I see him lying there on his side- frozen and unmoving. So very different from the Lucky I used to know. There is a deathly silence within the small animal clinic on East Coast Road. Even the normally cheerful vines and general shrubbery around the cottage, fail to bring cheer on this particular evening. Bob is nowhere to be found. He has disappeared- I am told that he has gone to the temple in Bukit Merah to pray for Lucky. But I know that the reason he has gone, is to escape from the hideous yet ultimate fact-Lucky is no more. Fiona’s sobs from within, echoed through the clinic’s waiting area and the surgery and recuperation room behind. I put my arm around her, but I can offer no comfort. The pain that one experiences on losing a loved one-human or animal-is intense. The wound is almost physical in nature. It runs deep, take time to heal and always leaves a scar.
Fiona’s tears flow unhindered. She bares her heart-her feelings for Lucky even as she is surrounded by us- mere strangers. For where there is loss, the presence of a stranger does not matter. The heart aches anyhow-irrespective of the ambient environment. I move over to the other side of the table and see the little collie-mix lying peacefully, eyes half closed, jaw shut tight, his wisps of brown and white hair moving in the breeze. The monsoon season has arrived in Singapore, and it has been raining all day. There has been a definite chill in the air-so uncharacteristic of the Singapore heat and humidity. But the shivers I feel running up and down my spine cannot be attributed to the deviation from tropical climate. It is the chill brought on by death. More so, the cold that hits you, with the sudden death of someone close to you.
Fiona keeps running her hand through his soft hair and over his round little head. Anshul dada stands aside in humble silence as Sushil fondles Lucky’s tail- that soft fluff of a tail so used to furious wagging accompanied with enthusiastic barking. Well almost barking. Lucky didn’t have a voice box when Bob rescued him. He was an abandoned dog (he had some skin issues, which Bob cured completely as time went by) and his voice box had been surgically removed-we believe it was done by his previous owners who may have found his barking too much to take. I never ever heard Lucky bark, but by George! He would try his best. We used to sit in our balcony and watch the kids go crazy in the grass or at the poolside. And Lucky would be there- going round and round in crazy circles with the kids- wheezing away to glory, trying his best to bark. I remember we could never help smiling to ourselves, watching the kids get so accustomed to Lucky’s mirth and zest for life. He was their pal and now he is gone.
I stroke his head and touch his teeny black nose. His nose is rubbery to the touch, but still wet and cold, just like it used to be when he was alive. Such a shy fellow he was, with us adults. He used to be so scared of committing himself to us totally, but we kept trying. What used to strike us most was his absolute devotion to Bob. Wherever Bob went, Lucky would be somewhere at his feet. Bob never needed a leash for him.
I hold Lucky’s paws and feel the 13-year old pads on his paws. In a flash I recollect the first time Bob brought him to our house, after he had rescued him, almost a year back. Lucky was sick, recovering from some skin and stomach issues, but Bob was taking good care of him, just like he does for all his other animals. Bob had said, “I can’t keep him with me, I have so many cats-I’ll try and find him a home soon.” That “soon” never came and Lucky became Bob’s own. The two were inseparable.
When Lucky got sick the last time and had to be sent in for a massive 5-hr surgery (vets found cancerous masses in his intestine, in his pancreas and stones in his gall bladder and kidney), Bob, Sushil, Fiona and I stood near the elevator talking about Lucky. We talked about what a wonderful dog he was and Fiona regaled us with stories of Lucky’s insane jealous streak and how she had been sleeping on the sofa lately coz Lucky would monopolize her side of the bed and refuse to give it up! “Sometimes, we mock hug and Lucky brings the house down with his growling and wheeze-barking!” Bob said. He had just been to the Gurudwara praying for Lucky’s speedy recovery from the surgery and had come to know from one of the priests that Lucky would be re-incarnated as a human in his next life. Such was Bob’s love for a dog, who had made a solid place in his heart. We kept boosting his morale, but the tough guy is such a softie, we could see him breaking down. I remember a poignant thing he said one day to us. I said, “Lucky is really ‘lucky’ to have found you Bob, you have given him such a good life.” To this Bob replied, “I’m the lucky one-what he has given me is priceless.”
Lucky began recuperating well from the surgery, but after frolicking for a couple of days, he developed a high temperature. His tired 13-year old body couldn’t handle it and he finally left his mortal cage this evening.
As I sit here and watch Sushil and Fiona mourning his insensate body, Bob prays hard in the temple for Lucky’s peaceful journey upwards. The tears well up in my eyes and a lump grows in my throat- I realize just how special this dog was and how many lives he touched ever so briefly and ever so deeply. The transportation is here and Lucky will be moved to the main hospital tonight, where he will be cremated with all dignity. Tomorrow his ashes will be handed over to the two humans who doted on him and will always feel his absence. As Fiona kisses Lucky goodbye and Sushil pays his last respects, I turn to look at him one last time. "Finally peaceful"-is what comes to mind. I stroke his head, kiss him goodbye and steer Fiona out of the room into an empty night.
As far as I can tell, Lucky and Bob were not just dog and master, they were two souls, instantly attracted to each other and acknowledged by both. There was a joy in their togetherness, which I see in Sushil and Kishmish. I have very rarely come across that kind of bonding between an animal and a human. But I’m sure there are plenty of such beautiful animal-human relationships in the world-happy in their own little lives.
I do know one thing. Lucky wasn’t Bob’s dog. Bob was Lucky’s human. He had wrapped Bob around his tiny little paws and in that one short year, he loved Bob for a lifetime. Lucky’s Bob. Bob's Lucky. Lucky Lucky Bob. Lucky Lucky "Lucky".