The first time, I remember, I had a pet was when I was a little girl, in my hometown in Shillong, Meghalaya, India.
It was a little puppy called Tiger. He had a shining black nose and a coat that was brown. He hung around with me wherever I went.
When I sat for lunch, he sat outside the kitchen and dining room, waiting eagerly for me to throw him food from my plate. Actually, Tiger got his food first on a plate near his sleeping house – his kennel. But as soon as he saw me at the table, he would leave his and rush towards me.
In our traditional home in Shillong, the kitchen was away from the rest of the other rooms. It had its attached room, which we used as a dining room.
Tiger and I shared a number of stories together. Of course, I was the talker and he the listener whose tail wagged incessantly in approval of what I said.
“Don’t tell anyone,” I would say, “but there are some cookies you and I can share, as soon as there is no one to see us, taking some.”
He wagged and smiled. Have you ever seen dogs smiling? They do if you are watchful. The point of this cookie stealing was that he and I had already been given our share in the morning, which is one each.
The strict rules that governed our sweet tooth, was often flaunted by him and I together, when we stole from the cookie jar.
My God, I remember the excitement. While he whimpered, I tiptoed to the jar and picked up the cookies. My heart beat rapidly and I can truly say that the little heart inside both of us, had a very good exercise when we did that naughty thing!
Tiger knew everything about me. I told him all. After all, there was no one I could talk to, but him. He was my friend and my sibling so to say. I slept thinking about him and woke up thinking of him. Even before I saw my mother, I wanted to see Tiger.
So why did he vanish one day, without telling me? When I woke up and did not find him, I began to cry. It was a cold winter day in Shillong and my mama said, tomorrow he would return.
Tiger never did, but sure enough, Bagha, a black puppy did. I threw all my emotions into Bagha. He was not really Tiger, but why did he fill me up, just like Tiger did?
I know what it feels to have a full heart.
Stories from childhood by Julia Dutta, in anticipation of Terry and His Little Brothers.
Picture credit: st2.india.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/untitled-11.jpg