Jimmy Boy - Part 3

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Continues from Jimmy Boy - Part 2

After a few years in Guntur our family moved to Vijayawada, as Mom got a job as a lecturer in a famous college. We sold our house and moved lock, stock and barrel to Vijayawada. This was the turning point in Jimmy's life as we had moved into a house which had 2 other portions. This meant Jimmy had to be kept on leash lest he wandered into the neighbour's area and relieved himself. He immensely disliked it having enjoyed unimaginable freedom for the first 10 years of his life. He barked for days on end, tugged at the leash and made several futile attempts to chew away the leash. To ease his pain we made a longish leash which ensured he could wander till the confines of our house. He got used to this over the months but he still severely missed the wide open yard, his old pals – the garden lizards and the butterflies.

In the first few days though he was the cynosure of all eyes because of his unique looks and mixed heritage. Since he was put on a leash and had little freedom, me and my brother and occasionally Dad took him out each morning and evening on a tour of the colony. It gave him an opportunity to meet the neighbourhood dogs and sniff new scents. He and the other dogs were on quite friendly terms and I should say this veteran was quite a hit with the females (of both species, dogs and humans). Which brings me to his sex life, which I should sadly admit was non-existent till then! I was in my teens then and understood that all animals had such wants and wondered if this celibate would ever have that opportunity. I never dared suggest this to Dad though.

Then one day, Jimmy disappeared. His leash was torn and he wasn't to be found anywhere. We searched the neighbourhood on bicycles and those who knew us and Jimmy if he was seen anywhere, but to no avail. Then word came through a domestic help who works in another part of the region that he was spotted there. We rushed ther but again he managed to elude us. We came back with heavy hearts fearing that he ran away from us, which was very difficult to digest. Mom sent us to School so that we would put it behind us but it was impossible to pay any attention to what was happening. We went back home in the evening and found that he hasn't returned yet. We quickly set out in search of him again. Just as we came out of the house, we saw him in a distance, dragging himself back. He looked very tired and ragged but I was sure I saw a look of immense satisfaction on his face. He drank a lot of water and ate whatever Mom gave him. We were all of course thrilled that he was back with us! I did not realise it at the moment but when I later thought about it I hoped he found the only thing missing from his life till then, which i mentioned above! That probably explained the look of satisfaction I saw on his face. The grizzly veteran finally did it (hopefully)!

It was amazing that he lived so long. By 1996 he was 14, a rare age for a Dog. Age mellowed him and also ravaged his body. He lost most of his brownish mane was his skin was a mass of open wounds. He lost his appetite and eyesight. He would frequently bump into the wall or the bushes while walking. He developed fits later on and it after that he refused to come out for walks and rarely ventured out of his kennel. We took him to a Vet who was amazed that he lived so long and advised us against any medicines as he was very very old and should be allowed to die a natural death. We considered mercy killing but were not able to bring ourselves to do it.

It was March 10th 1996. The Cricket World Cup was on and India was playing Pakistan in a tense Quarterfinal match at Bangalore. The whole of India was watching it with bated breath as India riding on a Jadeja onslaught on Waqar posted a challenging total for Pakistan. We were watching the match in the neighbouring house at our relatives place, Anwar and Sohail started in a superb fashion. Everyone was fearing the worst and there was silence in the room. Since we were just next door we heard Mom calling us. Looking from the gate I feared the worst as Dad was bringing a rickshaw and mom was standing there sobbing. Jimmy had died a few minutes back. Me and my brother sobbed uncontrollably. We buried him in an open field nearby.

By the time we came back, word had spread that Jimmy died and the neighbours and our relatives congregated to offer their condolences and console us. Our relatives took us with them thinking the cricket match would help divert attention. Venkatesh Prasad clean bowled Aamir Sohail (the famous incident that is recounted by every cricket fan, wide eyed) and the room erupted. It was probably the only time we dint cheer when India did well in a cricket match.
Even now when we see replays of that incident, I feel a sense of loss. Jimmy was like the third son to our parents and a dear brother. He gave us a lot of memories to recount. Its almost 11 years to the day since he died and I have never recounted Jimmy's life in this detail to anyone. These are the bits of memories we share whenever the family conversation diverts to him! He holds a special place in our hearts.

