THE DOG LOVER
The road from Conoor to Ooty passes through mountainous terrain before it enters the lush green, beautiful valley of Ooty. In this salubrious valley is the prestigious Defence Staff College of India. The air here is fresh and the ambience is classic. The residents living in the beautiful cottages are rich and generally ostentatious.
Colonel Chinnaswamy a retired infantry officer lives here. His friends call him Colonel CS or simply CS. He retired twenty years ago after serving the army for twenty-seven years. Despite earning a battle honour, he couldn’t go higher and the reason for that as he often tells his friends is, “I led a soldier’s life, could never lick the arse of the bloody incompetent seniors. Promotion or no promotion, I cared two hoots.”
There may have been some truth in his statement but his friends felt he had an acerbic tongue, which let him down in his professional as well as personal life.”
Since CS is now retired, there is no gainsaying about his professional life. Unfortunately, his personal life was far from peaceful. CS didn’t like much of socializing and he often snapped his wife who loved club life and looked for every possible occasion to throw parties. Their interests varied and there was hardly any topic on which the two didn’t differ. The little time the couple spent together was taken in Mrs. CS praising her son who was a Major in the army and CS grunting.
With such chemistry between the couple, the only choice left for CS was to stay out door or pass his time in the company of his battery of five dogs.
CS and his wife lived in a beautiful bungalow on a sprawling meadow overlooking the valley with wire fencing all around it. They had three servants. Murali and Wilson took care of the household and the kitchen apart from innumerable errands that crossed Mrs. CS’s hyper mind. Wilson would also put on driver’s cap whenever required.
John, the third servant was appointed exclusively to look after the pet dogs. CS often gave in to the whims of his wife except when it concerned his pets. There he would not compromise, come what may.
The canine squad had five members and each one of them was dearer to CS than his life and for that matter anyone’s life. And that no one made any mistake about it, CS carried his .22 rifle on his shoulders when he went out for long morning walk in the woods followed by the battery of his pet dogs.
For each dog there was a personal history-sheet to record its state of health, treatment given, inoculations and monthly weight. The dogs followed CS’s command implicitly and John ensured that no pariah dog ever came near them. Other than his morning walks, an unalterable routine, CS also went for trekking and camping with his retinue. On such occasions CS after couple of whiskies would be in an expansive mood, expounding the qualities and capabilities of each of his dogs to John, his captive attendant.
CS’s routine would get dislocated when his son and his family visited him. CS liked his grand children but he hated their fiddling with his dogs, trying to feed them off and on or disturbing their schedule.
“I say why you can’t behave with these poor souls. Look, they don’t like to be disturbed and they follow a laid down schedule meticulously,” he would say putting added emphasis on the second half of his statement. It was hard to miss the contempt and disdain in his speech for in CS’s opinion his folks were careless and undisciplined, his wife heading the list.
The children took his words lightly but were afraid at the same time to cause major upset in the canine family for the bigger dogs warned them with vicious growl and display of sharp teeth.
CS personally followed a set routine and John was versed with it. In fact, his body system followed the activity schedule of his pet dogs one after another as a second nature and it was for this reason that he didn’t miss anyone, either his wife or his grand children. It therefore upset him terribly if any of one his dogs fell sick. In fact, it was the only exception when he allowed his routine to be altered.
It was the month of November. The valley was wet with winter rains, the worst period of the year CS always thought. One morning he was out with his dogs on a walk. The surface was wet and slippery. He suddenly heard shrill cries and then saw a large herd of baboons coming in his direction. The baboons were apparently in foul mood and decided to let it out on the dogs who were rattled by the unprovoked onslaught. CS was caught off guard when one of the tree surfers used him as intermediate pier to jump to the tree on the other side. CS lost control, slipped and landed in a pothole. The fall was sudden and the result painful.
The dogs were barking and howling in panic. Suddenly a big baboon jumped on Barbara, a young pomeranian and bit it on the collar. The little bitch shrieked and wailed in pain. Perhaps that soothed the hurt pride of the baboons who decided to let go the victim.
CS, still lying in the pot hole was in terribly pain. He had a bruised neck and he couldn’t lift his right leg. He knew his thigh bone had cracked. CS was braving it but he couldn’t let the demons terrorize his pets. He wouldn’t let the bloody baboon go scot-free after wounding one of his pets. He dragged his body and got hold of his .22. The aim was immaculate and the culprit was down, shot dead.
It had started raining and CS was in terrible pain but he was worried for his dogs and the little Barbara who was cuddled in his lap. He was concerned for blood was still oozing out of her wound and she was shivering out of fear and pain. CS knew she needed immediate attention and that the rain would deteriorate her condition. He was terribly agitated that he could do nothing since the baboons had left him incapacitated.
The dog squad now surrounded their master. CS knew that he couldn’t get up. His hope lie in some one coming that way or John realizing that it was beyond the normal time of his return.
It was nearly an hour that John reached the spot.
“John, you lousy bloody fool, does it take so much time to reach here?”
“It is raining sir.”
“You bloody swine I can see that. Sure you wouldn’t have melted,” he shouted and then asked him to take Barbara and the dogs home.
John had not realized that his master was badly injured and that in fact he had fractured his thighbone. Unsure, he gave another look at his master.
“You idiot, hurry up now and take Barbara to the vet. She is badly wounded.”
“Sir, can you get up ….. I mean can I help you ….. Will you be able to walk home?”
“Don’t you bother and don’t waste time. Tell Wilson to bring the jeep; I think I have broken my leg. But that is OK. I will manage. Now hurry up you idiot or I will put a bullet up your arse.”
John was dumbfounded. He knew his master’s love for the pets and that he meant what he said.
“John carry her carefully, she is badly hurt. And don’t you delay taking her to the vet, go immediately.” John heard his master who had spread himself on the ground in the pouring rain.