She weakly wagged her tail and tried to get up to greet me but slipped. She tried again but the legs gave way once again. Two months ago, by this time I would have been pinned down and made to feel like the most important person in her life. But now, all she did was look at me with tired eyes and welcome me with laboured breath but the tail still wagged. I couldn’t see her clearly through the tears, that kept welling up and I kept pushing back. Meanwhile, there was a battle raging in my head – should I let her go? Should I take her to the vet to be put down? Or do I wait for nature to stifle her, put her through more pain before jerking her away. She weakly raised her head once more, and this time the tears gave away and I could see her. The majestic gait and perked up ears had been replaced by an arduous crawl and drooping eyes.
By evening I had made the tough choice – choice involving her life or whatever little was left of it. We called the vet’s office and fixed up a time for the next day. Yet, it felt strangely alien to decide on someone’s life. A good part of the evening was spent sitting by her side and stroking her head with one hand, and wrapping the other one around a crying child. The boys took turns and left with some answered and some unanswered questions – ‘Can’t we wait for a miracle? Why does she have to die? What if I miss her too much? Would she remember us? What if she doesn’t want to die?’ Both of them grudgingly went to bed and cried themselves to sleep. I sat with her till midnight, hoping for a sign – something, anything to tell me I was doing the right thing. But nothing. All she did was look at me – but the look was not the happy look from two months back. She was sad and tired. I hugged her and told her that I loved her before getting up to go inside. The eyes were still following me but the tail wasn’t wagging anymore.
The night was spent tossing around and straining my ear for the slightest of noise from the backyard. Morning came earlier than usual and I rushed to her room, half expecting her to have gone. A brief wave of relief washed over me as I saw her looking at me. It was soon replaced by the dread of taking her to the Vet’s. She was visibly worse. I sat there stroking her gently in the middle of her forehead, just the way she liked it. Two months ago, the stub of a tail would have wagged so hard that I would have playfully told her, ‘It will fall off, silly girl!’
A thought that constantly plagued me was, ‘No more. That’s it. I am not letting another one in. It is too hurtful.’
And then, one moment she was there, and the next she was gone. Just like that – as if sensing my painful dilemma and saving me from the aftermath of it all. My first sensation was that of relief – relief that she isn’t suffering anymore, that she went away on her own, and that the pain and helplessness lasted for a brief time. And then the sharp jab of pain came. Who is going to peer from that screen door that opens up in the backyard? Who is going to patiently wait for us to come out and envelope her in a series of hugs? Who is going to have territorial fights with Mirchi and Kiara? Who is going to put her paw on my foot every time I tell her, ‘Can I go now?’ The jab was deeper than I thought it would be.
‘No more! No more!’ I could hear these words over and over again as Ajay lowered her into her grave ever so gently and covered her with a piece of cloth, carefully tucking her in. Its then that I saw my companions from the past line up next to her grave – the wagging tails and hearts full of dedicated love. So many had loved me and patiently waited by the door for me , sat on my laps when I was upset, crawled into my bed when mum was asleep and jumped off the moment they heard her alarm clock go off in the next room, eaten my lunch for me and sometimes raided the dessert right off the table, so many had been there. And there they stood, tails wagging furiously and eyes sparkling with love. In a flash, I knew – It is going to be okay. We are going to be okay. The pain will live with us for a while but then soon enough, it will tire and leave. What will be left would be fond memories of pure love and hearts brimming with joy that she gave us all.
‘I think I am going to miss her, mum.’ Vivaan’s tears tugged me out of my thoughts and I held him close.
‘I don’t think I like this part of it all,’ Ishaan said between sobs, huddling with us.
‘Which was the first pet you lost mum?’ Vivaan asked, trying to man up and fight the tears.
‘Umm…Johnny. I think I was your age.’
‘Jenny is my first.’ And he gave up on the ‘men-don’t-cry’ act.
Some more hugs and tears were in order.
Just then, Dobby and Mirchi bounded towards us chasing each other’s tightly coiled tails, unmindful of the grief that hung in the air, weighing us all down. They paused for a moment, slobbered all over our feet while shaking madly as the coiled tails wagged, and then promptly got back to the zoomies. A brief smile found its way on the boys’ face.
The grief of losing them eventually turns out to be a tiny part of the endless love they shower upon us. But for now, it hurts. Did I do enough? Was I as good to her as she was to me? Will anyone take her place? I just know the answer to the last one – No, no one will take her place – although other little bundles will wriggle their ways into our hearts with tiny little tongues sticking out, and ears bobbing up and down every time they run and slam straight into us. But her space remains hers – not empty but full of the generous tail –waggin’ love that she unconditionally gave us all.