Marie Biscuits and a packet a day was reserved for her.. By the way, her sisters Cocktail and Blackie also joined the party - Buy one get two free!!!

As  Life is about change and Change is Life, all good things come to an end. We had to move from the apartment. While we were packing and moving, she hung around the house, her mat, looking at us with expectation and sadness, knowing that we were moving out. We contemplated many times to adopt her, take her with us, make her our pet, but there was only one thing that stopped us: The guards loved her and so did her sister Cocktail. Though she would have come with us gladly,  we knew instinctively that she would miss her freedom, her sister and her original keepers - the guards. As we were not moving far away, we decided to leave to there and meet her on a regular basis. After we left, our neighbours told us that she would come up to the house and wait for us. Slowly, she realised that we had left and so she stopped her visits. 

For the first few times, after we left, when we visited her, she would greet us with such happiness, that brought tears to our eyes. She would then, gently nudge us towards our old flat, trying to tell us that- this is our home, lets go there, what are we doing down here!!!. Over time that has stopped as she has realised that we no longer stay there. 

However, everytime we visit her, we take her favourite treats for her and cocktail. She greets us with the same love and affection, everytime. She also takes us to her favourite bench along the walkway and demands the love and affection that is due to her. We give it gladly because we love her so much!!!

So dear Brownie, your presence in our life has added another dimension to it. Your selfless love and affection has taught us to love unconditionally. It has also taught us that you don't need money to make a difference in this world. The love the guards have for you, who feed you and bathe you, out of their meagre earnings have humbled us.  Our children are no longer afraid of wild animals and have learned to love them. You have shown us that the door to happiness lies in front of us i.e. if we choose to open it. Love is all around us, we just need to demand it. We thank you with all our heart.

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