I have been thinking of writing this for a long time. But isn't it already too late? Has it not been ten long years since I saw you the last? Ten years since you leapt at me, yanked at your leash and whined again and again, entreating me to take you away from there; to take you home. I did not listen then Toby, I just turned and walked away and left you behind - alone, chained, thirsty and helpless. What can I say? I really thought that was for your best. I thought I had done a good thing for you and that you will be happy where I left you. But today as your memory flashed through the wall of time, why do I feel sorry? Why do my eyes fill with tears and my mind with remorse? Why do I find myself at a place where I am not even able to cry for you?
When you came to me you were just a little puppy. Your eyes had not opened yet and you would waddle behind me from room to room, slipping on the marble floor of our house. One of the construction workers in my father's company had picked you up from your mother's side somewhere on the street. He had given you to me and had assured that your mother was a strong dog and you would make one good dog yourselves.
I loved you the moment I saw you. You were a tiny, light brown, fur ball with black spots on all four of your legs. Whenever I came near you, you would wag your little tail and rub your moist, black nose against my ankle. Your tiny, soft ears were still folded and your face had the incredibly adorable innocence of all young ones.
I had read "Roots" recently, and for some reason, I had loved the name Toby. I did not want you to have the usual dog names like Tommy and Moti so I named you 'Toby ne Bugelal', just 'Toby' for short. What does Bugelal mean? Well I don't know, but I loved it when I would call you Tyooooooooooby Niiii Bugelaal, and you would come running towards me as if that was the loveliest name for someone to be addressed by.
In the first couple of months after you came, I was trying to keep you away from Gappu the cat. She was larger at that time and also older than you and I was concerned she will hurt you. Gappu too seemed to think she was superior, so she was being cocky and walked around as if you were not important enough to acknowledge. But in a few days you showed her who was the boss. Once you got a grip on yourselves, your favorite pastime became chasing Gappu all over the house. The poor cat could not have a moment's rest! So now I had to protect her from you instead!
Ever since you were little, you hated being leashed. You allowed me to put a belt around your neck, but if I ever tried to tie you up, you would scream and whine at the top of your voice, until I was forced to let you go. You were always a free spirited animal.
As you grew up, only one of your ears straightened and your eyes got that naughty sparkle. Do you know how cute you looked? But unlike the prediction of the person who brought you to me, you never grew to be a big dog. You always remained a little dog with lots of attitude.
Your favorite food was sugarcane juice and peas. So unusual for a dog! My then boyfriend Nilesh, and I used to make it a point to bring you one of the two. We used to love watching you munching a bowl of peas or lapping up sugarcane juice.
What a prankster you were Toby, and so unruly! I could never leash you but I tried really hard to keep you from going out and mingling with stray dogs. However, you would not loose one opportunity of sneaking out of the house. When you came back you would either be extremely filthy or bruised in a scuffle. I would ask you as I washed you and nursed your wounds, "Did you really have to pick a fight with those bigger and stronger mongrels? At least look at your size", I would say, "Do you really have to be this stupid little dog?"
These outings of yours always got you into trouble. Remember one day you ate something you should not have and got sick? I had to keep you in the veterinary hospital on a drip for two days. Then for your own good I tried to stop you from going back outside. I made a nice bed for you at the patio entrance and left the patio door open for you to roam around. To keep you from going out, I put a little concrete screen on the other side so that you could not climb down the stairs and go down.
I still wonder what exactly you did to get the concrete screen down. And how did you get your leg trapped under it? Even a human would not be able to do that! You whined like never before and I rushed you again to the hospital, this time they had to put your leg in a cast. But that did keep you from going out, at least for a while.
Your one annoying habit made people hate you. I tried to potty train you so many times but you were just incorrigible! Much to the chagrin of my mother, you had to poop right in the doors of her arch rivals in the building. She would be seething with anger as they took particular pleasure in having her clean it. When I came home in the evening, I would have to hear all kinds of complaints about you. As you wagged your tail and danced around me, you did not even realize how many times I had to fight with my mother over you.
