My dog/ growing up in the 80’s
13 November 2014
He was a stocky red haired mongrel with one black eye who appeared on the verandah of our house in Mussoorie, India in the early 80’s. I was 8 years old and our family had decamped to the cool of the mountains for the summer. I don’t know where he came from but he seemed friendly and tame. I fed him muffins I had baked and he gobbled them up. He would come every day in the morning before breakfast and we became fast friends. He soon start following me everywhere. I named him Paddy because he had reddish fur and it seemed to match him.
We took him to the sweltering heat of Delhi when the summer was over and I started back to school at the British School. He must have suffered, a hill dog in the heat of the plains with his coat of fur and layer of muscle and fat. He would lie listlessly at the gate, his tongue hanging out but always come running when I came home from school, but he quickly grew accustomed to the heat and noise and sights of that hot city.
Every day after school we would go to the shops on my bike. I had perfected a method of attaching his leash to my bike handles and he would pull me along. I was ‘the girl with the dog’ and all the shopkeepers got to know us. Back then the world seemed safer and there was more freedom. We would go off exploring the rocky terrain near our house during the long afternoons after school. In the early 80’s there was still undeveloped land in the city. It was perfect for downhill joyrides. I once found an uncovered well, it stretched down into the dark. I remember there was construction on a huge temple near our house. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but it later became the famous Bahai lotus temple. I remember the huge marble lotus leaves slowly taking shape. Paddy would sometimes get into terrible fights with other stray dogs, and I would watch helplessly, terrified and fascinated at their ferocity. He would come away whimpering, wet teeth marks indenting his fur.
The day came when I was 11 for me to go away to boarding school in the same hill town of Mussoorie. My brother and sister had preceeded me and it was a rite of passage in our world that at a certain age you were sent to boarding school. It was a sad moment of parting for Paddy and I. I was excited about my new school and nervous about living away from home but it must have been lonely for Paddy after I left. For some years after that I saw him only on school breaks. He cried for days after I left my father said. He was left on his own, with only my mother and the cook for company.
In 9th grade, my mother took up residence in the hill town and I came out of boarding again to live at home. This was a period of close to happiness. School was rocky for me, my grades were mediocre and I did not score highly in the social pecking order of high school. Each day I would come home and retreat into my own world, taking Paddy for long walks and then settling down to read on a huge red armchair that still sits in our sunroom. Unfortunately Paddy had picked up the habit of following me to school and even when I sneaked out without his knowledge, he followed me to school. In between classes I would see him in the quad area, looking around for me and sniffing the air. For a self conscious 9th grader it was mortifying. I knew if he caught sight of me he would come bounding up, follow me to class and then wait outside.
One morning I got up and Paddy wasn’t there on the verandah in his chair. He wasn’t anywhere to be found. We went out to look, we searched the hillside over and over. He was gone from the same verandah I found him. I never saw him again.
Over 25 years have passed and I start to wonder more than ever before. What happened to him? Did he get carried off by a panther? A bear? It was not uncommon for wild animals to carry off neighborhood dogs. I hope he didn’t suffer. He had grown old and mellow and was back on his home turf, in the mountains of his birth. I had grown increasingly distracted, preoccupied with school and friends and my appearance. At the time I soon got on with my life, memories of our adventurous excursions overlaid with teenage preoccupations. Now I feel regret that I was so cavalier. Those preoccupations soon faded and only memories of my faithful dog remain, my red furred one eyed friend.
- Posted by jleaphart