RIDERS ON THE STORM: A GREAT DANE CALLED LAYLA & ME

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( While you read , listen to this

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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 .

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SHE TAKES AWAY A PIECE OF MY HEART

That awful empty feeling haunts me once again. I lost my English bulldog, Jigar ka Tukda, this morning. She was adopted by me six years back from Friendicoes and named after the Janis Joplin number, ”Piece of my Heart”.

I remember the day I saw her while I was feeding boiled eggs to the dogs at the shelter. She came and sat a little distance away and watched me. I was shocked at her appearance. She had no hair and was covered with sores all over. There was a terrible stench emanating from her body.

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( Abandoned @ Friendicoes)
Maybe she realized this? And possibly was shunned because of it ? So she was careful not to come near me? I smiled and held out an egg to her. The look she gave me is one that I will never forget in my life….one of joy and implicit trust. That was also the day she took away a piece of my heart, tucked it into her tubby lil body firmly and named me ‘Egg Lady”.

Jigar moved into my heart, home and life and went on to become a Facebook sensation amongst my friends. They loved to hear about her antics and marveled at her recovery. Fed on a diet of love and generous slices of pizza, Ms Jigar had a thing for wearing lingerie too and loved Victoria’s Secret stuff. She was inordinately proud of her butt which she believed rivaled Kim Karadishan’s. Many a times, I would wake up in the morning, finding it difficult to breathe! That bully-butt would be on my chest!
She became firm friends with the New Delhi-Bhubaneshwar Rajdhani express First AC staff when she travelled with me frequently. A breakfast of boiled eggs and paneer cutlets came especially for her from the pantry car! Her snores and farts were deafening and shattered the peace of my Dad’s reading time. ‘Disgraceful”, he would mutter and fix a baleful eye on me. But, many a times, I did see him sharing his buttered toast and omelet with her.

Here are some pictures of her. She led a happy, pampered life for seven years with me.

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( The famous butt along with her teddy called Marylin Monroe)

 

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( Relaxing)

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( The Love For Lingerie)

 

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( On the Rajdhani Express train)

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( Playing with her teddy bear called Marylin Monroe)

 

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( Momma’s piece of heart)
I hurt…. I hurt so bad. <blockquote>”It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.” ( Lemony Snickett, ‘Horseradish’)</blockquote> I am trying to re-adjust too… not check out lingerie with her online, not share my pizza, not dance to item numbers ( she loved <em>’Shiela ki Jawani'</em>),not getting her stink eye, not holding that paw she extended when she thought I was low.

So Jigar is gone. She had been unwell since the last two days and was refusing food. I was not with her to say goodbye. But she played ball with my nephew, whom she adored, one last time , this morning. And yes, perhaps she remembered me too…her ‘Egg-Lady’…for she had a boiled egg, one last time, before she left me. About that piece of my heart? She has taken it with her.

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Appeal from Jigar & Me : ADOPT!PLEASE DON’T SHOP!
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Why I named My Dog ‘Marlon Brando’

Sometime back, I adopted a dog from the Friendicoes shelter here in New Delhi. He is a young Boxer male and was typically dumped outside the shelter at night. Outwardly, except for being thin and a little skin problem, the dog appeared fine. Everyone at Friendicoes and me wondered about this case because the Boxer is in his prime and highly pedigreed. A month after welcoming him into my heart and home, I found out that he has malignant venereal tumors which need prolonged and expensive treatment that includes chemotherapy. I am happy to report that he is responding well to the treatment under one of the finest vets, Dr Prabhakar, at Friendicoes. The good doctor has magic in his fingers !

I named the Boxer , Marlon after the legendary actor Marlon Brando. Everyone smiles when they hear his name. The ladies sigh, remembering the smoldering and sensual Brando. Film enthusiasts get delirious and talk excitedly about his films and the powerful characters that he essayed.

And then comes the inevitable question. Why did I name him Marlon Brando ? Some put it down to me being a huge fan or he being a cultural icon. Both assumptions are correct.
But most importantly what placed him firmly in my consciousness and being is that Marlon Brando stood up for the alienated and the dispossessed. And he did it oh so flamboyantly and stylishly. I am a huge sucker for any man who tends to live larger than life, the man who chooses to walk un-trodden paths, the man who refuses to be chained by the sometimes hypocritical and immoral chains of society….the one who dances to distant and different drums.

