In Our Hearts, Forever.

Not too long ago, my sister had forwarded this picture to us in our family WhatsApp group with a caption ‘Meet Cuddles’!

‘Wow!’ – Me

‘Is he real or a toy!’ – My mom

‘Diya (niece’s name changed) must have gone crazy to get such a cute puppy!! – My dad

My niece had been asking for a puppy for a long time. My sister in an attempt to distract her had got her fish, rabbit, turtle! Any other pet that could be low maintenance! But nothing can replace a dog…

 As a kid, we had dogs.  We loved them. We played with them. They became part of our family. And then we watched them die. We grieved. We cried. We swore to never put ourselves through that pain again. But then again, we would get another dog….

When I met my sister recently ,  she seemed ready to get a puppy. The niece was more than delighted. And so came Cuddles into their life….

Cuddles’ video was circulated in our extended family groups also.   Every kid who saw him said the same thing – ‘I want it!’

My mother and I loved to show his pictures to our friends too. Sure, I was not the one who had it in my home. But someone so close to me had this cutie!! I loved to flaunt him too!!

My sister’s routine overnight turned into that of a new mother.  Cuddles was after all, just a baby. He could not sleep alone. He would cry. She would move to the carpet to be next to him. He would wake up in the middle of the night. She would wake up with him.

But just like a baby, with all the work, and cleaning, and sleepless nights came  great moments of joys, and milestones. Cuddles’ first long jump! Cuddles’ first meal with lamb! Cuddles’ first chew toy!

Soon, all discussions in the family revolved around Cuddles. Because of the time difference and work timings, my sister and I are not able to speak frequently. I get to know about her through my mother, and so does she. My mother would keep me updated on Cuddles’ adventures.. But it was not enough for me…

I so badly wanted to see him.  My sister has always loved video calls.  I have always hated it. I don’t like the thought of someone calling me in the middle of something, when I am in pyjamas, or worse at work with no privacy. Also, I feel the face looks so funny in those calls.  Whenever my sister would call me, instead of looking at her I would look at myself. I am obsessed with teeth cleanliness.  While talking, I would open my mouth wide, and start checking my teeth. I guess for me that was the only advantage of a video call! Closer teeth view!! Needless to say, this irritated my sister a lot.

But now things were different. I was the one requesting her for a video call. Only to see Cuddles…

Cuddles had now even made a trip to my niece’s school and the supermarket. He was a star everywhere he went.  People wanted to hold him, touch him and make sure he is for real.  He loved licking everyone. He loved everybody. And he surely got a lot of love in return.

Tuesday evening,  I spoke to my sister. Usual, mundane things. I had just come back from office. For her it was  morning.  Her day had just started.  After dinner I called my mother. She and my father had gone to watch Manikarnika and I could not wait to hear if she liked it as much as I liked it.

After talking to all my family members, watching an episode of Seinfeld (highly recommended to husband), I was cleaning the kitchen when my mom texted me to call her.  I did.

Cuddles is no more!’ She said.

‘No!!’

‘There was an accident …..…’

‘What!!  How!!  I just spoke to Didi some time back!’

‘I know… It just happened.. They took him to the hospital. But he was gone by then’.

No matter who dies when we get that call, the first reaction is always disbelief. I was trying to convince my mother that I had spoken to my sister few hours back and this had not happened then.

Was there some possibility it really had not happened?

She then went on to tell me how it happened. My heart broke into a hundred pieces.  Imagining it gave palpitations. I felt a knot in my stomach. I went to the wash room. The palpitation continued…

I called my sister.  Heard her cry. Heard her describe the events of the morning. A usual morning.  He was playing. He got hurt. He let out a scream. And stopped moving.

She thought he has fainted. She insisted they take him to the hospital. They did. The nurse said what nobody wants to hear. It all happened in a few minutes.

And just like that, this little person who had become everybody’s favourite was gone!  Before anyone could even understand what had happened.

I asked her if he suffered. She said no. He died within seconds. We both found comfort in that thought.  We talked about the dog we had when we were kids. He was bitten by a snake / scorpio. We never found out. His wails continue to haunt us even today. I have locked up the memory of his death somewhere in my mind.  It does come back again every time I hear another dog screaming in pain.

We were most concerned about my niece who lost her best friend. She has been taking it well. She is trying to be brave. Her teacher asked her to write about it. She wrote that she wishes that morning could be erased…

When my sister had got this puppy, the lady who handed him over had told her that the life expectancy was 19 years.  She had thought her daughter would be off to college in eight years! He would be the one with her….

I thought about how cute, innocent and adorable the little puppy was. Why was his life so short? He did not deserve this!  Was it destiny? Three people in this world who decided to take him home, absolutely adored him, loved him and took care of him. They would have done anything to protect him! Why were they not given a chance! What good came out of this! We read about freak accidents every day. We see videos. Not all have a tragic ending. Some survive. Could he not be one of them?

There are no answers. Death makes us understand how fragile our existence is. Anything could happen. Anytime. To anyone.

We have decided to keep talking about him. Just because he is not there, does not mean he is forgotten. However, his death is something we would not bring up.

We would talk about how much we learnt from him:

Finding happiness in little things.

Being happy for no reason.

Greeting everyone with love.

Thinking that everyone is his friend.

Fighting to be with people he loved..

Rest in peace, dear Cuddles. We would like to believe you had some other purpose. Some other form of existence. Something better. We would also like to believe that you are very happy wherever you are. You are being loved. And everyone is in love with you too.

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