The word rex is a Latin word. It meant king. I named him Rex. He lived regally and died royally. He was born on August 1994 in a rich family resided in a posh area in Bangalore city, Karnataka State, India. As he grew up, I was told, he began to howl and bark very often. The retired hands and the elders residing nearby objected to his behavior at night. The owner gave him up to the animal shelter. The director of the shelter contacted me as I was searching for a watch dog for my farm. I rushed to the shelter. At the first sight I fell in love with him. I brought him home on May 1996. My wife and son were away in Kerala. I had no living maid. I was alone at home.
Rex was huge, three feet high and four feet long. He was reddish brown, with white patches on the hands and legs as if he wore white gloves. He looked ferocious but was calm and composed. His appearance was majestic and his walking magnificent. He was half wolf and half Doberman. The police had trained him for six months. But he had learned only few things: to eat from master’s hands and never shit in the area where he roamed. I let him loose on our terrace. He had then 40 square feet under his domain to stroll around. From a height of forty feet he could watch around as far as two kilometers. Since his arrival I took him out in the morning and evening. Whenever he was on the road all other dogs and bitches would run away for their life. People would give him way. Cyclists and motor cyclists would move away to the side of the road.
He howled and barked during the night in every two hours as he was a mix of both breed. His barking echoed all around. People in nearby villages could hear his barks.
“Sir, because of your dog the dacoits will not dare to come to our village.” Villagers used to tell me.
“Rex is a wonderful watchdog. We feel secure at night” Our immediate neighbors confessed candidly. We felt very proud of him.
He would not eat rice without meat. He would not eat until I ordered to. He would at first smell the food then would come to me and smell my hand and then he would sit near the plate to hear my commanding “Eat”. While he ate he did not like people stand nearby him. Sometime he resented my presence too. He used to play with me. But I have to play according to his rules. He would some times stare at me, showing no emotion. His look would frighten me. I was always cautious and careful about his moods. He was not very friendly with the other members of my family. He never liked the strangers and intruders. He kept them at bay.
Rex did not like gun shots and crackers. He did not like people shouting at each other on the road at night. He did not like vehicles stopping and making sound at night. He would bark and bark until I should say, “That’s ok, Rex, keep quiet”
One day I missed him on the terrace. I searched for him. There was no trace of him. I got worried. While I was going around the farm a boy cycled to me and said,
“Sir, your dog is in our village chasing a bitch on heat. I ran after the boy into their village carrying the chain. I heard the barking of the street dogs. I saw Rex walking on the street quietly looking for the girl. Villagers were standing on their courtyard. Cattle, goats, sheep and chickens were peeping at the visitor with wide eyes. There was a small crowd of children following Rex with stones and sticks in their hands.
“Rex, stop” He heard me. He abruptly stopped and turned around. The children ran away into four directions.
“Come here, please.”
He walked towards me. I chained him.
I knew he needed once in a while a girlfriend to get his heat out. I brought in female dogs of his stature from my friends. Though he was loving and affectionate no girl dared to approach him. Only once he made love to a female Doberman.
A couple of months ago I noticed his back side getting thinner and leaner. I was afraid his rare portion would suffer from paralysis. I prayed God that it should not happen. I would not be able to take him to the hospital as it was very far from my farm. There were no doctors around. No one would take him in an auto. I used to tell him, “Rex, don’t get sick and bedridden for long. I won’t be able to care for you. I am also getting old. Go ahead of me.”
So it happened.
On 21-09-2005 I found him unable to get up. Nevertheless he got up and we made our usual morning walk. It was a slow walk and the last.
In the evening I brought him down from the terrace. He could hardly walk. He was trying hard to shit and piss. At night I put him in our servant’s quarters. Every two hours I visited him. He had vomited several times but there was nothing but yellow water. He was always lying on the floor. I knew he was seriously ill.
Next day, 22-09-2005, early morning I found him very sick. I called upon the veterinary doctors. None was available. I searched for an ambulance, not available. No auto was willing to carry him. I could not do anything. It was 7.30 am
“Rex, come on, let us go out” I called out. He looked at me. I saw tears flowing from his eyes. With much difficulty he got up and walked step by step. We walked hardly 10 feet. When we reached the tamarind tree on which I used to tie him, he collapsed. I then knew he was sinking. I sat beside him and put his head on my lap. I called him every 5 minutes. I knew death was at hand. I saw him dying minute by minute. His legs were getting cold, his breathing heavier. Whenever I called him he looked at me. At 7.50 I called him. He looked at me. His eyes were welled up with tears. He tried to raise his head. His breathing became heavy. His hands and legs were already cold. His rare side was icy. While I was looking at him his breathing became slow, slower and slowest. He opened his mouth and let out a sigh. His breathing stopped. His pupils did not move. I closed his eyes and mouth. I cried in silence. That was the end.
Ironically, wife was in Kerala, son had not returned from the office, the servant would arrive only at 9am. I was alone with him when he left his home of nine years.
Son came at 8.30 am. We carried Rex to the servant’s quarters. We laid him on a plastic sheet. I tied his mouth and legs. I sat beside him. Son went for sleeping as he was working at night shift.
At 10 am we, me and the maid servant, dug ground 6 feet by 6 feet. We laid wooden plank and a bed. We covered him with a blanket. We buried him, in front of our house, in the garden. He served me well. He did not trouble me. He went ahead of me.
Rex was a patrician.
I would never get a watchdog like Rex.
I did not intend to have another one like him as I was also getting old. In memory of him I built a small pond and a pillar in the middle on his grave. Everyday I see Rex sleeping well.
J Kaval is bilingual writer of fiction. He edits and publishes KATHA KSHETRE a literary quarterly dedicated to short fiction from world over. He gives classes on ‘Creative Writing’