Sepia-toned photographs are a treasure trove of memories. Every one of us has a box that we guard anxiously, for it contains all that we hold dear. I stumbled upon an old snap, dating back to the early 1990s — the ever so beautiful mama bear seen hugging her two little babies, my sister and I. On her lap sits the apple of her eye, Zulfi, our pet dog, back then a frisky little Pomeranian pup. I can’t help but stare at it — a river of emotions outpour of longing. So, I decide to pen down this paean in the memory of Zulfi.
He entered the portals of our home as a spirited pup. Although he belonged to my sister, it was papa dear who took him to the vet for all his shots and ailments. But, he adopted my mother as his master. He was as human a dog as I’ve ever known and he shared all our moments of laughter as he did our troubles. He was a little bundle of joy; you could squeeze him to death! During the baking summer months, he would wail like a toddler: “boo oo oo ooo!” to be with my parents in their air-conditioned room. Often at night, he would tip-toe to the master bedroom mischievously and sniff into papa’s ears to make room for him on the bed. He always obliged, much to my mother’s protest.
Zulfi was a communicator extraordinaire, who spoke with his eyes. We would sit and talk to him. He shared our top secrets. I would often receive a reprimand for “socially unacceptable behaviour” and a “clear lack of etiquette’, as mama’s constitution read. Zulfi would find me sobbing under my bed, sniff soothingly, and protest until my parents made up to me with pudding or ice-cream. Being my partner in crime, he’d always share my dessert.
He would wake up at the crack of dawn, impatient for his morning walks; and whimpered and quivered with excitement for his breakfast. After having his fill, he would make a dash for the master bedroom with the day’s newspapers in the wooden basket for papa. I recall papa’s sitting cross-legged, head dug deep in a mountain of files. He would often look at Zulfi for answers and recommendations. In return, Zulfi would look at papa supportively. “Yes! Sign it,” his eyes would say, reassuring him of his decisions. Who said dogs are smart enough to offer advice?
He developed the most special bond with my mother, probably owing to the fact that he spent most of the day with her. Like most dogs, Zulfi, too, had a sixth sense. Ten minutes before the clock struck five, he would dash for the gate, waiting eagerly for papa and greet him as he alighted from his Ambassador. Then, he would join all of us for a game of football or cricket.
Zulfi aged with poise and grace. There were nights when we would all be up, caressing his forehead and comforting him. After all, he was 12. My father had to proceed to the United States for a year to study. This meant leaving Zulfi behind with our domestic help. It was a tough call. One cold wintery night, papa received the dreaded call. He mustered all he courage he had and said: “Zulfi passed away peacefully.” The poignancy was hard to miss. The world came crashing at our feet.
Mama wailed, for she had lost her baby. It was a bleeding pity and a crying shame that we weren’t with him when he breathed his last. We didn’t eat that day. We had lost a friend, a soul-mate, our companion.
The writer is a freelance journalist based in Chandigarh