( While you read , listen to this :
This story is about Layla, a Great Dane.
Layla wasn’t just a dog who was rescued by Friendicoes and adopted by me five years back.
She and I , in the words of the beautiful JIm Morrison, were riders on the storm.
She came into my life and rescued me ,actually. Layla silenced my demons and danced with my angels.
I was going through a major personal crisis.
My marriage of twelve years had broken up.Although, I was very sure that I would not spend my life with a man who had turned into a stranger, all those who have gone through it would agree that it is tough. And tough if you are a woman. And especially more tough, if you are and also perceived to be from a higher “ status’ family vis-a-vis the husband who spared no effort in painting a picture of me as a spoilt-arrogant-rich- bitch.
Rant:I am so bloody glad he is out of my life. It was my mistake all along. I failed to read/recognize the warning signs! The chap didn’t like dogs or Led Zeppelin
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Yes, let me not digress by talking about a deplorable human and a loser .
Let me tell you , instead, about a beautiful animal and a winner.
Layla’s story is a typical one which I have seen in my many, many years of being associated with animal rights and welfare. A pedigreed puppy bought for a huge sum of money to enhance status. The puppy grows into a huge Great Dane who requires love and attention,daily walks,exercise, grooming, nutritious food and supplements- all of which cannot be handled by Chotu or the private security guard, who proceed to abuse/hit the dog and keep her chained.The Great Dane turns aggressive, falls sick and is then promptly dumped in Friendicoes.
‘Can you take her in , Aparajita ? “, asked ( the very wonderful) Geeta Sheshmani of Friendicoes, a trifle desperately. That evening, I remember, nine dogs of various pedigrees and age had been abandoned at the already overflowing shelter.It was human callousness and cowardice at its worst!Abandoning that dog who was completely dependent on you for no fault of his except that he was either sick or old or you were leaving town!
I hesitated. I had never kept a Great Dane before and knew nothing about the breed. I worried that I stayed in a first floor apartment. I had a demanding job. The dog was aggressive. And I also was not ready for another dog I felt. I had just lost my Boxer girl and my three other ones had been dropped off in my parents’ home as I planned to take a break and just travel ( Read: wander)
One look at that regal face and the Eric Clapton moment happened ‘Layla, you got me on my knees”. We both fell for each other! ‘’Alpha females bonding” , laughed my sister, when I told her about bringing Layla home.
That is how a great friendship and love story started . MIne & Layla’s.
Her world revolved around me and me alone. Though she was attached to my family when they came visiting, her eyes would search mine out and signal that she loved me best. She would sleep the whole day , only to wake up at 6 pm, when she knew I would be returning.She never lost that aggressiveness towards people and her fierce protection towards me sent many a Romeos wanting to come up for coffee, scurrying. Those fact and fiction about a single woman being ‘hunted’ ? Well, Layla jaan pooh-pooed them away with her deep throated bark that struck fear in the most amorous male heart and other male appendages! Great Danes are called gentle giants. Yes, with me she was gentle …an exquisite tenderness which wrapped my heart and soul in deep layers of unconditional love.
As for me. Layla was the most important person in my life too. Even in the dead December cold of Delhi, I would wake up at 4 am and take her for a two hour walk every day in the Jahanpannah city forest and park. That did me a whole lotta good actually , saving me from stress binging!When my Bong cook would disappear because of the repeated excuses of “ami bemaar”,’’ bou bemaar’’, ‘baaacha bhishon bemaar”, I would exist on leftover pizza, but would cook Layla’s food every day. I preferred spending time with her instead of attending all the happening do’s that I keep getting invited to. My holidays were infrequent too. Not because Layla wouldn’t have been looked after, but because even a few days away from her seemed an eternity. Life felt so incomplete without that beloved face next to me in the morning.
LIke all Danes, she was great fun and goofy too! Those moment of Dane craziness resulted in many broken vases and punctured cushions. And the Lord help me,she honestly thought she was a lap dog ! Her great weakness was Britannia’s ‘Little Heart ‘ biscuits and chicken tikka, a weird snack combo, we adopted for our Friday night JIm Morrison, Led Zeppelin, JImi Hendrix etc etc jam sessions. Oh yeah, we were solid , old school rocker chicks!
I lost her to the dreaded bloat disease.It was very quick.She thankfully did not suffer much.I rushed her to the vet praying like I have never prayed before in my life. But, we both knew in those fleeting seconds before she collapsed, that we have to let go of each other. Her eyes looked into mine and I read them .’’ This is the end, beautiful friend…..my only friend”, she told me.
She died in my arms.
I wept like I have never wept before and understood for the first time what being broken meant .
I know I will never get over that feeling of complete loss and abandonment. I dont want to also.It is a very bitter sweet feeling ,you know. Thinking about her causes me great pain and great happiness, both. I will adjust to live in that love and loss,once again…slowly rebuild myself. I will become whole again but I will never be the same.
I grieve her and I know it is forever .For grief and love come together.I realize that no one can take Layla’s place . I have loved many a times…all the beautiful animals who have been a part of my heart and life. But, she will rule over them all . ….the queen of hearts.
Here are a few photographs of Layla & me. I smile , through my tears as I listen to the very recognized, very loved riffs of Clapton’s ‘’ Layla’….remembering and yearning .