Hachiko

Not born from my womb but from my heart. Hachiko, my son!

Hachiko was the second rescue case of my seven Indie rescues. One rainy evening, I spotted this big brown boy outside my office, contentedly lying on the kerb of the footpath besides one of the busiest streets of Kolkata. I was just getting used to the joys of having a pet at home after my first rescue and not exactly as dog friendly a person then as I am now ?. But something pulled at my heartstrings when I looked into his soft eyes. So I approached him with some trepidation and offered him a few biscuits. He smelled the biscuits, pulled his face into a wry smile and promptly lay down again as if to say "What the hell! Is this the best you can do"

And then began the one year of me carryingfood packets for him to my workplace. I even went with the packets on the weekend because I could not bear the thought of him being hungry, though my office was pretty far off.Over that one year, I realised that Hachiko was a thorough gentleman. Even though he lived on the streets he never licked his food packet dry but always left some behind for style. He loved parathas, but dare you prepare them with atta, he refused to eat them, point blank. The parathas had to be made with maida, white, well fried and fluffy. His love for me was not effusive but gentle and calm. It was notHachiko’s style to jump, lick and wag. He was forever regal in his grace.

It was a great struggle in deciding to bring him home because my first rescued dog was not animal friendly and I did not want her to harm Hachiko. Everyday, during breaks I used to run up to the office window from where I could see him lying on the blazing street to ensure that he was safe and not run over by some vehicle. But one cold rainy winter morning, when I saw him lying in a ditch, eyes sore and shivering in the chill, I could not evade my heart anymore.

And so my boy Hachiko came home. For me life changed. Though in due course I became a pet mother of seven dogsat home, ten below my residence and four more at my office place, Hachiko was different for me. He was my soul. For the last four years we lived the happiest times together.Everyday, before leaving for work I used to kiss him and tell him that he is God’s gift to me. And on days when I went overboard with my emotions he used to look at me and sigh heavily, as if to say "Enough Ma, you are suffocating me". In the evenings when I returned home from office he greeted me with the sweetest welcoming sounds. He could not live without me for a day and neither could I.So much so that I stopped going for vacations because I just so loved the thought of being with him.

And then three months ago fate decided otherwise. I discovered swellings in Hachiko’s throat and underarm. Quivering with fear, I rushed to the vet with him and was soon presented with a diagnosis of cancer (lymphoma). I got down on my knees and cried out that not so soon, we still need more time together. With the first chemo all the swellings disappeared and we were overjoyed. But shortlived was our happiness as they all reappeared within two weeks. We followed up with three more chemos, all with the same result. I then decided on homeopathy and consulted one of the best homepaths in Kolkata. We started on his medicines but it unfortunately brought about no change. Then a friend of mine suggested we fly to Chennai as veterinary science is said to be the most advanced there. I was anxious. Will my boy make it? He was never crated in his life before. Will he be able to take the anxieties of flying in a crate? But my daughter and I went ahead and decided to take the chance if it could save him.

In Chennai we met people, strangers to us before but who took us in as family. When they heard that Hachiko was not used to living without his AC and our booked guest house did not have one, they hijacked us from the airport and opened up their daughter’s bedroom for us. They treated Hachiko as their most treasured guest in the three days that we were there. Even my daughter with whom I had shared a strained relationship over the past three years changed during this time. It was as if she grew into a woman from a girl while handling and witnessingHachiko’s sufferings with the grace he exhibited. It was not an easy experience,neither forHachikonor us in Chennai. He was faced for the first time with a new city and a place away from his home.He kept looking at me every now and again as if telling me that he just wanted to go back home.But apart from that he bore every discomfort of flying, being lugged onto the hospital examination tables and poked with needles for his innumerable tests, with a dignity and elegance that was so intrinsically part of him. The diagnosis was heartrending, fourth stage cancer with a few months to live.The choice was either more chemotherapy or to leave the situation as it was.

I had always wanted to walk the beach with my Hachiko. So, we decided to, since we were in Chennai. On the evening of our second day there, we did that. In a few minutes of reaching the beach it was as if all the tension drainedout of him. He lay back on the sands and relaxed, nodding off now and again. It was our first and last visit to a beach. But it was the most poignant and heartwarming experience that I will ever have in my life. In those few days after his diagnosis we made memories that will last me a lifetime.

Then we came back to Kolkata. And when we took him for his last chemo, he did not have the strength to climb up the four flights of stairs to my house. Seeing his condition I was a nervous wreck. I was always so used to see him bounding up the staircase. It was then that my daughter proved to be stronger than me. She carried him. Staggering, huffing, panting, she carried him as much as she could up the four stories. During his last night when he was spasming and crying out with pain she held on to him and kept making little soothing sounds and rubbing his stomach to somehow try and ease him. In the sixteen hours that followed she stayed by his side. I could not help but to keep coming out of the bedroom and taking breaks because I could not bear to witness Hachiko’s pain. In his last moments, while being euthanisedwe both had our faces buried deep in to his body and though we tried very hard to be strong for him, we could not help the sobs that racked through our body. Even after he was gone we kept going back to the room where he lay and hugging him.Hachiko’sfur magically always had a perfumed smell, even weeks after a bath; a distinct fragrance which was so inherently him. I used to bury my face in his neck and inhale him. Every time I did this there used to this uncanny echoing voice which seemed to be telling me, "Take your fill of his perfume as much as you can now because you will miss it once he is gone". Though my boy has left, even now when I walk into the bedroom I can feel his sweet fragrance surrounding me.

Somehow with Hachiko, I always felt I had a timeline; something constantly telling me that our time together was short. This is why I used to lap up our minutes together. Even when I brought him home, I remember I had consoled my worried mind of taking on another animal with the selfish thought that since he had a pretty tough life on the streets he would probably live only three to four years. Hachiko sadly lived my predications; four years of his precious presence. He allowed me to play God in his life and even with his end. Although, in retrospect our visit to Chennai yielded no results, I am left with the words of a friend who said that maybe the Almighty meant the aim of our trip to be that I could just walk the beach with my golden boy. I still mourn my Hachikobut with memories that bring tears to my eyes and a smile to my face, simultaneously.

Obituary

Hachiko left us for a land unknown on 30th June, 2016. We do not know his birth date since he was a rescue but the vets put him at about 10 years old. Hachiko was anIndie brown eyed beautiful guy with a bark that would make even the bravest shrivel up with fear. We enjoyed just four years of his amazing presence and still wonder how it would be if we had found him as a puppy. Remembered for his grace, dignity and calmness in all situations and for innumerable other characteristics which would require me to write a book. Loved and mourned by his mother, Sandra Hendricks; his small mother, Charlene Hendricks; his uncle, Kenneth Gade; his grandma, Ivy Gade and his caregivers,Kalpana and Kamlesh. "Till we meet again Son;this is not the end of our story".