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Cara Tejpal, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, October 05, 2013
Bambi, Chops and Wag
Ranjit Lal
Lotus Roli
Rs. 195, PP192

With his eye for minor details and dry sense of humour well in place, Ranjit Lal's latest book is an ode to his canine family. 'Bambi, Chops and Wag' leads you through the colourful escapades of three generations of pet dogs as they delight, befuddle and exasperate their humans. 

The book begins with Bambi, a high pedigree Boxer puppy that joins the household when the Lal siblings are still quite young. In the pages that follow, the family makes all the classic mistakes of the first-time dog owner and Bambi grows in to an amiable but untrained dog. From having to be taught how to bark as a puppy in Bombay, to snacking on horse dung during walks at the Race Course, Bambi finally, at the ripe old age of 11, accepts with frosty mistrust a newcomer to the house in Delhi - another boxer puppy named Chops.

The good-natured but brutish Chops puts forth a whole new challenge for the family and their ever-suffering neighbours as he blunders through life with all the grace of a bull in a china shop. Chops survives two ill-fated romances, an uncouth brawl with the local strays, the advances of a predatory cat and the trauma of numerous Diwalis before he exits the pages of the book, epileptic and aged.

Chops' passing cues the entry for Wag, a golden Labrador, who is lovingly and aptly nicknamed the Hapur Hoodlum.  Defiant and scheming, Wag destroys the docile reputation of Labradors as he quickly but firmly asserts his authority over the Lal family. Wag holds wallets and napkins as hostages only to be released in exchange for 'bribery - corruption' (otherwise known as biscuits), steals tennis balls from children, demands joyrides in the neighbour's car, holds a life long vendetta against Golden Retrievers and has to be tranquilized before parties are hosted in the house.  Growly but lovable, his eventual demise clearly marks the end of an era for the Lals.

Reading Bambi, Chops and Wag is rather like sitting down for dinner with your dog-crazy uncle. The stories will keep you laughing and you will either be grateful you've never had a dog, or wonder why you don't have another! Dog owners will certainly find that the book echoes many of their own experiences. While, it lacks some of the charm of Lal's fictional endeavours and could use tighter editing, it's without a doubt, a labour of love and will find favour with animal lovers, and those hoping to get their first pet. All together, without once getting trite, it's an honest account of the trials and triumphs of sharing your life with a dog.

Cara Tejpal is an independent journalist and wildlife conservationist with the bad habit of rescuing orphaned cats and dogs