And no means NO.
This had always been my answer whenever the kids asked me for a pet dog. Who will look after the dog? I would ask. We will mamma, they would say. Okay then, list down all the chores for the doggie and who will do what and when. Give me a proposal and I will consider. They never made the proposal. The dog never came.
Both children grew up… Tanvi went for her Masters to the US and settled down on the West coast. When Tanvi left, the idea of getting a dog for Akshay did occur to me. Because he would be lonely without his sis. But Akshay was in class XI juggling his time between school, tuitions, friends and sports… He never brought it up, and I (thankfully) dismissed the idea.
Soon, Akshay too left for his undergrad in the US. Four years later, he was back home settling down to life at home with family, friends and colleagues. Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine him harbouring any thought of a pet. So I was completely taken aback when he said, Mom, I am thinking of keeping a dog. No, I replied.
The No was automatic, and I must admit, quite autocratic. But Akshay was no longer an eight year old. I should have realized this. Please note: he had not asked me for my permission. He was expressing his intention. I tried to reason with him. Who will look after him when you go to work? When you travel? When we go for holidays? Dogs need lots of space… how can he adjust in an apartment? How will we cope with all the chores? How will I work from my home office? And so on… But Akshay had a logical response to every concern of mine.
Unable to handle the situation, I said, OK let’s discuss it with daddy and Tanvi. And so, after dinner that day, the four of us (Tanvi on Skype) deliberated and examined the pros and cons… In face of my extreme reluctance, Akshay grudgingly agreed to hold off ~ at least for the next two months. I heaved a sigh of relief, certain that things would blow over.
No such luck. Akshay brought up the issue much sooner. Mom, I need a dog to come home to… I am making a new life back in India… I have my friends but still, when I come home, I need something of my own… I need a dog to welcome me when I come in, a dog to take care of… I have even thought of a name: Richard…
Oh my God, he hasn’t forgotten! He is still keen! How do I take his mind off the dog?! What should I do to divert his attention? This is becoming a nightmare… In desperation, I tried to come up with a firm refusal.
Akshay was continuing in earnest. Mom, your ‘yes’ is very important since you will be taking care of him the most…
I looked at him in fearful apprehension. He meant it. His eyes implored me beseechingly. His voice entreated pleadingly…
All objections died down my throat. At that moment, I could not bring myself to say a firm NO. How could I say no to him? How could I be authoritative and veto him down? It would be like saying I am the boss of the house and You cannot bring a dog into My home. After all, it is his home too. Every member has equal rights and each one of us can do what he or she likes – even if, at times, it inconveniences others… How, then, could I assert myself over Akshay? That would be totally unfair…
It was time for a family discussion again.
As it turned out, Atul, my husband, too began to like the idea of including a pet in the family. Tanvi had always wanted a pet and though initially she had sided with me, she well understood Akshay’s need. The decision had been taken. Three to one.
Now only providence could come to my rescue.
Three to One!
Akshay was happy. The family had agreed. We were getting a dog.
I reconciled myself to the idea of having a pet. I knew my life, as I had built it, would soon be a thing of the past. I would have to adapt myself, my home, my systems, all to the dog. I suppose this is how a mother feels when her son gets married? My heart sank lower and lower…
Despairingly, I looked around and tried to imagine how things would be once Richard came…. I had given up office life 25 years ago to be home for my 4 year old daughter. Since then, I had been happily balancing work with family ~ working from home in the mornings and then being with the children once they came back from school.
When the children left for college, I was happier. I was a free bird. I could now work longer hours, travel with my husband, visit my parents more often, socialize more… All this would now end. I was sure. My independence would be jeopardized. Once the dog came, I would have to look after his feeding, bathing, playing, training and whatnot. My routine would change. My perfectly organized home would become messy. My help, already stretched, would quit.
Why should I be subjected to all this? Just because I work from home, why should I be made to go through all this? Especially when I have done my bit over the years? Why now? For a dog?!
I groaned, I moaned, I sighed! I gave an ultimatum: if the dog comes, I will move to our other apartment! No one, not my husband, not my daughter, not my son, paid any attention. Resentment, anger, betrayal welled up within me… I would wake up at night and worry for myself…
Much as I tried, I could not ready myself for this intrusion.
Meanwhile, Akshay had been speaking to the breeder. He had decided: we would get a golden retriever. Mom, they are very friendly, intelligent and devoted. They are sooooo beautiful. You will love him.
Every day, he would send me videos of golden retrievers and I would honestly tell him that they were very cute. But did we need one? That was the question.
And then one day, Akshay sent me a pic of a pup on Whatsapp. Mom, this is the pup in question. What do you think? Should we get him?
I looked at the photograph of a pup held high in the breeder’s hand. He’s so small, was my first reaction. He fits into his hand easily… I looked more closely. Why is his expression so sombre, I messaged back.
Akshay called immediately: Mom! He is a babyyyyy… he is probably feeling scared being held up like this. And Mom, he is of the champion variety… the breeder says he will train more easily! Shall I say yes to him?
My son’s enthusiasm, his eagerness, his joy, beamed over the line… At that moment, like a flash of lightning, I realized that my son really, really wanted a dog… his entire happiness seemed to depend on the pet. Then, why couldn’t I support him willingly? Surely, his sense of fulfilment would be far greater than my fear of impending doom?
At that moment, I truly reconciled to the idea of a pet in the family. At last, it was All for One.
All for One
It was love at first sight.
Puppy Richard came home on a very, very cold Sunday morning in December. He had been travelling the entire night from the breeding farm in Ludhiana to Delhi, reaching us at 7 am in the morning. Barely a month old, he was hardly visible as the breeder lifted him up from a small basket.
Akshay rushed to fetch his bed and the man placed him in it. Richard moved gingerly on the soft bed sinking into the space between the cushion and side of the bed, chin tucked in. The bed seemed so huge! We crowded round, each one of us trying to touch him… He looked up at us, blankly, trying to focus.
And we fell in love. With Richard. All of us.
Akshay had been preparing for Richard the entire week. He had been talking to friends with pets, reading up on the Net, and had spent an entire morning at the pet store… he came back and excitedly showed us the fares: a bed, sweaters, coat, blanket, chew toys, rope toys, cuddly toys, feeding bowls, shampoo, brush, training sheets, puppy food… He even made space in his cupboard and stored the stuff neatly. We were all set to receive our baby Richard, bed and all.
And now, Richard was home. Finally. The breeder gave a few basic instructions, handed us some puppy food, and left. I panicked. How would we look after baby Richard? He was barely a few weeks old. What did we know about taking care of such a tiny pup? Despite being a mother of two, I must admit, I felt absolutely helpless. And protective.
Akshay doesn’t quite remember why he chose to name our puppy Richard. He says the name just popped into his head one day, months ago, even before he had broached the subject to us, and though at first it sounded odd, the moment we saw Richard, we felt the name was just right for him!
Richard is now one and a half years old, the youngest member of our family. He spends most of his time with me ~ snoozing under my chair as I work, following me around the house like Mary’s li’l lamb, and waiting patiently by the window when I go out. I can honestly say that I have come to love him as much or as little as the others in the family.
Sir Richard has definitely become the Lord of our hearts.
PS: It would have been good if we didn’t have a dog in the house. It is GREAT to have Richard Lall in our home.