Dio poses with her peanut butter and carrot cake along with my two nieces who lovingly crafted a birthday card, cap and invites to mark the occassion.

Celebrating adoption day and the man who taught me its magic

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Dogs have always been a happy part of my life. From growing up with them to fetishizing over them on social media to finally getting one for myself. The magic of a wagging tail has only gotten stronger with age. One principle remained consistent though, adoption. I knew I would only adopt a dog, never buy one with money.

The person to embed this idea was my late paternal uncle. A man passionate about taking in discarded dogs of friends and family. His devotion and early lessons on dog care are ideas and practices that will stick to me beyond his beautiful life on earth that was cut short in April this year during the pandemic.

At a wedding in 2015.
At a wedding in 2015.

Adoption was a silent lesson he preached. This week, as I celebrate my dog’s one year adoption, I can only miss my uncle and not get to include him in the celebrations. When you celebrate a momentous occasion achieved because of his ideas, you wish he were there.

With every job change, I questioned myself, if I was ready to get a dog. The negative answers came in the form of bad work hours, tiny apartments with no balcony, and others. One day though, I had landed in the right space with optimal working hours, a sunny balcony, and ample walking space for the dog.

Sonadi Animal Shelter
Sonadi Animal Shelter at Najafgarh. This was the reception area of the shelter.

I found Dio in a terrible shelter while looking for another dog suggested by the adoption agency. After a frantic search in the premise, the helped told me that the dog had died a couple of days back. The adoption coordinator apologised for sending me across two cities to get that dog and advised me to look at other options. Heartbroken, scared, and depressed by the state of the shelter, my mind reminded me of taking a look at the golden dog I had glanced at while on my search.

My first sight of Dio at the shelter
My first sight of Dio at the shelter.

Through the years, I had learned to notice how a dog’s love for his or her human never varies depending on its pedigree or gender, it is absolute and pure, with or without a glossy fur coat. Uncle taught me to look beyond a dog’s bad exterior and instead concentrate on the eyes. The fur can always be grown back with love, care and time. Dio had ticks crawling over her face, was suffering from tick fever and was malnourished. Her bushy tail though had the same vigour.

I never got to touch her or play with her. Thirty seconds was all I had to make a decision, any longer and they get too attached to you and won’t eat, said the help.

An hour later, I got into a Uber with Dio and a very understanding driver. We drove the North Campus, to the foster, where she put up for a week before my double weekend.

Once she eased in, Dio recovered from the scary tick fever, gained her confidence, sniffed every flower on her walk, love my neighbour’s Little Hearts biscuits, and hi-fived the nighttime security guard of the complex. A year later, I am celebrating her adoption, her growth, her love, and her furry presence in my life. All this, amidst the loss of the man who showed me how great this journey could be.

I got constant updates from her forsters. They took the initial pain of pulling out hundreds of ticks from her.

I suppose the worst part of losing a close relative, who shaped you, is you not being able to share your life with them anymore. No more calling them up to say you got a new job or travel plans to a new city or narrate daring adventures during your travels (my uncle was the only one in the family who encouraged and took pride in my solo travels). They now exist in would-have scenarios. You can only hope that they would have liked and accepted your life choices.

My family tells me that seeing me married was his last unfinished business and that it would have made him so very happy. But I believe meeting Dio, grocery shopping for her birthday party and just letting her sleep on the sofa with him during his afternoon nap were things that would have scored high on his happiness/peace scale.

I do not know where his soul rests now. I can only hope that the afterlife is kind to him just as he was to every soul he came across on earth. In his journey beyond this realm, I hope that he is forever accompanied by dogs to keep him happy. I hope that he finds peace just as we try to find the strength to make peace of his loss.

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