Dear Finn, I don’t even know where to begin. But the skies get creepy like a hole in the mouth of a snake with each passing hour. And darkness falls like flakes and sinks into the soul of the dogdom. Before long, my voice will be lost to the howls and ululations. But this story of kindness and cruelty must be whispered to the posterity.
It was chilly and smeary, but moist and warm. Limbs pressed on limbs and fur kissed the fur. The first things the licks told me was to suckle for life. Amidst spongy jostling for tits which were many in Mama’s pits. She had such a huge tongue and she was black as black could be. Except the colourless smattering of her underside and paws. This lack of blackness I later learned was called white. I found we all had that when I learnt to see. Patches like a moth or a butterfly in between the eyes or back of our necks. And the tips of the tails and paws. Bella was mostly black and Leia was both black and not. My brother Bruno had the whites on his forelegs and belly. And on his snout. He had a spray of black about his muzzle, but the rest of him was brown. No one else had this rare colour. Except the Daddy dog who barked at night sometimes and made me wet my furs.
There was the Fifth one too who never got named. Its coat fell in between Bella and Leia in shades. and it had a wee white triangle on its back. Its sex is one of the missing pieces of the story.
Tongue to tongue, Mama told us about the wilderness beyond our cardboard home. There were two kinds of us in existence, we learnt. One, called pets, who lived with the humans who ruled the planet under a yellow sun. The others like us who lived on their own and were called strays. Life was thorny for us. We were hounded and brutalised for just being alive. Food was hard to come by. Even as the pets were showered with kibbles and chewy delicacies, we were destined to starve. We scavenged the neighbourhood for leftovers and discarded stuff. We had to hunt for rats sometimes to make ends meet. If we were lucky, we caught pigeons too. Pigeons have wings and can fly away before one could wag a tail.
At times, Mama would scare us to sleep with stories about the snake that roamed the yards just beyond our doors. Then there was the ghost of the pet dog who was buried down the path to the south. One scary night that I find difficult to forget, the ghost turned up and hung atop the house. It whined and wailed about the last food it could not eat in its bowl. The snake came too, or perhaps it was the hand of a human witch. All night long, the high winds blew and the Daddy dog barked, and Mama growled at us for the first time. We shuddered and scratched the earth as if there was no tomorrow. And the Fifth one vanished for ever.
I turn in the air and feel the faint pulses of a dog that was run over by a speeding beast that I know is called a car. Her shiny black coat was wet with blood and lifeless liquids. I know it had to be Mama, because the bubbles on the wind mewl at me exactly in the ways she had fed me and licked me. And whispered to me of dangers awaiting us out there. But that happened much later when the humans of the gated society summoned the Dog Squad. They came in with meshed ropes and cudgels. And a round-legged vehicle which was a mobile prison. Within no time she was captured and thrown in it with a thump. They drove away for an hour before letting her go at a place she couldn’t return from. For days after that, she was attacked by murderous gangs of strays of our own kind before it all ended suddenly as she was scampering to escape them.
Those blacks and whites and ash and brown. They fused to give me the colour of my coat. The colour that contained all of us together. In happiness and pain, in life and death. They remain together even if they have gone away, one after the other. Like birds from a far-off land. But it must be Bruno about whom I should tell you, before I speak of anyone else worth his hue.
(Continued in Bruno’s Story)