I could not believe when told that our family friend Neha was no more. She died at 38 which is no age to go in the present times of long life spans.
She lost her parents at an early age as also her brother and became a loner. Despite the odds, Neha managed to become a teacher and decided not to marry. Her world was limited to her school and her modest home.
Endowed with a cheerful and helpful nature she was quite popular among the school children. “Neha Maam” would help the students even in matters that were not her area of concern. The loner that she was, she used to feel quite happy in the company of children who were aplenty at school.
How she wished there were some in her locality also to give her company. But that was not to be. The few that were seen did not have spare time for socialising in this age of internet.
Loner Neha’s loneliness was growing. Life for her was listless.
One day on return from school she found a pup resting against her locked door as if it was waiting for her. Seeing Neha coming towards him to open the door, the little doggie tried to move away but she picked it up and fondled it. It was a brown-white pup with a prominent brown mark on its forehead that added charm to its beauty.
Neha instantly fell in love with it, so did the pup. It was love at first sight for both, in the real sense of the term. She gave it a kiss which the pup returned with a few licks.
Maybe, she thought, the doggie had come to fill the vacuum in her life. But fearing that its owner might take it away, she became a bit selfish and prayed that nobody comes to claim it. Neha formally checked with her neighbours if it belonged to any of them. Happily for her, nobody laid his or her claim to it.
From that moment, the two became inseparable. The two loners needed each other to overcome their loneliness. Neha named him Jackie. The doggie had given a fresh lease to the lady’s otherwise dreary life. It was a great day for her. During the next few months, their bonding was becoming stronger by the day. With glee, she would describe Jackie as “my soul mate and son”.
Both were living happily till one day the mother of one of her students, five-year-old Rohan, came to her house to discuss the boy’s problems with a particular subject.
What happened thereafter was something neither of them could have imagined. Just as the boy and his mother settled down, Jackie did not bark as he always did on seeing any stranger. In fact, Jackie leapt at the boy which scared all of them.
And then the doggie started barking and prancing around gleefully with Rohan. Neha and the boy’s mother were awestruck at the unusual happening.
Suddenly, the boy shouted, “Mum, he is our Brownie”. With this he tightly hugged the dog and started crying.
It turned out that till about three months ago, the pup (called Brownie by them) was a pet in Rohan’s family where he was attached more to the boy than others. Its mysterious disappearance one day shattered the family.
With no trace of it for three months, it was given up as lost or dead and forgotten. But Brownie had not forgotten any. The visiting mother and child duo were very happy but Neha was shocked.
During the past three months the little pup (Jackie) had grown up, now with absolute loyalty to Neha who treated him like her own son.
The boy cried for the dog, insisting on taking it home. The teacher cried over the possibility of losing her valuable companion. And the dog wailed on seeing them crying.
It was a poignant scene with the two owners staking their claim and a confused Brownie alias Jackie watching silently. It looked as if the sensitive doggie was following all that was being said.
Ultimately, respecting the child’s sentiments, Neha let it go with teary eyes. She was lonely once again. The pain of losing Jackie was too much for her. She sunk into depression and developed complications that did not heal. Her doctor advised her to adopt another lookalike dog but she refused.
With her health deteriorating and nobody to look after her, Neha’s colleagues got her admitted to a hospital.
Her last wish was to see Jackie but he could not be allowed inside the hospital. A week later, Neha passed away watched by those around her death bed.
However, Jackie was brought to Neha’s house where it let out a loud cry and remained squatted near her body till it was taken out for cremation. It was a dog’s painful tribute to the person who had brought him up.
It was a moving story of two faithful — a doggie and a human.
Lalit Raizada is a journalist based in India.