It seems I have troubled your heart, but it is a tale recount I must. So that next time you see a dog pup scrapping the bins for crumbs, you don’t wince in disgust. And when you see one scurrying across the street from within your car, you do not swear.
Lest you feel miffed by the swipes of sorrow towards the end of each account, I wish to forewarn you this is the part of the story in which Leia doesn’t eat the ice cream.
Leia was stout, and she had a mischievous streak that none of us had even a slice of. She was the one to leap the highest at the hint of a treat leaving Kin’s fingers. She was the silent one who wrestled fiercely and bit the sharpest to prove a point, and it was often that I was the one at the receiving end. She had the longest nails with which she loved to dig holes in the flower beds much to the annoyance of the lazy gardener. She could rush through the stairs when we clambered up with much effort. She was the one who discovered that the stoned path turned four times around the block of houses to meet in the same place. She stole shoes and flipflops from behind the doors and taught us to nibble at the chewy strings. There was the time she lost her way in the maze of thickets though when Mama was gone. Somehow Bruno seemed to know just where she stood sniffing the blades of grass and he went closer to the place and began barking.
But after Leia was abducted and returned ridden with the Curse, she turned quiet like a spent wind. She sat with her neck craned at an angle and faded breath, her face riveted to the unseen all day long. Her eyes lost their shimmer and turned opaque and unreadable. The busy hum of her soul fell silent.
As the Vet had said, she had to be rehydrated each morning, Kin took her to the state-run dog clinic for the drips. She had to be shown to the curly haired doctor who had ignored her on the very first day.
‘A dog, anyway.’
Bella was also taken to the clinic as she had lost the desire to eat. One of the Kin’s daughters whom I call Gin held Bella in her lap and was standing next to him. The curly haired doctor didn’t even cast a glance towards them. Bella later heard Kin telling the man who had turned up with a fierce looking Rottweiler that the doctor earned a fat salary and was a load on the kind called taxpayers.
Leia’s hind legs were tied to a pole that rose from the dressing table. A needle was inserted deep into her vein near the elbow. It was connected to a pipe that went into an upturned bottle at the top of the pole. Leia lay still for a long time without even a whimper. As Gin took Bella away from that room that smelt of needles and lotions, they passed by a cheese coloured dog with big, kind eyes. Look, Bella! A Labrador! Gin told Bella with much happiness.
The Vet turned up again in the evening and our rumps were none the better for the pricks. Leia remained the focus of attention as he and Kin hovered over us. Bella seemed to be coping well with the disease. They seemed surprised that I had remained unaffected, but that didn’t seem to be good enough to spare me from the jabs.
That was the time when Bella and I became greater pals, since Leia had all but snapped off the thread of thoughts that held us together. And she had got this acrid stink that rose from within her. Even Mama wouldn’t go and lick her lovely polka-dotted snout.
The next day Leia was gone for the bottle and needle, Bella ate a quarter of the slice quoted with cheese that Min, the sister of Gin, brought for us. Leia had needed a special medicine that day and Kin had to put her on the seat next to him and drive his car for long before he could get it, because the clinic refused to look after her if he was to leave her behind. During the rides in the car, Leia would keep looking at Kin mutely. Even the day after that, when the attendant failed to locate her vein to which he could hook the needle, and shaved the fur off her leg from the elbow to the paws in an effort to find it, Kin had to drive for even longer for finding a new liquid and a smaller needle. He would drive and stop, go to places that smelt of more medicines, and come back disappointed. When he found the stuff he was looking far, he whistled when he came back and patted Leia on the head and said, Alright, baby. I still don’t know if Leia was groggy, or what she saw or thought when she would keep looking at Kin. She never let it seep into her eyes.
That was the day when Kin took Leia to a bigger doctor, who had round, shiny face and a shinier head without hair. He and Kin talked for a while after the bigger doctor felt Leia’s belly with a spoon like object. He said Leia looked better and she could eat some ice cream. When they came home, Leia blinked when she saw me. Although she wasn’t ready to lick me or be licked back, she put her face on her paws and eased her tongue. I went much closer to her and put my face on my paws too and looked into her eyes. For a brief while, I could know all that she had gone through at the clinic, and all that driving about with Kin. I could even smell the nights she had spent on a stinking mat in a tin box at her kidnapper’s home. It had a trellis window with edges that make pups bleed. Leia’s faint thoughts were back between her ears.
Leia was being bedded under the staircase on a purple coloured rug. Kin and his wife were relieved at Leia getting better and they laughed as they talked. Kin told her about the Rottweiler who had bitten off the bum of his vet and had to be brought to the clinic for needle jabs. And he told her about the Pug who was going to have pups without the permission of her keeper. They seemed worried about the thing called money, much of which seemed to have flown away from their home. It seems they had been paying loads of it to the vets and medicine stores.
Leia got tired just looking at me and I wandered off when her eyes closed in a stupor. Soon after that, I heard Kin’s wife calling Gin over the talker to not fetch the ice cream. Perhaps she had run out of money, I thought. But then I heard her addressing the gaunt faced janitor next. Kin was nowhere to be seen or felt.
Leia’s grave was dug next to Bruno’s. Everyone was stunned by the swiftness of Leia’s passing. In the evening, the Vet appeared with his bloated leather case. He said Leia would have lived if she could have crossed the important threshold of that day. Then to ease Kin’s pain, he offered to get a Labrador for him from a champion line. He would ensure small money passed hands in the deal. They are the best dog a man can have.
Perhaps a man can have the best dog, but can a dog have the best man?