Shravya, 12 year old granddaughter of Mr. Das, rang our doorbell at 1030, tears rolling down her tender cheeks. “Whitey died, uncle,” she said and then we both were speechless. Usha and I went over to Mr. Das and saw Whitey the dog lying in a corner of the courtyard.
Whitey has been the darling of about 15 houses in the neighbourhood. We did not consider him a street dog; he was loved and nurtured by the community. Today morning Whitey had banged our gate at 5:00 a.m. as usual and had his share of biscuits before the main breakfast later. Till about 10:00 a.m., he appeared in front of our house on and off, being petted. Then he visited Mrs. Nayak and negotiated for some food. After wandering off down the street, he rushed to Mr. Das with a pitiful cry. Sipping a little water he was given, he breathed his last in a minute. Sindhu from the opposite house rushed with some medicine and milk, but it was late. Mr. Das buried the dog in his courtyard and spread some flower over the grave.
All through the day people in the street have been consoling each other telling that Whitey had become old, was hard of hearing and could not see well, it was good that he died peacefully as it would have been difficult to see him suffer … Some men and many women and children were in tears. Mr. Nayak had gone out of station last evening reminding his family that Whitey be fed at night in his absence. He has been particular to feed Whitey at night.
Whitey had become part of the street for the past few years. We do not know from where he came and how he established the loving relationship with people in neighbourhood. He was a common talk when people met. Women would exchange information on who fed the dog with what that day while Whitey himself would be listening with curiosity all over his face. He won our hearts with love. Seeing one of us from far, he would dance with joy and come rushing. Coming close, he would make affectionate noises, rub his body against us and demand to be fondled. He would ignore food, even if given, in such moments. Even otherwise, when food is offered, unless very hungry, he would wait to be requested to eat! Very dignified he was. If scolded, he would become sad and dull. He would appear depressed if deprived of affection by someone in the group.
Whitey had an assertive way with us. He would eat only what he chose – limited mostly to biscuits, rice with milk or curd. Try feed him dosa or chapathi, he would refuse and go some other house where he would be pampered.
He marked his own border and would not go out of his boundary, a small part of the street, to receive or see off people. Within his area, he moved around pouring affection for all and with a pride of his own.
Like most dogs, he was very fond of children. Shankar’s house was not within Whitey’s boundary. But, Shankar would come searching for the dog to bring smile on the face his tenants little daughter. Within his area, Whitey would watch over with great joy children playing.
During the last few rainy days he slept in our courtyard, day and night. Usha fed him well and he had no reason to seek food elsewhere. With the weather brightening, he was on the street again.
All that he did was being happy himself, showing great affection to all, and with some dignity of his own.
Whitey, we will miss your knocks on the gate tomorrow and forever. You were a common thread among houses in the neighbourhood and we all will miss you.