I lost another dog on 29th of November, taking my family death count to three this year. I waited so long to post about it because I was looking for his picture.
I wanted to show you the red fur that gave him his name, Rusty. I would point out the pieces of his ear that he lost in various fights; the scar at the joint of the ear that shows where his ear came apart at the seam one Diwali. We thought we would lose him that year, as he jaunted up to the house, his ear hanging loose. The recurring mange on his back that he cultivated with care after every medicated bath.
What you wouldn’t be able to see is the biggest heart to beat inside the most noble dog and the smallest brain.
Rusty was undoubtedly my dog, as Cassie was my mother’s. He was my constant companion in the lonely, frustrating years at Panvel. We’d walk everywhere, to the market, to my grandmother’s home in the next sector. He was the kind of dog everyone was happy to see. He never begged for food, poked around the house or dirtied the place. He’d just hang around, politely refusing food until I was ready to leave. And, I’ve never seen him poop; he was equally discrete and deadly with bodily functions.
Rusty crossed territories without fear, walking to my grandmother’s house at will; sometimes after dinner, for a second serving of leftovers if he felt like it. Sometimes in the afternoon or evening, to meet Cookie, my sister’s dog.
He’d go and wait for my mama to return from his restaurant, hang around for a quick cuddle and head back home. During this routine, he impregnated every bitch that crossed his way and thus giving me my most embarrassing memory:
I alighted from the rickshaw outside my home one afternoon. Rusty was at the gate, in coitus with one of his innumerable groupies. Upon seeing me, his face broke into a grin and he trotted happily towards me, the bitch still attached to his rump. She yelped as she was dragged in reverse gear, Rusty eager to perform his routine greeting — rubbing his head against my thigh.
He was the first of my dogs to be fixed, but he didn’t seem to notice.
Every dog is unusual, but Rusty was odd. An ugly, scrawny, sickly pup — his head bigger than his body. He trotted like a bear and seldom licked us. He would just block my path and lean his entire body on me and grunt.
Whenever a bitch littered, Rusty would regurgitate food for the puppies, a trait found in wolves. He would let them clamber all over him, steal his food and only when the biting got incessant, would he come to me and groan and whine his complaint.
Another thing a photograph wouldn’t capture is his flatulence. Or perhaps it would. It was a thick cloud of noxious gas that probably looked a sickly green. It would slowly move from one end of the room to another. And then you’d have to flee.
He would have turned 14 in January, had he not crawled into the terrace to die outside my brother’s room. By morning, his tongue was blue, his stomach bloated. We buried him near the Pune Expressway where he can let out his one last fart on unsuspecting motorists.