Chhori was prone to injuries and illnesses. The two spent a lot of time visiting a pet hospital, where one day, the two would have their last meeting. But before Chhori turned into a geriatric dog, most vet visits were happy because they both returned home feeling better—one physically, the other emotionally.
Togetherness meant night-long vigil every time Chhori was sick. Togetherness was also waiting to see one another again every time Prachinta left for travels, so they could do their walks together again. On their evening walks sometimes, they would stop under the rambling angel’s trumpets until Prachinta caught a whiff of the wildflower. Chhori didn’t care for the smell as much as she did for the petrichor, but she would wait just because. Their walks were sometimes punctuated by community dogs, Bhai and Kanchi, joining them, making the group an interesting sight to the passersby—a woman and a pack.
Chhori was an explorer. There was a particular jacaranda tree she would always stop to sniff the trunk of. When the Ring Road expansion began and they cut down all the trees, her walks lost signposts. The course of her walk changed, as she walked from one razed tree to another, sniffing at the remnants of the trunks until she found the stump of her favourite jacaranda. It became her new pattern.
One time during their walk, a strange man followed them on a motorbike. Prachinta would eventually change their regime to avoid the stalker, but the hope was that Chhori would pounce on the man if he launched an attack. For she had done so once as a pup—tried to bite a drunk who had attacked Prachinta.
Defence comes in many forms, too. Chhori had kept Prachinta from being exposed to the noise of the world as she had prevented her from turning cold from many years of estrangement and lovelessness. So, when Chhori suddenly passed away, a month short of turning 12, Prachinta found that her heart had become softer than it had ever been. While Chhorri was alive, Prachinta always thought that if one of them died, the other one would also die a slow death. But when the parting came, Prachinta did not die. Instead, she became more alive with the knowledge of the love she had experienced.
Most evenings now, she sits on the terrace, at what used to be the duo’s favourite spot, reminiscing. From the terrace, she can sometimes see the girl next-door taking her dog Mikey for walks, and she thinks about how the freedom of silence, solitude and the darkness of the night is a gift her neighbour has received because of Mikey, just as she had once lived them all because of Chhori.
Suburban Tales is a monthly column in Nepali Times based on real people (with some names changed) in Pratibha’s life.
Read also: Adventures of a Kathmandu street dog