He lay still in our living area, occupying almost all of the living room space we had in our small house. I was scared to go near him, he was more beastly than any dog i have seen. Alfi was our first dog, or the best blessing.
He came into our life in my late teens, those irresponsible days. From a Vice-Chancellor’s bungalow to a middle class small home, it must have been really hard for him. I knew he was weeping within, for his previous owners (his mother, the lady who raise him) did cry when they left him with us. I don’t know why my Dad (i call him Appa) let him in. I intend to ask him one day but now the answer would be obviously biased, by his love for him.
My mother (i call her Amma) never liked dogs till Alfi ‘happened’ to our family. It was an additional responsibility for her already burdened life. But, it was she, who first bonded with him. Slowly my fear vanished and i got my closest buddy ever, in the form of an Afghan Hound.
an old pic of Alfi & me
Our majestic evening walks, which scared the shit out of every neighbourhood dogs (& the lesser animals called humans) is still fresh in my memory. It was a routine: with him waking me up (when Amma asks him to) licking my face with his lethal weapon called tongue, followed by his beautification process – beauty walk & brushing his long hairs, a task which i hated the most.
Evenings witnessed longer walks and deep conversations. Our weekly bath, he never liked it, with us fighting over the water hose was a sight worth a lifetime. I was his designated caretaker.
He was young, but in dog years, older to me. Hence, he was wiser than me, till we unhooked him from his leash. He then quickly transformed into a kid & played with us, taunting us to catch him and sometimes, rolling us over (including Amma).
He waited for us at the gate in the evenings (also because i used to carry home his favourite dinner – 3 kerala paranthas).
One day he even scared Appa when he was shouting at my sister. That is still one of my favourite moments, i never thought anything could scare Appa. Alfi never liked anyone raising voice, even at someone else.
I used to sleep with him at the Veranda, sometimes read to him & at times read with him. There was a stink in his breath, something i got used to when he would climb all over me and lick my face as if its covered with dirt. I can still sense that smell, which is now one of the few things i remember about him.
With him around,my family felt safe from anything and everything. With us around him, he felt safe from one thing – the scare of his life, lightning. It was funny to see him trying to hide his bulk under our car when lightning strikes. Those monsoon nights, when lightning happened more than electricity, he hardly let Amma sleep. He was a kid then, who needed us, for protection. Another thing which brought out the puppy in him was a car ride. He would keep is head out in a moving car, his tongue spraying saliva on the pedestrians, for hours.
He was also a terror in the neighbourhood. One day he chased a stray dog into a neighbour’s home. A pregnant lady thought that a Lion had just walked into her house and fainted. Amma had a tough time pacifying the angry family while Alfi slept on the veranda waiting for us to resolve the commotion. You should have seen the ‘cat’ in his dog-self, when Amma scolded him.
But, end of the day, he was more human than us, protecting us, scolding us & dependent on us. During his last years, he adopted a stray dog and wouldn’t let anyone touch it. That moment, we knew, he owned us. Nobody in my family dared to question him. By then, Alfi could understand us and we understood him.
Those days, I was away for my graduation in Delhi. Every time Amma called, i could hear the sadness in her voice, because of Alfi’s worsening health. Alfi was my childhood (best)buddy and probably the best thing that has happened to me.
He knew everything about me and never told anyone nor blackmailed me like my sister often did. He filled in a lot of gaps in my family. During vacations, we would take this long walk where i would tell him about how college was treating me to the latest crush in my life. He would always stare at me with those understanding nods and then take a pee in the bushes.
After, his adopted paternal stage in his life, we never met. I wish i had, because i would have learned a thing or two from him.
One day Amma called and told me that Alfi won’t be waiting for me anymore. He was old and had a deep wound in his leg which never cured. When i had tried applying medicine the last time we met, he lost control of his animal self, borrowed a chunk of meat from my cheek. He then observed penance by not eating for a day, till i stuffed his favourite paranthas into his mouth.
I never asked my parents whether they forced him to his last sleep. It will be more painful for them than me. I wept like a kid in my hostel bathroom, the only thing i could do. He was so human, he taught me how to love but forgot to teach me how to bid him goodbye. It was him & those caretaker days which instilled into me, the slightest of responsibility & any humanity i own today. He taught me why vulnerability & being emotional is good.
When i see walls, i think of him. I see us standing next to the wall on the edge of the hill near our home, staring down. That is how we spend those lazy evenings. He was as tall as me then (when he stood on his hind legs). Sometimes, he will put one of his front legs on my shoulder and would bring his mouth close to my ears. Seems like he wanted to say something, but he never told it, i still wonder what!
Mom, Alfi & me at the gate
PS: Buy a dog for your kid, unless you want dog years in your retirement life. This is the best way to teach your kid about love & humanity.
Read this amazing post by another blogger, do read if you like dogs or are intrigued by why we like dogs :) :: http://www.devilskidd.blogspot.in/2012/03/cicilykutty.html