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Wag the dog

By Nickunj Malik - Aug 13,2014 - Last updated at Aug 13,2014

You don’t have to examine them closely in order to notice the similarity. One casual glance is enough to confirm the obvious fact that pet-owners and their pets resemble one another in an uncanny, unbelievable and unexplainable sort of way.

I did not give much credence to this belief initially. But recently I came across a photograph. It was of a golden retriever pup grinning wolfishly at the camera. The picture was taken 10 to 15 years back and for a moment I could not pinpoint who the snapshot reminded me of. And then, all of a sudden, it came to me in a flash. The happy puppy looked exactly like an unruly version of me. In a much younger and untidier form, but our dark eyes, rakish smile and unkempt hair looked completely identical. 

I never spotted this while he was alive. There was just no time for any kind of philosophical reflection then, as he kept me extremely busy. I could not prepare for his arrival because we adopted him on a whim, with no prior planning. He was tiny, a few weeks old, chocolate coloured bundle when I picked him up for the first time. He curled into my palm and clung to my shoulder refusing to let go. I had to bring him home. When I gave him a bath, all the dirt accumulated on his little body washed off, and he emerged as a light cream fluffy ball. 

We called him Zar and he was an absolute delight. When he was small, his favourite mode of travel was my lap. He loved attention and curious children stopped me in public places to ask if they could cuddle him. As he became bigger I had to start the tough job of house-training him. Many nights he would wake me up with a false whine and when I took him out into the garden to do his business, he would go on an unending sniffing trail. If I rushed him, he would come back indoors, and promptly piddle on the leg of my expensive sofa. 

The doggy biscuits were what he lived for, and I could make him do anything, if the reward was a crunchy cookie. When he grew older his body became stronger. Very soon he started resembling a huge gigantic lion. He was supposed to be our guard dog but was the friendliest mutt alive, and was more capable of jumping on a stranger and slobbering him with drool rather than biting him to death. 

Everything scared him, including the sound of his own bark. His greatest pastime was chasing cats, but if a particular vicious one hissed at him, he would come scurrying, to hide behind my back. From that safe position he would continue to snarl at them. 

Zar spent every moment of his life around me. So when he contacted leukaemia, we had to make one of the most agonising decisions we have ever made. The vet suggested that this was the kindest thing we could do and it was time to let him go. The melting brown eyes looked at me in complete trust, as I held him in my lap for one last time. The injection was painless and within minutes he stopped his laboured breathing.

His loss was devastating and I have still not completely recovered from it. The belated realisation that I resembled my dog is like a balm to my grieving soul.

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