The gentle giant
I am glad my memory is short; else those haunting eyes of Pluto would have tormented me forever. The memory still lingers but it is not so intense now. It was a few months ago that Pluto died and I was afraid his eyes would continue to rove and speak to me about his anguish. He was a dog and could not communicate as effectively with me with his mouth as he did with his eyes.
It is my brother who was Pluto's master. Pluto knew it. While my brother's voice was a word of command that was to be obeyed instantaneously, Pluto disregarded me completely - but the disregard was not a contemptuous one but rather like the obduracy of a naughty child. With me, Pluto knew, he could take liberties. There was no master-dog relationship between us - we were friends.
I work late and return home well after the lights have been lit up in the houses. Pluto would be there at the gate to welcome me. So I thought. But as soon as I opened the gate to push my motorcycle inside, he would sneak out. So that was it! He would never dare to sneak out if my brother was around - even if the gate was wide open. With me, it was a different matter altogether - he did what he liked and there were no inhibitions. After urinating, he would try to run away to remain outdoors for some more time. I would chase, catch up with him, and lead him back. He allowed himself to be led back with a mischievous glint in his eyes as if asking me, "Wasn't that fun?". I enjoyed the chase.
He was a gentle giant. When I first met Pluto he was already a "middle-aged" dog. My brother served in the Army and following his retirement, joined us. Pluto came along. It was a working day and I, returning home from office, was about to open the gate when I saw Pluto - a huge German Shepherd with a black and tan coat. He looked fierce. I was scared stiff and was hesitating to open the gate to my own house. But I had to eventually. Pluto came up to me, sniffed at me and we became friends.
As time progressed I have often wondered why I had been so scared the first time. Pluto never appeared to be fierce to me ever again. In fact, he was the gentlest dog I had ever seen who never wasted a bark on un-necessary events.
I quit my job and was without one for a whole year. It was depressing. It is then that I started taking Pluto out for evening strolls and he cherished these walks and so did I. The hour had become unconsciously fixed and if I delayed Pluto would be there scratching at the door of my room. When I opened the door he would fling himself on me, nuzzle me and repeatedly run to the closed gate. "Hey there, it is time for the walk," his eyes said although he never uttered a single bark all the while. The behavior was more like that of a seven-year-old child rather than a seven-year-old dog. The walk served as a good anti-depressant. I, finally, managed to get another job and the evening strolls stopped. That explains Pluto's penchant for sneaking out as soon as I opened the gate after returning home from work.
As days passed, I noticed that Pluto walked dragging a hind leg slightly. But, otherwise, he showed no discomfort. Over the months, the drag became prominent and yet Pluto never let out a groan. My brother took him to the vet. It was arthritis.
Meanwhile, my brother brought home Bozo, a pug. At first I thought Pluto would not take kindly to the new arrival. But I was wrong. The two hit it famously and Pluto played with Bozo with such enthusiasm that it would have put any human grandfather to shame.
One day upon reaching home, I found Pluto not keen at all to sneak out. I was surprised. This happened the next day and the next. I discovered that he could hardly get up now. The arthritis had progressed rapidly. Pluto would regain his enthusiasm after taking the drugs prescribed by the vet but once the effects of the drugs wore off, he would lie quietly unable to get up. But never once did I hear him groan. He would lie quietly and follow me with his eyes.
He suddenly stopped taking food after an infection set in. It was the last day of Pluto's life. I was certain of it. He lay there and when I went out for a bit of shopping, his eyes followed me out of the gate. I could feel it. When I returned, the eyes again threw their glance at me, no other part of his body moved. Late that night, when he struggled to shift to the side, he let out a low groan hardly audible. That was the first time I ever heard him groan in agony. He died in the pre-dawn hours. He died with his eyes open - I don't know whether this is usual but it makes me feel that he must have been in considerable pain while struggling to leave his diseased body. Those open eyes tormented me for a few days and the memories have now faded. I am glad for that.