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.