Jimmy Boy - Part 2

Continues from Jimmy Boy - Part 1
Jimmy loved us all a lot, of course, as any other dog would love his adopted family. He would wag his long tail and lick us all over the face after we came back from school. We would then share our evening snack with him before proceeding to do our homework. He loved Dad too, he never let Dad go into the house after he came back from work unless he patted him and nuzzled him, but as much as he liked Dad he was also petrified of him. No one quite knew why, my dad never even hit him, but he was scared none the less. If he wasn't behaving himself and wouldn't listen to us, all it took was a shout from Dad and he would quiet down immediately, bow his head, put his tail down and walk away. It was an amazing sight, as we never even trained him to obey commands. But he was Jimmy, and he had an aggressive streak in him! He had strong likes and dislikes and me and my brother fell in the former category. Much as he was afraid of Dad, he would start barking at Dad if he found we were at the receiving end of one of Dad's rare outbursts of anger. Visitors to our house of course never believed this. So we put up a show for their benefit. Dad would suddenly call out our names, show mock anger and start scolding us, sometimes using a ruler for effect. His shouts never failed to attract Jimmy who would come dashing to the entrance, stand on the steps and start barking at Dad drawing chuckles and claps from visitors. Jimmy never understood why everyone was serious one moment and laughing the next and would go on barking for some more time probably realising that we pulled a fast one on him.

He loved splashing himself in puddles of water after a strong spell of rain and cover himself with mud, but it wasn't as though he particularly liked water. If he suspected that we were going to give him a bath, he would run away. We had to corner him, avoid his teeth and leash him to get him a bath. Since we stayed in the tropics, we would typically use the cold water from the well, drawing it out using a long bucket and dumping buckets upon buckets of water upon him. He would bear this for a while (perhaps secretly enjoying the cool water from the well), but just as we were thinking that he was taking this lying down, he would shake himself and drench us in water. His mane would stand up all over him and once finished, he would give us a long satisfied triumphant yelp.

As for his dislikes, it included any foreign creature invading his territory. One of Jimmy's favourite pastimes was to sit near the gate and peep from the grill and 'greet' anyone walking on the street. He particularly disliked the early risers from the neighbouring labour colony who attended calls of nature early in the morning. But anyone trying to squat anywhere near the vicinity of the house was scared away by a ferocious volley of abuse from Jimmy. It amused Dad a lot as he unsuccessfully tried to shoo them away from doing the disgusting thing near our house.
But Jimmy had a pet hate, his bete noir, in the form of another Dog called Johnny. Johnny was a nondescript but was fed by our neighbours and he would move in and out of their house at will, roaming the neighbourhood quite freely. He was also quite strong unlike other street dogs as he was well fed by the kindly neighbours but had the aggressive streak of a street dog. No one quite knew how or why Jimmy and Johnny hated each other so much, but they would let out a string of insults at each other whenever Johnny passed in front of our house. In fact Johnny would make sure Jimmy was at the gate, wait if he wasn't and made sure he made his feelings known. He also frequently trailed the neighbours whenever they paid a visit to the house, unsuccessfully trying to sneak in to our house. We knew what would happen if he came in and made sure the gate was always locked. But one day Johnny and Jimmy were having a particularly bad day and Johnny just rushed in the moment we opened the door a little. What followed was a fierce battle between the two dogs. They fell over each other, bit and scratched each other and made so much racket that it borough the entire neighbourhood to our house. No one dared go near them for fear of getting bitten by one or both the dogs. For us it was a pain to watch as Jimmy, although holding up quite well in a fight against a seasoned street fighter, appeared tot be losing the fight. Just when it started looking bad, the neighbour's son walked straight into the middle of the two dogs and kicked Johnny so severely he fell a few feet away and ran out of the gate, leaving Jimmy, quite literally licking his wounds. He was given medical attention by a Vet and recovered quite soon but his hate and fear of Johnny only increased after that. Thankfully after that both never had a chance to shake hands again.

Dogs love food and it was probably his bad luck that he was adopted into a Telugu Brahmin household. During the initial years in the Old house his chances of eating meat were few and far between as there was no one who could buy meat and feed it to him. It was still socialist India where you couldn't go to the local Hypermarket and buy Dog food off the shelf. His luck improved when we moved into the new house. We had a domestic help whose responsibility it was to buy meat every Sunday and feed Jimmy. Needless to say Jimmy saw the lady as an Angel.

Jimmy Boy - Part 1

He came into our family in April of 1982 when he was barely few days old, just a few months younger than my younger brother (Phani) who was born in the January of the same year. My dad’s friend brought him in a small basket. He was pale white and very tiny just like any newborn pup. However a brownish mane started appearing after just a few days. I did not know it at that time, but I was later told that he was a cross between a dachshund and an Alsatian. So he was slightly taller than a dachshund, but had the looks of an Alsatian. He had to be named and this onerous task fell upon my young shoulders. I tried to shirk away trying to get my brother in. But since all he could manage was childish gibberish I had to take up the enormous task. Creativity has never been my strong point even at the age of 2 years! So I was given a choice – Tiger and Jimmy. I had two strong objections to the first option. First of all, how can you call a Dog a Tiger? This clearly stemmed from my ‘education’, which had started just then! I could tell a tiger from a dog and there is no way my family could hoodwink me into believing it by naming a dog a tiger. Secondly, what if the poor thing started believing he was a tiger! The very thought was scary. So it came to pass that he was named ‘Jimmy’!

