Roohi (June 1995 – Sep 4th, 2010)
Roohi came into our lives in 1995, by accident or happenstance. Our servant had adopted her from someone, as he had always wanted a dog. She was just a little puppy when she came, about a month or two old, a small ball of fur. The name Roohi suited her, because she looked like a piece of cottonwool. It was later that we realized that the other meaning of Roohi, soulful, was also apt.
Roohi soon made friends with us, as she gambolled through the extensive lawns of our home, and we grew to love the frisky little thing, eager for everyone's affection and so playful. My sister, always an animal lover, famous for having wanted to adopt a 2 day old kitten when she was a little girl of 8, was in love with her, since she had always wanted pets. A neighbour's Spitz, Pepsi, also became a frequent visitor to our house, as his owners used to be away most of the time and the servants used to illtreat the poor guy very badly, beating him and starving him. He used to crave affection and had a lovely temperament. All too soon, the inevitable happened and we realized Roohi was going to have a litter. It was too early for her, because she was less than a year old. My sister took her to a vet recommended by a friend, all the way in Noida, and we got her whatever treatment was possible by then to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Roohi gave birth to 8 pups on Republic Day in 2006, 2 male and 6 female.
Our servant said he would gift us one of the male pups (Jackie), and the other one sadly died, the runt of the litter. The pups were full of beans and it was a tough task to keep all of the pups in one place. We found a cardboard box, lined it with cloth and made the pups comfortable inside, where they would sleep all curled up on top of one another. The minute they saw Roohi, they would clamber out of the box with shrill cries and Roohi would resignedly feed them, irritated at having to sit still for so long, because she was just a baby herself. The vet had prescribed several medicines for Roohi as the pregnancy had weakened her since she had not been given the right vitamins when she was a pup, and our servant began looking more and more doubtful about being able to care for Roohi. Finally, he told us that he had decided to give her away to someone.
Dad, while appearing hardhearted on the surface, had long ago lost his heart to Roohi, and since we already had one of her pups, he said we would keep Roohi too. "This is the only home she has ever known. It will break her heart to go away somewhere", he said. And that's how, with no planning or forethought, we ended up with two pets!
Roohi was an incredible personality. Extremely loving and affectionate, the minute anyone entered the house, she would hurl herself at the person's feet and paw at them to give her a thorough petting. It got so that for the first fifteen minutes after entering the house, no one could do anything but give her her quota of caresses. Very often, we almost tripped as soon as we entered, because of this habit of hers. We had a family joke that if anyone ever tried to burgle our house, they would be brought down by the two dogs. Roohi would make the burglar trip and fall by throwing herself at his feet for petting. Once he fell, Jackie would bite his face off!
Very active, in contrast to her snoozy son Jackie (who by a bizarre genetic accident turned out to be a Samoyed with two Spitz parents), she always wanted to play. She would often worry Jackie awake from one of his dozes and bully him into playing with her. It was a very funny sight to see her put her front paws on Jackie, who was twice her size, and make him run around the room, yipping away at him. She would leap three or four feet into the air, like those Seaworld Dolphins, to catch a biscuit. She loved mangoes and would busily lick the seed until it had become almost bleached white. She also adored oranges and one couldn't peel an orange anywhere in the house without feeling a cold nose at their knee and a gentle yet insistent paw pulling at their arm, saying, "Where's my share?" She had to have her food very soft and mushy and would approach it with great delicacy.
She was a very dainty creature who almost appeared to dance along on her elegant legs. She would never soil herself, being fastidious to a fault. She had some very funny quirks and was very, very possessive about her belongings. If you gave her any piece of cloth to play with, she would growl if you tried to take it away. Every year, come winter, the first couple of days after the winter coat was put on her, she would sit and cower in a corner as if it weighed a couple of tons and she was unable to move. But once she got used to it, she would growl when we took it off. If we hung it out to sun it, she would keep leaping up and trying to take it off the line.
When we shifted homes from Delhi to Gurgaon, we thought it would be very difficult for us to manage the two dogs while arranging the house, so we left them in the care of the servant while we organized our new home. Suddenly, on the second day, we received a distress call from the servant and rushed home. Jackie and Roohi had not eaten in the last two days, fretting away for us, even though they were in the home they had always known, in the care of the servant whom they were very familiar with and who had always looked after them. Regardless of our plans, we had to take them back with us the same night, we couldn't bear to see their sad faces.
Roohi was so fluffy and frisky and full of life, it was only when she was all wet for her bath that one would realize how tiny she was. In her last few days, we had to have her hair shaved off because of an acute tick attack and she looked like a shadow of herself, not a wag left in her formerly permanently turned-up tail. Her illness flared up suddenly, and left this lively thing too tired to even look up. But she used to feel a sense of great contentment when we sat with her and petted her. Dad and I were fortunately with her as she took her last few breaths. It was very difficult to look at her, gasping for breath, in her death throes, in contrast to the livewire we think of her as. It was and is unbearable to think that no one will ever trip us up again, asking for a petting, as we enter the house. Once she passed away, we had to switch on the AC and then put her on ice overnight, as the cremation was to be this morning. And all night, I couldn't help worrying, because Roohi always felt extremely cold, and here we were, putting her on a chilly ice block…
I think that's one of the tragedies of the final ailment – to look at the patient and contrast that with the way that person has always been, full of pep and dash and opinions…
We were fortunate to find a pet crematorium, which had been inaugurated very recently, the day Roohi fell ill, in fact. Conceptualized by two pet owners who had faced the dilemma of how to ensure a dignified farewell to their beloved pets, this is in Chattarpur Farms area, and has the option of burial and cremation. Owners can preserve the ashes, if they wish, or have them buried in the garden, and plant a tree in memory of their pet. They can also hand over a photograph and a write-up about their pet. Charges are Rs. 3000 for the service.