Just because he is cute does not mean Bagha was not a naughty boy!
Bagha was an individual by his own right. I remember he vanished for days and went to live with his lady, when she was in heat, over the hill on the other side of our house.
Just one fine day, he would take off and not return for days. While I cried endlessly, the entire family joined in a chorus calling out to him – Bagha! Come home! But there was no sight of him.
It was only once that he showed up at the top of the hill, while we called like people gone mad and wagged his tail. I was sure he was going to come down, but he actually didn’t! Having had a good view of all of us, he just went back to the house on top, whose roof is all we could see.
“Maybe you can take a half-day off at work,” we suggested to our cook, who worked in a government office and lived with us, “he is in that house, which can be approached easily from your Office.”
The cook agreed to go, but only after his work was over at 4pm.
We waited anxiously thinking that Bagha would return with him. We imagined that he would be very happy to see the cook and come with him, immediately.
He didn’t. The cook could not find him in the house. Nor could he find any other dog there. He returned without a smile on his face. And just as he returned and we all weighed heavily with grief, we heard Bagha barking on the top of the hill, once again!
“Come home!” we wailed in unison, but he was his own man. He did what he wanted, at his time.
Then one day, he returned and was well received! There was joy and celebration in the house and he got a big bone to chew.
Shortly after that he was at his worse again. Chicken were being killed with jealousy. Really, we were desperate!
Then, the taxi driver gave us an idea. Two days later, Bagha was locked in the back-hold of the car and taken many kilometers away and left there. He would find his home there it was presumed by the elders of the family.
The stunned silence in the house was palpable. Nobody talked to each other during those days. People avoided each other’s eyes and they looked away when they spoke to each other. There was a shroud that covered the house we called our home. And the silence went on and on, its sound deafening as it were. Then one night, I woke to the sound of a whimper.
“Bagha is back!” I screamed. It was night and everyone was sleeping, but we all woke up and opened the door to find out if it was true. Indeed, it was!
And the morning rose next day with happy faces, laughter and joy. People chatted meaninglessly. The cloud which hung over our house had passed. Bagha had returned in the middle of the night, all the way from Upper Shillong, trailing back with the smell of the taxi in his nostril!
The strongest instinct in a dog is his sense of smell. He can smell his Master miles away from him. He may recognize you while he is standing 20 feet away from you, just because of the smell, he recognizes to be yours. He cannot see, over three feet away in front of him.
The return of Bagha also made me realize what I had gone through. It was my first experience of nights of light sleep. I had never known it before.
Giving away your pet or just leaving him in unknown territory can be life threatening for him. He may survive or he may perish. We as owners need to understand that the well-bred dog on the street is one that has survived the torture of the street, when its owner sent him out or began to disown it.
There is absolutely no reason to send a pet on the street, unless we as owners are ready to take to the streets ourselves.
Indeed, they jolly well can survive on the streets and in the open, if we as humans did not desire to put them in a cage, we call our home.
Animals are born free!
Stories from childhood by Julia Dutta in anticipation of Terry and His Little Brothers
Photo credit: Unknown, via email share.