You, rather your poop, has even found a place in my brother's love story. When moonstruck Abhijit was taking his wife to be, Aparna, to the terrace for their first ever private chat, he was too distracted to watch where he was going until he stepped in your poop, which, by the way, was strategically placed on the terrace stairs. I can only imagine how mortified he must have been, for instead of looking into his beautiful wife's eyes, the first thing he had to do when he reached the terrace was to find a tap to wash his feet! Aparna still teases my brother over that incident.
Toby, in spite of your being naughty and incredibly unruly, you were a nice dog - very sharp and adorable. But I regret that I could not keep the promise I made to you. When you were a little puppy I had promised I would take care of you no matter what. But as I grew up and got sucked into the adult world, my responsibilities increased. I got caught in my college classes, my job, my extra curricular activities and my boyfriend. I could not give time to you.
Sometimes I would have to leave early, and could come back home only at night. You would be hungry if there was no one home to give you food or water. You would still leap at me and love me unconditionally even though I had wronged you. I cannot tell you Toby how guilty I would feel then. I would be in a frenzy to feed you, to take care of you. But the fact that you remained hungry because of me would make me extremely sad.
Toby, the adult world won me over and I had to finally decide to give you away. It was impossible for me to take care of you with all my responsibilities and my relations with mom were already strained. But, I could not just leave you somewhere on the road like so many people who left their unwanted dogs. I had to find you a nice home. I knew you were a free spirited dog, so I decided to give you away to a farmer. I envisioned you roaming freely on a farm and still being taken care of. The city, I thought, was filthy and full of hostile dogs fighting for their territory. They would have killed a small dog like you. In the village you would have lots of freedom and also a home, I had thought.
I could not stand to watch you taken away. So I called the farmer in the afternoon to take you when I would not be at home. The day he was to come to take you, do you remember that I hugged you for a long time and cried? You had no idea what was your fate and you just enjoyed the attention. That day when you watched me go, your eyes filled with unconditional trust of a dog, did you know that you would never see this house again?
Some time in the afternoon the farmer came and took you away. For days after that I would come home to an empty house. There was no one to call to, nobody who would come to greet me and leap at me and show me how happy they were to see me. The only two who were happy at your departure was my mother and Gappu the cat. Gappu finally got back her kingdom and did not have anything (except, occasionally, my mother) to fear anymore.
Then one day after a year since you were sent away I came to see you with Nilesh. You were tied at the door of the farmer's house, curled up on a rag. To my surprise you recognized us. You leapt to us as if you had been waiting all along. Overjoyed, you licked and scratched me. Were you trying to tell me something?
I looked at the house and I felt happy that you were in a good house. Then I met the farmer's family and inquired about you. They told me they loved you and that you were a smart dog. I felt so proud and happy. But when I asked them how they took care of you, I was shocked and sad. They did, what they thought was good for you. But it was not right. They fed you only twice a day they said, and gave you water only at the time of your food. They tied you all the time and would never let you off the leash.
I did tell them Toby that you should be given lots of water and should be unleashed for some time. I told them that you had a free spirit and how sad you must have been to be tied up. I told them what you loved to eat and what you enjoyed doing. But I am not sure if I could make them understand, to make them see what you really were. I can only imagine what they must have done to you to make you a "tough" dog, how much suffering you must have gone through because of their ignorance. I should have been stronger Toby; I should have insisted and made them understand. But I protested and warned only weakly. And after that I never even came back to check on you.
When I left that day, you leapt and cried and whined. You begged me to take you away. But I never heard your plea. I just sat behind Nilesh on his motorcycle and drove away. Your cries still haunt my ears Toby. I just wish I had the courage and independence to turn back and take you home. But I never really did. Many times after that, I did think about coming to see you again. But those thoughts remained just thoughts and as I got entangled in the world more and more, your memories were pushed to the back of my mind.
Today after more than ten years, thousands of miles away from where I left you, I think about you and miss you. I don't even know if you are alive and perhaps never will. But if there is a way these thoughts can reach you in this life or the next, I would just like to say Toby, that I am really and truly sorry. Only thing I can do for you, perhaps, is take an oath that I will never, abandon anybody who is vulnerable and dependant on me, ever again.