Just a teeny-weeny name but Itsy is as significant in our family history and life as our son, Parin. She was so Itsy bitsy when she came in but for the next decade as we moved from Dehradun to Kolkata to Katihar to Delhi, she ensured that her memories remain monumental. How did this Roadesian or Indie arrive or bounce into our lives.. read on…

Itsy @2012…

It was one of those cold evenings in Dehradun with winds from the Tons valley adding on to the chill. Me and Reena, the expectant mother, were out on our evening stroll. Parin was due to arrive in two months or so. A month after that we both were due for our posting, so our house was a mix of cartons, boxes and little baby stuff.

The slow pace of walk was aiding us in observing nature and absorbing the beauty of Doon. That is when Reena heard the whines of a puppy(s) from the drain. On moving closer we saw two black fur balls huddled against each other, eyes yet to open and sniffing around for the comfort of their mom’s warmth and milk. Alas, the mom was missing.

As it was getting dark and cold, Reena’s first response was to pick them up but I had to firmly prevent her from doing that. It was heart wrenching to dump them but the impending move from Doon made me say no to her plans. My pleas highlighting the logistic challenges of managing the puppies and a little baby did not find much traction with an extra emotional better half. You know how charged up the hormones are during pregnancy….!

After some negotiation, the mutual agreement arrived at was to complete the walk and then look up the puppies before we slept. Balance of the walk was “external calm internal turbulence” as the thoughts of those puppies’ future kept my wifey busy and the looming crisis that such a decision could cause, kept me worried.  Back home, after a cup of coffee ☕ the topic returned and this time with great reluctance I agreed to make that trip with Reena, just to feed them.

Reena surely knew how to get me on board and the ‘feeding on site’ idea soon changed to ‘let us take them home and feed‘ amendment. Since they were used to suckling so we had to use one of the cotton wicks of the diya (lamp) to feed them. The Blackie was smarter as she could sense all our actions even without seeing and didn’t waste a drop of milk. The Gray brownie (don’t ask me how can that colour combo work) was sluggish. Both of them soon rolled over into deep slumber with their tummies bursting sideways like footballs. It was an adorable sight to see the cardboard box filled with those furry snoring cutie balls. Reena, the mom to be, had a long sleepless night with her motherly instincts at play, while I slept soundly😉.

The dawn saw only one of them alive and no marks for guessing that it was the Blackie who lived on to make this story a reality. Since she could fit into a palm, Reena felt it logical to call her ITSY. For us she was God sent as our first child. Chewing at socks, gnawing through cartons, slurping dollops of ice cream were some of her favourite baby activities. Later on in life, she used to take a special interest in Parin’s socks!

Parin arrived soon after and the increased activities in the house kept Itsy bemused. From a black fur ball she started changing colours into a brownish black puppy hinting at a mixed parentage, maybe an Alsatian dad. My theories about her parents were wilder as I found the design similar to that of a fox or a jackal but these were immediately shot down by her protective mom.

Sunbathing sessions of Parin were moments of happiness for Itsy as she got to see her new sibling out of the heavy winter clothing. December in Dehradun was cold but our small lawn was adequate to accommodate the additional guests plus Parin and Itsy as they warmed themselves in the diffused light of an obscured sun.

Very soon it was time to move out of Dehradun. Our indica car/ black Indie Baby was packed to the brim and Itsy was assigned a special seat on top of the suitcases in the last row as Parin and Reena had to be in the front. That’s the time we realized that even dogs can get motion sickness. A few kilometers into our 10 hour journey and our assumption that she would get used to the new experience of road travel was proven wrong as she protested with all her energy. And you know how persistent children can be.

The seating plan was then reworked and we got her to the front seat. Her preferences to trade places with Parin was evident, but that was not possible. The next best option was at the feet of Reena and that assuaged her feelings of being left out in the rear seat. The balance 9 hours were a smooth ride. ……

Part 2 : Katihar

I moved to Katihar, as a MOSS (Married Officer Staying Single) as Reena and Parin shifted base to Barrackpore, Kolkata. These were the closest stations that both of us could manage under spouse posting. It was an overnight train journey or a full day road trip of around 600 km, but still far away. As Reena had to balance between work and Parin, Itsy joined me. She travelled from Delhi by train and it was a big exercise to book her with a friend. My mom in law had to use all her persuasive powers to convince her to travel but there was no alternative option as they already had Benzie at home. It was indeed a painful moment for all of us and for Itsy it would have been an ordeal to endure her first train journey without any of the known faces around.

