Oct 4, 2023

Zoro – My Little Baby
My Dear Zoro,

I always wanted to have a dog, but Muma and Papa did not allow me to have one until 5th standard, so you were born exactly at the right time! We got you home when you were just a week old. Papa was initially a bit reluctant to love you, but you still slept cuddling him, on your first night. My early memories of you are slightly vague because I was only eleven years old at that time, but my elder sister, Pratibha, knows everything about you. Initially, we baby fed you Ceralac in a small bowl, and you visited your first and only veterinarian, Dr. Devender, for vaccinations when you were one month old. You were growing by the day, and then came your teething stage. There was nary a sofa, chair, curtain, or slipper which you did not bite, and sometimes, even a foot! We laughed about you being able to find these despite them being hidden from you.

When you were 3-4 months old, you fell from the first-floor stairs. Muma was instructing our gardener, Dharamveer, and immediately ran downstairs to see you sitting on the ground floor, hale and hearty. My miracle baby, you survived without a scratch because you rolled your body while falling. As you grew, we were astonished to see how large your diet was – you always demanded more! Zoro, you were a darling in the entire colony, and whenever any of us came home, you were always the first one to greet us. By your first birthday, you started to develop intimacy with your girlfriend Shilpi. You began to observe small things in our house, and soon became the cynosure of all eyes. Your wish to become the centre of attraction whenever we were talking, to get into the car wherever we were going out, and your desire to always go to the park whenever you saw any of us wearing our shoes, are memories which I shall forever cherish.

When you were around two years old, you entered the mandir room, and ate the ghee which was kept for the diya. Perhaps you were hungry! Luckily, we got you to the vet immediately, because the doctor told us that if you did not puke, you could get seriously sick. Fortunately, when we returned home, you puked, and all was good.
In 2017, you needed surgery for warts in your legs. We were afraid when we got the tests done, but all went well, and you got even more active thereafter. As I grew older and more involved with studies, I regretted not having given more time to you, but you were so adjusting and loved by everyone that you never made me worry about you.
The first thought of losing you came to my mind when I was in the final year of my graduation, and was planning to go abroad for higher studies. When I went Dublin for Masters, you were around ten years old – the average life for a Labrador. You were hale and hearty when I returned in 2019, and when I went abroad to work in 2020, the same thing worried me again. When I returned in 2021, you were strong and healthy as ever, save for slight arthritis in your hind legs. I made up my mind to never leave you thereafter.
When I started working in Delhi, you became my confidence-builder and stress-buster. Slightly moody and more demanding now, you didn’t like to be yelled at, and asked for your treats in your lovely soft tone. During Pratibha’s wedding last November, you were so cooperative and considerate, amidst all those preparations and celebrations.
On your 15th birthday on May 21, 2023, Muma bathed you in the afternoon, and then you got your special treat. We all were so happy that day! I now get a sense that post your birthday, you started to become weak.

In August, we noticed that your morning diet had decreased, and you had started eating late. I was initially not worried, because your meal timings had changed previously too. Alas, this time, it was something different. On the evening of the 24th, I returned from office early, and saw you lying in the veranda. Muma told me that you had been lying there for around three hours, and had also not had your afternoon meal. When I went close, you seemed fine, and I tried to lift you up so that you would start walking and come inside. I noticed that you were not able to move your hind legs, but you gained momentum, and started walking. We always admired your high spirit during tough times, and thought that it would be fine for you to skip a meal. Muma slept with you in my room, and I went downstairs to sleep with Dadi. Late night, you started barking. I came up so that Muma could sleep in her room, and I could see if you are needing anything. I am sure that you were in pain that night.

Next morning, you did not eat again, and by afternoon, you started vomiting, and got us even more worried. At night, you made some noise, and then I took you up to my room. I took you to Dr. Devender the next morning to have you drip-fed, as you were not eating and drinking. The doctor told me that your condition did not look good, because you were breathing from your stomach. To be on the safe side, he advised us to go for some blood tests. As soon as we got home, you puked again, and now, I was eagerly awaiting the results of your blood test. The call that I made to the doctor that evening, has been my worst phone call till date. He told me that many of your organs were not working, and it was now, only a matter of time.

I called Snigdha and Shiv, and told Muma as well, but she didn’t believe me; only Papa understood the situation. In the evening, I made sure that Dadi saw you – this could be the last time that she saw you. Chachu and Chachi also came upstairs to enquire about you. I took you to Muma-papa’s room as you always liked sleeping there. Around 9pm, Shiv arrived, and petted you, and said that you were just having flu, and would be fine! Much as I wanted to believe him, I knew that you were in lot of pain. Around 11:00 pm, you barked a bit, and then, both of us rested. Zoro, you were the centre of attraction for one sweet last time.

Around 11:55 pm, Zoi, I suddenly woke up, only to see you breathing normally, but for the longest time, you hadn’t barked at night. I also replied to Snigdha’s message that you were sleeping. Immediately after I messaged her, I noticed your hind legs moving. I thought you were dreaming, and then, I noticed that your breathing had started to slow down. I panicked because I was afraid. I saw your front legs moving like you were running in your dreams, and then slowly, you crossed the rainbow bridge (August 27| 12:01 am).

Pratibha was devasted, probably more so, because she was in faraway Canada, and couldn’t join your last journey. Muma, Papa, Snigdha, Shiv and I performed your last rites with all the love that we could give you, baby. After your cremation, I could not smell your presence, and that day, I really missed you!

Missed washing my hands again and again,
Missed your water bowl under the dining table,
Missed your leash next to the stairs,
Missed your soft coat,
Missed your smell and hair in my clothes,
Missed looking beside by my study chair,
Missed using your ears as a bike handle to roam the house.

Zoro, you were the kindest thing that happened to me. Every thought of doing new things was centred around you. You were the reason for my coming home early. You gave so much love to everyone in the family, and were the binding force. Thank you, mere Baccha.

-Param Tandon

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