It is rightly said that if you have to teach a child empathy, you cannot do better than to introduce him to apet from anearly age onwards. Apart from the obvious emotional benefits of having a creature to nurture, love and be loved selflessly and joy on unadulterated attachment, they also manage to introduce a semblance of physical activity in their lives by keeping them away from too much of sedentary indulgence on phone or television or computer and introduce the benefit of assuming responsibilities at a tender age. Well, all this deep introspection did not come to me so early in life when Jimmy limped into our lives one winter evening.
It was not as if we did not have pets before that. Thanks to my older brother, our house was home to a series of pets one after the other and no species was too exotic or too alien for his tender heart. So we had two rabbits one docile and the other psychotic, pigeons in a coop fashioned after the nawabs of Lucknow who indulged in that sport, hamster borrowed from his friend’s house, one pup after another some stolen, some borrowed, some dumped, well, you get the drift.
So, it was a bit of a surprise that when Jimmy walked in , there was a period of lull in the house, brought about by my brother’s impending Board exams which necessitated his being grounded from running after another of his whims. The house was kind of grave and silent, when one fine day a rickshaw puller who illegally plunked his rickshaw in our premises every night, brought along with him a street mongrel, badly injured. On being prodded he mentioned that he was beaten by an affluent neighbor for playing with his pet dogs. The dog was traumatized and in severe pain. He needed immediate medical attention and that dull, dreary winter night we brought him home since he was whimpering away in the cold outside and dissolved some OTC painkillers in the warm milk to alleviate his pain. The dark eyes of that blue mongrel shone majestically against the light and for the two of us siblings, he was the grandest dog we had even come across. He had that air of regality about him which his dismal circumstances couldn’t sublimate.
The next day, we took him to the vet and got his leg bandaged. The doctor stated that since the broken bone had not received any attention in the last two – three day, he might never fully recover and will forever walk with a limp. This was nowhere a deterrent however for his vivacious self and he was the happiest, friendliest dog we had ever known. He was friends with the cat, sparrows would rest on his head, and he would lick unknown pups and be friends with all.
We never felt any need to keep him confined. He was let loose at all times and whenever it would be meal times or nap times, he would sneak back to the house. He would not bark but scratch the door to be let in and once inside never once did he bark or cry for food. He would have whatever was offered to him without a single protest and would be forever ready to give us a warm hug or nudge. He was the best guard dog, we ever had in the house or outside and God have mercy on the soul to who dared cross path with my mom or us siblings.
His passing away was as gentle as the being he was, quiet and dignified and it is our eternal tribute to that ennobled creature that since then neither I nor my brother ever felt the need or urge or desire to get another pet. There could be no second ‘Jimmy’ for us.