She was all happiness at Katihar Railway Station, to see me. My two room set was approved by her though the ducks, rabbits and swans of the neighborhood caused her some annoyance. Coincidentally, her response matched that of Amit, another youngster in my unit, who used to chase the poor swans as their ‘quacks’ were too shrill for his mental peace. Very soon, she settled down into the so called unit routine.. morning runs with my company, breakfast, snooze, afternoon run, watching troop games, dinner and sleep. Delta company and its blue colour became her own. Personnel of Delta could approach me without fear, but the rest used to get a growl. Some say dogs are colour blind, but she could recognize blue Flag area of my company in any gathering. Morning runs were immensely interesting for her, but any attempts to get into my personal space was met with a nip, which everyone soon accepted. As Delta company went on to win championships, I could sense a feeling of pride in her..or was I just mirroring my own feelings on to her….

Another year and Reena had to leave her Army Educationist job to give more time to Parin. Once they relocated to Katihar, it was full family time for Itsy. I had permitted her to roll up at a corner of my bed when the nights were cold. With Parin around, Itsy now had to be content with her own mattress. We soon shifted to a bigger house, and Itsy established her supremacy in that area. Nipping at the calf of a mail delivery boy, chasing the Boss’s son as he cycled in front of our house (thankfully Boss also had a Dog!), bossing over the local cats, etc were some of her famous pass times.

Part 3 : Nabha and Delhi

In 2007, I was selected for a one year course in United Kingdom. A year of random moves and logistic challenges, which was compounded by the discovery that Itsy was pregnant. Mom in law at Delhi came to the rescue even as we got busy trying to prepare for a one year stay in 20 Kg suitcases. After we flew out, Itsy delivered 5 beautiful pups in the first floor room of In law’s house at Delhi. She used Reena’s clothes and my files to make her pups comfortable which were to create a set of documentary challenges for all of us later on. Since Itsy was a known personality in the neighbourhood, three of her pups were soon adopted (fourth one went missing, probably picked up by a cat) and Itsy along with one pup moved with another brother officer George, who himself was shifting to Nabha as a newlywed. Those were trying times for George too as he was moving to a new outfit and his wife was scared of dogs, but seeing our predicament they fostered Itsy and her pup. In another month Itsy’s fifth pup also got adopted at Nabha. This one year of motherhood, separation and movement was to make Itsy more strong but a bit insecure.

We landed back from UK in one of those midnight flights. Itsy who was now back with mom in law, came down from the first floor sensing our presence. Moments of joyous reunion – learning important lessons of separation and belonging. Itsy, now a five (or 35) year old girl soon got used to the 2 bhk ground floor government accomodation in Delhi and the small lawn behind where she would chase away the squirrels and watch us planting carrots and brinjals. She was no more the timid one, and none of us could take her mood for granted. Even Parin got two nips (including one in his tummy), when he was playing with her. Being an Indie, her health always remained good even as the neighbouring exotic pets kept having one problem or the other.

In 2011, we thought of getting her a sibling and by end of the year, Mishty bounced in. This pure black ball of naughtiness was to teach Itsy a few lessons of patience. The outstanding maturity of Itsy saw smooth settling down of the new arrival. Itsy with no airs, was now seeing a nakre wala younger brother, who refused to accept her seniority and saw her as a play fellow.

Itsy and a very junior Mishty…sunbathing after Bath….

With Mishty around, Itsy became more mature. We were now a balanced family, with Itsy didi, Parin, Mishty bhulli and I believe Parin learnt a lot from both of them. As I moved to Africa for a year, Itsy could even video chat with me whereas Mishty could not hear me. Maybe, the Roadesians have special skills. As compared to Mishty who jumped over everything and slept atop a Blower, Itsy had her preferred places and never jumped on to the bed. Only time she violated that was when she jumped on to the bed to express her happiness when she found out on return from her evening walk that I was resting after a long flight from Africa.

Well, as they say, one human year is seven years of a dog. Itsy too became a senior citizen. A moody walker who felt irritated at times with the bounciness of Mishty, but a loving elder sister who taught her all basic stuff including barking.

A dental infection proved fatal for her as probing into her mouth was a strict no no, considering her volatile nature. Reena did 24×7 baby sitting and the local vet tried his best, but very soon she left for a greener afterlife. The place where she was buried was not shown to Mishty, but sibling love or intuition you may call it, Mishty walked to Itsy’s grave and sat down there for a while.

A decade of love and shared moments..her loss shattered Reena the most, even to the point of making me think why have a pet at all…but then, that’s what they teach us. Reena still recounts how a 10 year old Parin consoled her when Itsy went away..he said, “Mom, don’t cry about her not being here. Think of the ten wonderful years that you could give her, an Indie or a Roadesian

If I were to list some of the lessons or reasons for having a pet, they would be-

  • Learning to love unconditionally
  • Life is transitory and short
  • A pet is the best gift that you can give your son or daughter
  • How you behave with those who cannot speak or do you no harm, is indicative of your character
  • The list is endless…

Cheers to you, Itsy…you lived your life fully and left us those lovely memories…we shall meet, for sure. Hopefully, that time we will not have this differential life cycles of one and seven.

Copyright © Gundappa
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