“Hitler… Gandhi… Hmmm… Tiger…” My sister read a list of names. With her eyes fixed on the computer, she continued. “Jimmy… Tommy…” Those were thrown by Google when she had searched for ‘English names for male dogs.’ 🙂 I looked at the little black dog that was sleeping under the table, and I looked at my sister, who was scrolling the mouse feverishly. “I want to name him Raghu,” I declared. Looking at the dog, my sister asked me, “Does he look like a Raghu to you? He is going to be CALVIN.” I reluctantly agreed.
She trotted to the kitchen, where my mother was boiling milk for the dog. “Calvin. Do you like the name, amma?” she asked. My mother wore a bright smile. She carried the dog, kissed on his forehead, and whispered into his ears. “Calvin. Calvin. Calvin.”
Out first pet had officially arrived. It was May 2003.
Before we took Calvin to the vet, my dad asked us, “Do we really need a dog?” We all nodded. “Do you think we would be able to cope when he dies?” Mum gently reminded him that it was too early to discuss that. Calvin was only a month old then.
Dad was not effusively fond of Calvin then. But, he began to treat him like his third child. My mum, my sister, and I doted on him. Calvin thought my mum’s idlis were balls. She wasn’t offended when he threw it up in the air, and played with it after downing a dozen of it. He derived immense pleasure by chewing my economics textbook. (I didn’t like the subject though.) He loved sinking his teeth into my sister’s best clothes. We all forgave him. Because who could be mad at such an adorable ball of fur?
We still forgave him when he befriended all the strangers who visited us. We thought he would bark at them. But he chose to wag his tail. We still forgave him when he demanded a thief – who stole a couple of water-cans – to pet him. From the milkman to the domestic-help, everybody knew that the dog was a harmless four-legged child. They all reciprocated his love. It was a bittersweet feeling to learn that Calvin was utterly friendly. 🙂
But, I was mad at Calvin, when he let a cat step on him, and jump out. I raised my voice, and asked him, “Are you not ashamed? A cat stepped on you? A cat!” Calvin ignored my rant, heaved a deep sigh, and slipped into slumber. And, that was Calvin.
He was there for my mother, when she battled clinical depression. He proved my relatives wrong, when they told my dad, “You must abandon your dog. You are going to have a grandchild, and the dog would bite the baby’s face.” Calvin slept beside my nephew’s cradle everyday, as though he was his guardian. He cleaned my face, when salt water escaped my eyes every time. He listened attentively when I shared my dark secrets with him. He brought my dad back on his toes, by demanding him to walk him, despite dad’s fractured leg. He shared his riches with my second dog Boo. I was amazed at how accommodative Calvin was. When he didn’t have a lot of things to do, he was still always there. ❤
12.5 years after he entered our lives, we had to let Calvin go today. He had an inoperable tumour in his stomach. The whole process of letting him go was painful for us. However, we are glad that we chose to give him a painless, peaceful exit.
My sister, who lives in the US now, had a video chat with him a few minutes before he left, shed buckets of tears, and told him how much she missed being there for him. My mother gathered immense courage to accompany us to the graveyard, and recalled a slew of stories about the boy. My father was inconsolable even after we returned home. I hope Calvin was fully aware that he was loved by his family. While I wanted a shoulder to lean on, it looked like it was my moment to hold the family together.
My nephew, who is incurably in love with Calvin, phoned me a while ago. In an impassive tone, I told him, “Shravan, you don’t have to cry. The world is full of Calvins. You can see Calvin in every dog.” I could hear him clear his throat. And, I was sure that he stifled his tears. He meditated for a minute, and agreed. Thus, our day, which seemed excruciatingly long, came to a quiet end.
After we buried Calvin, my mother told me that we shouldn’t adopt another dog after Boo. But, I told myself that I am not going to stop practising what Calvin taught me — to adore animals, and share my roof with them. Calvin might have taken a piece of my heart, creating a permanent dent. But in other ways, he seemed to have created more room in my heart to carry more animals. ❤
A couple of months after we adopted Calvin, on a stormy night, my sister asked me, “How would we take when Calvin dies?” I looked at the ceiling, and the little black dog that was sleeping in our room, and told my sister, “I don’t know.”
But, it looks like, the answer occurred to me when I comforted Shravan today.