Content warning: Tragedy and death
When I settled into my current room about two months ago, I was most excited to realise that I had a direct view of adorable stray puppies from my window. Every morning, I would check on them immediately after waking up. Sometimes I would sit at the edge of my bed for an hour, watching them play with each other, and often troubling their mom. There were five of them—two black, two white and one brown. Some kind kids from the block had brought a huge red dog bed for them, that we often found them huddled in. Watching them between nine and ten am was my favourite thing to do, because a four-year old Golden Retriever, by the name of Brownie (who I had also made friends with) came down during this time and the puppies often played with her.
I decided to feed them milk, bread and eggs. I don’t know if they identified just the smell or if they were also beginning to identify me, but they would come running, or well, hopping on their four tiny legs, whenever they would see me. It was the most joyous thing in my day. If I’d miss seeing them in the morning because I had to rush, I’d come in the evening (with no food) and they’d still run towards me. Each time I’d have to pour the milk in the container, they’d look up so intently and get in the way, so the milk would invariably end up on their faces on its way down to the container. Sometimes they’d even lick each other’s faces—they were so hungry. I always made a mental note to bring two packets of milk the next time, and somehow I never did. In the winter, in January, they’d huddle together to form what my friend called a ‘puppy puddle’, but as it grew warmer, I’d often find them sleeping peacefully in the shade. Sometimes I’d have to give them a little tap on their tiny heads to wake them up.
It was the day the Delhi riots reached a head. I had just come back after spending two days in Delhi and a friend told me that one of the puppies had passed away. Apparently, someone had seen it happen too. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I actually approached that person and asked her to describe to me what had happened. She told me that another pack of male dogs, that live in the same park, attacked the puppies when their mother wasn’t around. I will refrain from sharing more details. It turned out it was one of the black puppies, and I hate to acknowledge this, but it was my favourite one. It would also lead the charge when they were running towards me. It would jump the highest whenever I was playing with them. It had once given me a hi-five. I obviously couldn’t contain my grief, and I rushed to the park immediately to check on the four that were left. I couldn’t see any of them at first, but they eventually came running when they saw me. I didn’t need to count, there were only four. Tears were streaming down my face relentlessly, but there was no change in the puppies’ behaviour. They still wanted to play, and they were still disappointed I had visited them without any food. I decided that I must feed them more to make them stronger and to help them grow faster.
The next morning, I went down with food. Brownie and her owner were also here. The owner asked me if I knew where the fifth puppy was. I repeated that he is dead at least thrice, but the owner was an elderly man and he couldn’t hear me. He called the gardener and asked him again. The gardener said “wo khatam ho gaya”. I didn’t need to hear it again, but the gardener told us how it happened once more. Then he said, “look I had buried him over them (pointing near a bush where flowers had begun to grow) but these other puppies dug him out again this morning. They don’t seem to understand he’s dead”.
I grieved for the puppy for many days, and eventually I just made peace with the fact that at least four had survived. I continued to feed them and visit them, but as I grew busier, my visits became less frequent. I ended up going back home for a week during the Holi holidays. When I came back, I stood at my window but I couldn’t see them. I asked one of my friends and he said he’s seen one of them a few days ago. May be they’ve grown a lot by now and go in search of food every morning. That made sense. It had been raining very heavily and the park was getting very muddy. I’ll see them as soon as I can, I thought. Their red dog bed was there, and since they were no longer sleeping in it, I assumed they’ve now grown out of their infancy and must be frolicking here and there.
Spring came swiftly. This morning, when I looked down at the park from my window, I noticed that the red dog bed wasn’t there. “The gardener should have let it be, just in case they wanted to sleep in it again”, I thought. On my way to campus, I went into the park to check on the puppies. I noticed how the park looked beautiful with many different colours of flowers in bloom. I approached the spot where I’d usually find them sleeping, but they weren’t there. I walked a bit ahead, and they didn’t come running. I saw the gardener at a distance and I went up to him. Where are the four little puppies? I asked. He said “wo toh khatam ho gaye.” They were all dead. All four of them. He told me that when it rained really heavily three days in a row, they fell sick, wandered away and were found dead in different locations around the residential block. I was stunned into silence. Tears had already started rolling down my cheeks, so I turned away immediately. I didn’t even have the heart to ask him where the puppies had been buried. I looked down and saw a yellow flower lying on the ground, uprooted from wherever it was growing.
Life can need so little, and sometimes so much, to grow. Rest easy, my puppies, I will come and feed you soon.