Jimmy was snatched away from his family at a tender age and forced to live with another, of a different species. But there was no way he was going to know it or realize it. As far as he was concerned we were his family and our home was his home. And he proceeded to show it in the strongest possible ways. Like roaming all over the house and marking his ‘territory’! Like yapping at everything inside the house that he dint like. That included immovable objects and sometimes moving things like my brother’s cradle. So my parents' daily duties included cleaning after my brother and Jimmy.

The only time he used to behave himself was when my paternal grand mom used to read out Sanskrit slokas from the Bhagavadgita and other hymns. He used to lie at my grandma’s feet with his head between his legs and seemed to listen to everything she said with rapt attention. My granny used to teach me all the stories from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and other Puranic Stories. And I used to enjoy these and clamored for more. She could understand the enthusiasm and curiosity of a 2 yr old kid. But the attention and apparent interest of a Dog was something she fancied a lot. But his intransigences with his calls of nature became too much for the collective patience of the family. Moreover, he refused to learn the art of dashing out at the right time. Hence he was banished into the open.

My father’s reasoning was that he was getting bigger and needed more space to roam around. And wasn’t ‘security’ part of his duties. He believed that Jimmy should start behaving like a grown-up. The first few nights were painful for him, the family and the neighbours. He yelped all night and proceeded to sleep only in the mornings. But like any other dog, he got used to it with time. Part of the reason was that he had a huge open field to explore. Within no time, he knew he was the king of the yard. He chased after butterflies and hunted garden lizards and barked at crows perched over the compound walls. But he had a special bond with a band of monkeys that terrorized the neighbourhood. These monkeys would descend on the colony and create havoc by shattering the street lights and also the neighbourhood peace, eating the fruit in gardens and attacking anyone who dared to question their activities.

As I said they had a special bond with Jimmy. They liked nothing more than irritating him. It was a well planned and precisely executed operation, which had to be seen to be believed. All the monkeys would perch on the well in our garden and taunt Jimmy, while Jimmy tried desperately to get anywhere near them. Suddenly one of these apes would stealthily approach Jimmy from behind and pull his tail and before the dog could even turn his head, the monkey would scamper back to the safety of the wall. It used to drive Jimmy crazy, but all he could do was bark, run around the well and jump at the simian creatures. Once the monkeys were tired of the games they would take leave of their buddy and retreated into the next row of houses leaving Jimmy barking after them.

As he grew up, he quickly became aware of my dad's contention that security was part of his duties. The only problem was the definition of security was never clearly explained to him, so he proceeded to create his own definition. So anyone without a security clearance were strictly forbidden from entering anywhere near his vicinity. This applied to lizards, crows, his monkey pals and neighbours he dint like. He took exception to anyone outside the family standing in front yard and chatting away. He would walk around them and mark them as part of his territory. It was as though he was saying “Go inside and talk or stand outside the gate and talk. You stand in my yard and talk, you end up as my territory! You will be marked with my hybrid pee”

A few of the neighbours were at the wrong end of this treatment, but instead of getting angry at him, they reminisced about it fondly. In fact soon they started comparing notes and those who weren't touched by his mighty pee were deemed unfortunate. But as I said, he did take his security duties very seriously and managed to scare away a thief or two, as vouched by the next door neighbours. In fact whenever they went out of town, Jimmy was made aware so that he could keep an eye on the neighbour's house.

When he was about 6 (and I about 8) we moved to our own house in a different area. He strongly disliked this change of place and dashed back to the house when we were transporting him in a rickshaw. He felt insecure and scared and rightly so! However once he saw the new house, he fell in love with it. It had an even bigger yard and a lot more creatures to pester. He missed his simian friends, but loved the high grass, into which he would disappear for long hours. Once again he was the King, of a different jungle though! So it dint matter to him one bit that we moved to a new place.

The previous house was part of a residential neighbourhood and there was very less chance of the yard being infested with snakes. So we were allowed to roam freely in the old yard. But the new house was something else, it was surrounded by open fields and so snakes became regular visitors inside the house. Again, it was Jimmy to the rescue. I have lost count of the number of times he found snakes hidden under a pile of stones or a bush or a thick outgrowth of grass. If he was found barking for a few minutes at an apparently harmless stone, the message was that there was something lurking underneath. Immediately the local snake charmer was summoned, who happily extricated the unsuspecting snake and reward Jimmy with a pat on his head.

Me and my brother (we dint have many friends in the deserted colony) used to play cricket in the big yard and Jimmy would keep watch. He wasn't allowed near the ball. Now we were only two of us and would have loved the extra fielder, but it doesn't help if the said fielder runs away with the ball, does it? So he would just totter in the area sulking. But sometimes being a nice boy was too much for him. My brother would play a sumptuous straight drive and the ball appears headed towards the boundary, when Jimmy would appear out of nowhere, execute a Jonty style dive and make away with the ball. It used to take us a while to retrieve the ball after which we would have a long argument whether it was a boundary of not.