We've never had any pet and are not about to (discounting my mother's daily ritual of throwing scraps to crows on the terrace every evening). The closest we ever came to having a pet was when we moved into a new appartment building and met our new neighbours (across the landing) walking an adorable, warm-golden labrador. Slowly we got introduced, started dropping into each other's homes and became friends. And that is how Dora came into our lives. But she was unlike any dog we had ever known. No boisterous jumping around, joyous barking, running, shuffling and the hundred and one mad cap things that dogs do when they are happy (which is pretty much most of the time...dogs are generally happy creatures) or snarl, growl when they are upset. Her owners, a lovely elderly couple were very proud of her behaviour.
She was very cuddly and a very warm golden and most visitors would pat her or cuddle her. She exhibited no emotions. Not exactly a stoic tolerance. More a regal disregard. Yes that is how she was! If ever she found the doors to both our apparments open, she'd silently walk into ours and head straight for Ma and sit obediently in front of her on her hind paws and look beseechingly up at her. If ma ignored her (or was a bit late in responding), she'd raise a paw and gently lay into on my ma's foot. This meant - I want a sweet. Ma would give it to her, she would eat it and depart as silently as she had come. No loitering around.
Once a year, on Dora's birthday, a yellow ribbon would be tied to her tail and she would be fed as many sweets as she wanted to eat - or as many sweets that friends and neighbours would bring for her. We did too. All of the four years she was our neighbour. We no longer felt aunty and uncle's dotting over Dora strange.
She developed a rather prominent tumour on her under belly and despite a lot of medical intervention, slowly deteriorated. One day as I entered our building, I found Uncle walking unsteadily towards me. "Dora is no more," he said, his voice breaking and very uncharecteristically for him, leaned down and put his head on my shoulders. At that moment, I felt his loss as deeply as he did.
Now our lovely, gentle, polite Uncle too is no more. But there is one story we never tire of recounting. Once a long time ago, they had bought three tickets on a flight to Bagdogra. While boarding, the steward said that a dog wouldn't be allowed in the cabin. Uncle said that then all three wouldn't go. The captain agreed to let Dora travel in the cabin - strapped into her own seat. "And how was she during the flight?" I asked. "A bit nervous during take off, but after that she behaved like a lady."
And I know that they are in a better place, Uncle, gentle, loving walking with the lady like Dora by his side!