“Because dogs live in the present. Because dogs don’t hold grudges. Because dogs let go of all of their anger daily, hourly, and never let it fester. They absolve and forgive with each passing minute. Every turn of a corner is the opportunity for a clean slate. Every bounce of a ball brings joy and the promise of a fresh chase.”
— ‘Lily and The Octopus’ by Steven Rowley
“Cheech, is that you?” I instantly recognise my friend K’s canine friend because he is holding a tennis ball in his mouth. Cheech can’t answer because I just told you. He has got a ball in his mouth.
There can be a million of German Shepherds in the whole wide world. But there can be only one Cheech. And he is my K’s, and hers.
“But Cheech, I haven’t channelised my inner Sybill Trelawney today. You didn’t even give me an opportunity to look all hippie, and redo my room with flashy colours, and crystal balls, and all that to summon spirits,” I begin to complain. Cheech drops the ball, and walks toward me. He might be old, but senility can’t deter Cheech’s invincible spirit, and his unconditional love. I scratch behind his ears; he plonks beside me. “What are you doing here?” Cheech doesn’t answer. He simply sighs.
It’s been one month since Cheech passed away. Ideally, he should have gone home, if he wanted to have a quick chat with his folks. But no. He is here, in my room.
He doesn’t seem to be in a mood to answer any of my questions. So, I would never know why he chose me for this rendezvous. I am grateful all the same.
“Cheech, what do you think of death?” I make him field the question that’s been haunting so many of us since he left last month. He yawns. “Don’t you think death sucks? Everybody is missing you. K wishes that she could be with you for just five more minutes,” I persist. Cheech scratches his ear using his hind leg. He licks his paw which touched his ear, and lies on the floor. His eyebrows rise, and crash.
I want to call K, and tell her that Cheech is in my room. In his spirit-form. But K would kick me in my derrière because she is a militant atheist. Hence, I decide to have the conversation all by myself.
“Would you like some ice-cubes, Cheech?” He tilts his ears. That signature gesture. That tilt which can change our world’s axis. That tilt that can exorcise our demons. That tilt that can fill our hearts with happiness. I rush out to the living room, collect a couple of ice-cubes, and offer one to Cheech. He gently collects it.
My room now echoes the beautiful sound of Cheech enjoying his ice-cube.
“Kruk! Kruk! Kruk!”
I rub his belly, massage his chest, and suddenly remember that I must tell him important things. Like everybody loves him, and everybody misses him… But no. Cheech is here not for that. I am not sure what has brought him here. But no. I am not going to let the futility of words fill our meaningful silence. This moment. This has to be just this way.
Three hours? 30 minutes? I am not sure how long we spent like that. But when I wake up, Cheech is lying next to me. I see his ears which are dancing to the tunes of July zephyr that enters through my tiny window. His fur reflects the thin rays of evening sun. He takes a deep breath.
If I had a jar that was enormous (or a Pensieve), I would have captured that moment, and preserved it. I would have taken it to K only to replay the moment. I would have taken it to her grieving family to give them that extra memory. But there can never be a jar big enough to hold such a precious moment. It is beyond sizes and shapes and thoughts and words.
Maybe, my thoughts were loud. Cheech wakes up. He stretches like a seasoned yoga master. Who said old dogs are lazy? He walks briskly toward the balcony door. I understand him. “Did you hear the squirrel, Cheech?”
I open the door, as a wave of sunshine washes over us.
Cheech steps out with his gaze fixed on a squirrel who is working on a nut. He takes his first step. Slowly. He takes another step. Slightly faster than the first one. The squirrel drops the nut. Cheech now begins to trot, and then takes a long leap, while the squirrel tries to escape.
The duo hides, and seeks, and they repeat.
The evening sun goes down, and they play, and play, and play.