My Golden Labrador’s Guide to Grace

Animals

My Golden Labrador’s Guide to Grace

Illustration: Sushant Ahire

J

immy, a lean, young Indian pooch, belonged to my neighbour’s cook and lived with him in a shack behind our apartment. Blithely unaware of his humble heritage, this cocky young mutt took a shine to Tyra, a woman of pedigree and the love of my life.

Every night, as I walked my gorgeous golden Labrador, Jimmy would make a dash for her – prancing, pouncing, and preening for attention only to be dismissed with a look of nonchalance, as she continued to sashay down the street. Unperturbed by his crassness, Tyra found no bliss or amusement in his meaningless shenanigans. In fact, quite the contrary. She pretended he didn’t exist.

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Jimmy, ungracious in the art of rejection, decided to take his lustful affection for Tyra to another level with crude attention-seeking tactics. Rolling on his back, kicking his legs up in the air, as if to entertain her, Jimmy would make a swift 360-degree twirl, get back on his feet and chase Tyra down the street at full speed to give her a nip on the neck. He was almost always greeted with a snarl, the second time around. Jimmy was trying to tell Tyra that he was a man worth keeping. “Look at me,” he barked for attention, “I’m irresistible.” But Tyra wasn’t really listening. She’d decided that the boy wasn’t worth her time.

Around the time that Jimmy was wooing Tyra, I was going through my own ups and downs. In my early 20s, I was discovering the various alpha- and beta-male prototypes who were populating my life. It was quite challenging because the central male figure in my life, my father, had passed away suddenly. It was seven months after Tyra came into our lives. Because of this unexpected upheaval, we relocated to Bangalore, my mother’s home town, lock, stock, and barrel, to find out what life held in store for us.

On one side, we, as a family, dealt with the emotional trauma and loss together; on the other side, as single woman in a new city, I was dealing with other stuff. I was slowly realising what it meant to live without a male anchor or the quintessential protector-cum-provider. Especially in the face of male attention.

Just like Tyra’s Jimmy, I too was contending with every testosterone-filled Monty I met at the various watering holes I spent my weekends at. “Hello, may I buy you a drink?” This was a common conversation starter that my girlfriends and I would encounter on our night-outs.

We grew up together, the two of us, as feisty, spontaneous, multi-faceted Geminine girls.

There was one boy in particular. Let’s call him Johnny. Unlike Jimmy, who was the don of the streets, Johnny came with a pedigree, but like Jimmy, he had no qualms about descending to crassness when he didn’t get his way. He would bark intimidatingly to send his immature point of view across, and then manipulate the conversation to put the blame on me. Despite his aggression, I hung around until one night I’d had enough of his bullshit. As I attempted to end the relationship, Johnny challenged me. “No woman has ever been able to break up with me,” he said. In the end, Jimmy and Johnny were saying the same thing: “Look at me, I’m irresistible.”

I took my cue from Trya and turned my tail. Even as Johnny made many subsequent attempts to keep in touch, I never looked back again. I decided that the boy wasn’t worth my time.

***

Tyra lived with me for 13 years.

Our time spent together was a lesson in grace – she taught me to cope with the unpredictability of life and relationships and their various shades of grey. We grew up together, the two of us, as feisty, spontaneous, multi-faceted Geminine girls. I, through my wild 20s, and she from a puppy to a graceful, golden lady Labrador.

Tyra’s intriguing mix of personalities fascinated me. If she had Audrey Hepburn’s schoolgirl charm and innocence at one moment, she had Sophia Loren’s diva-like demeanour at another. When she needed “me time” she had Greta Garbo’s stand-off sighs. Her world was neatly cleaved into likes and dislikes, and she taught me that nothing was more important than knowing your own mind.

In October 2015, Tyra gave up the fight with age. She was on drips for two weeks. “Please take her home,” the doctors at the hospital told us. “She is not liking it here.”

When she came home, after a spell of 10 days, Tyra walked around the house with the stride of a lioness, soaking up familiar smells until she breathed her last two nights later. Just before she left us, she raised her head and indulged me with a last selfie. Just she and I. Two Geminine girls living life using Tyra’s “Guide To Grace”.

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