“A really companionable and indispensable dog is an accident of nature. You can’t get it by breeding for it, and you can’t buy it with money. It just happens along.”— EB White
It was 26-January-2014. She wasn’t Anu Boo then. Just Anu. Her rough, thin fur betrayed her ribcage. There were quite a few bald patches on her body. She was lying in a tiny, blue crate, anxiously looking at the feet which crossed her crate, and refusing to exchange eye-contact with anybody who bothered to kneel, and coo at her. She seemed overwhelmed by the cacophony of the fair. The place was hot even for January. The visitors were enamoured of other ‘perfect’ puppies at the fair. The puppies didn’t have to scream, “Take me home!” They just had to do something cute, or yawn, or fall into their water bowls, and the humans went awww. Anu refused to do anything that’s adorably stupid. She was invisible in that chaos.
An animal welfare organisation had set up a stall at a fair, with the good intention that the casual shoppers might have a change of heart, and take some animals home. 20 days after rescuing and fostering Anu, I took her to the fair, and prayed with all my being that I would meet a kind human who would be thrilled to take Anu home. Other puppies were being adopted, and taken home, but Anu stayed in the corner of her crate. Nobody wanted her. She was a brown mutt with a chronic skin condition, and above all, she exuded an air of moroseness. That would never be accepted by humans. They expect dogs to be cheerful, and entertain them with their antics. Anu was never going to dance in their circus. So, she was considered not-suitable-for-adoption.
As sellers dismantled their stalls, and the footfall reduced, Anu woke up from her nap, and looked at me inquiringly from the corner of her blue crate. “Are we not going home yet?”, her expression suggested. I rushed to the organiser, and told her that I wouldn’t like to sign up for the next adoption drive because I was going to adopt Anu. She had always been mine, and I was awfully late to realise that. I walked back to Anu swiftly as though someone was fighting with me to take her home, opened her crate’s door, lifted her, and gave a peck on her forehead. “Anu, I have always wanted to name my next dog Boo. But you are now used to the name ‘Anu’. So, you will be Anu Boo from today, and you will learn to love all of us including my canine brother Calvin. Okay? Okay!” I told her. She yawned again, looked around, and wriggled to be left alone.
Anu Boo officially arrived.
7 years later, as I write this blog, Anu Boo is snoozing on my bed. Her defiant ear dances to the tunes of the fan. She is deep into a dreamless slumber. A lot of things have changed, and not changed, since that day I put her up for adoption at a fair. Her fur is still brown but it shines as though I polish it every day. Her countenance is still morose, but sometimes innocent, and other times, wise. She continues to be misanthropic. She loathes strangers. She is skittish around men. She runs like a deer, and sits still like a monk. She relishes carrots, and apples, and despises dog-food. She is territorial, protective, jealous, funny, and effusive about her love for her family. When she is in the mood for it, she throws her head back, and howls along with me. She knows quite a few words in Tamil, and English. When she is not in the mood, she refuses to acknowledge any language’s existence. Her boundaries are non-negotiable, and when breached, she doesn’t hesitate to snarl, and bite even if the intruder is her family. She is very unlike my first dog Calvin. She taught me that each animal is an individual with unique characteristics, and idiosyncrasies. Above all, she is a warrior.
In 7 years, she has lived a long life. She was stranded in an abandoned house for three months before I rescued her. Starvation brought out the cannibal in her. She ate her litter-mate’s carcass to survive. She was the lone survivor of her pack. Two years ago, she had a stroke. The vet initially thought it was an epileptic seizure, drugged her for a prolonged period, and the medicines changed her personality. She wasn’t my Anu Boo. I was almost resigned to the idea that as long as she was alive, I would be grateful. But my boyfriend, who is her No. 1 fan, convinced me to take another opinion from a vet whom we hadn’t met before. I trusted his instinct, and the vet diagnosed that what Anu Boo had was a stroke. He suggested that her body had the power to heal on its own, as much as it could, and that there was no need to keep her drugged to avert seizures. In a day, Anu Boo’s original grumpy yet adorable personality returned. She became my favourite curmudgeon again. Her body is not what it used to be before the stroke. The right side of her body is not fully functional anymore. She can’t scratch her ears using her right hindleg, or hold a treat between her paws, and her jaw is so weak that she can’t gnaw at a bone. What broke my heart is her disinclination to play with her toys which she used to adore. But I have risen above the heartbreak. She is here, completely embracing life, one moment at a time, and my heart beats with gratitude for that. I want her to live LONGER, become a super senior healthy doggie, and I want her muzzle and the hair above her eyes to become grey, and her face wiser. I want both of us to be enchanted by many setting suns. May my prayers be answered.
I am often asked who my best friend is, and what I seek in friendship. I offer vague responses to those questions because the world is not ready for my honest answer. Anu Boo is my best friend. Incarcerate me for committing the crime of anthropomorphizing my relationship with her, but she is my soulmate. I wish I could love many like the way I love her. Everything about her is perfect, including her imperfections. It’s life-affirming to lie on the floor with her, and see her belly rise and fall as she breathes. It’s liberating to realise that I am loving her, warts and all, and that I am still capable of loving a soul that way, without holding anything back. I feel alive when I sit with her at the window, look out, and be transfixed by a squirrel feverishly working on something, or a crow who lands at the window and flies away in a moment just to tease her. Anu Boo is truly the guardian of my being, my life-witness. Her very life is a quiet lesson in resilience, and in letting life stab us with its beauty and truth.