On the eve of the 1972 Oscars, Brando announced that he would boycott the ceremony, and would send Sacheen Littlefeather in his place. After Brando’s name was announced as Best Actor for ‘The Godfather’, the presenter Roger Moore attempted to hand the Oscar to Littlefeather, but she brushed it aside, saying that Brando could not accept the award. Littlefeather read a portion of a lengthy statement Brando had written.Brando had been involved in social causes for years, speaking publicly in support of the formation of a Jewish state in the 1940s, as well as for African-American civil rights and the Black Panther Party. His Oscar statement expressed support for the American Indian Movement (AIM) and referenced the ongoing situation at Wounded Knee, the South Dakota town that had been seized by AIM members the previous month and was currently under siege by U.S. military forces. Wounded Knee had also been the site of a massacre of Native Americans by U.S. government forces in 1890.
Here is the excerpt:


It is the hour in my country as well as that of rest of the world to abandon all notions of ‘otherness’ and instead embrace ‘togetherness’. Only an intermixing colors will reveal a new rainbow world.
Here is the full speech that Marlon Brando. I really wish he had delivered it in person. Truly would have gone down in history as one of the greatest speeches.

For 200 years we have said to the Indian people who are fighting for their land, their life, their families and their right to be free: ”Lay down your arms, my friends, and then we will remain together. Only if you lay down your arms, my friends, can we then talk of peace and come to an agreement which will be good for you.”
When they laid down their arms, we murdered them. We lied to them. We cheated them out of their lands. We starved them into signing fraudulent agreements that we called treaties which we never kept. We turned them into beggars on a continent that gave life for as long as life can remember. And by any interpretation of history, however twisted, we did not do right. We were not lawful nor were we just in what we did. For them, we do not have to restore these people, we do not have to live up to some agreements, because it is given to us by virtue of our power to attack the rights of others, to take their property, to take their lives when they are trying to defend their land and liberty, and to make their virtues a crime and our own vices virtues.
But there is one thing which is beyond the reach of this perversity and that is the tremendous verdict of history. And history will surely judge us. But do we care? What kind of moral schizophrenia is it that allows us to shout at the top of our national voice for all the world to hear that we live up to our commitment when every page of history and when all the thirsty, starving, humiliating days and nights of the last 100 years in the lives of the American Indian contradict that voice?
It would seem that the respect for principle and the love of one’s neighbor have become dysfunctional in this country of ours, and that all we have done, all that we have succeeded in accomplishing with our power is simply annihilating the hopes of the newborn countries in this world, as well as friends and enemies alike, that we’re not humane, and that we do not live up to our agreements.
Perhaps at this moment you are saying to yourself what the hell has all this got to do with the Academy Awards? Why is this woman standing up here, ruining our evening, invading our lives with things that don’t concern us, and that we don’t care about? Wasting our time and money and intruding in our homes.
I think the answer to those unspoken questions is that the motion picture community has been as responsible as any for degrading the Indian and making a mockery of his character, describing his as savage, hostile and evil. It’s hard enough for children to grow up in this world. When Indian children watch television, and they watch films, and when they see their race depicted as they are in films, their minds become injured in ways we can never know.
Recently there have been a few faltering steps to correct this situation, but too faltering and too few, so I, as a member in this profession, do not feel that I can as a citizen of the United States accept an award here tonight. I think awards in this country at this time are inappropriate to be received or given until the condition of the American Indian is drastically altered. If we are not our brother’s keeper, at least let us not be his executioner.
I would have been here tonight to speak to you directly, but I felt that perhaps I could be of better use if I went to Wounded Knee to help forestall in whatever way I can the establishment of a peace which would be dishonorable as long as the rivers shall run and the grass shall grow.
I would hope that those who are listening would not look upon this as a rude intrusion, but as an earnest effort to focus attention on an issue that might very well determine whether or not this country has the right to say from this point forward we believe in the inalienable rights of all people to remain free and independent on lands that have supported their life beyond living memory.
Thank you for your kindness and your courtesy to Miss Littlefeather. Thank you and good night.