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Labrador retriever is training to detect a scent Image Credit: Pat Nolan

Last year can be said to be an incredibly marvellous one for me because I managed to slay one of my many phobias- I successfully decimated ‘cynophobia’. An immense fear of dogs that took birth ever since I was three-years old.

His name was John and each time I watched a werewolf movie or read about Cerberus-the multi-headed, ferocious, Greek dog who guarded the entrance to Hades, I would be reminded of him.

A family had just moved into our neighbourhood hence my mother baked a cake to welcome them. As we opened the gate and walked towards the door, across the lawn, I saw John, an Alsatian.

I joyfully ran towards him but he tore across, sprang on me as I fell down; the agony as he ripped my denim pants and bit my leg, the painful injections that followed, remained with me until the day I met Murf (a few months back).

Overcome with love and ecstasy 

You could say that we met on Twitter because I met his mummy there. We realised that we lived in the same gated community so we decided to meet and thus began our friendship. When I learnt about Murf, heard stories about him, and saw the way my son was overcome with love and ecstasy on meeting him the first time (in my absence), I braced myself to visit my friend’s house.

As I drew near the house I could hear his sonorous bark, I rang the doorbell and as my friend opened the door, I saw Murf, a beautiful Labrador-Retriever, crazed with joy and excitement to see me.

The fear within me miraculously melted away; he hugged me and licked my face. It’s been ages since anyone exhibited so much affection for me. After the first ten minutes of the effervescent reception, he calmed down and sat on my legs. His soft, warm fur filled me with an inexplicable fuzziness.

He plays a game with his inner circle wherein he comes to you with a tennis ball in his mouth that you have to extricate with immense force as he playfully holds on to it, once you get the ball you have to throw it as he tries to catch and fetch it.

With me he just somehow knows that he has to be gentle, as he lets me take the ball out of his mouth easily. My husband and son just couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw me petting the huge bundle of ‘(p) awesomeness” and love. That encounter with the most adorable of dogs did away with my phobia and I could feel tears run down my cheeks just like that. Murf has now become a member of our family and my son’s best friend.

Unconditional affection for pet

As I read about Lord Byron’s unconditional affection for his pet and companion Boatswain, a Newfoundland dog who died of rabies; the manner in which Byron would wipe away Boatswain’s slaver with his own hands, nursing the dog until the disease engulfed him; I could relate to this innate ability that dogs have of earning love in such abundance.

So much so that Byron composed the lines — “Epitaph to a Dog”, carved on Boatswain’s tomb at Newstead Abbey, the poet’s estate: “Near this spot / are deposited the Remains of one / who possessed Beauty without Vanity, / Strength without Insolence, /Courage without Ferocity, / and all the Virtues of Man without his Vices.”

Recently I pondered as to why a dog’s life is so short and was overwhelmed to learn from a vet what a little boy had to say when his dog passed and he remained unfazed, “People come into the world to learn to live a good life, like loving others all the time and being a good person.

Well, as dogs are already born knowing how to do all this, they don’t have to stay as long as we do.” And I couldn’t agree more.

Navanita Varadpande is a writer based in Gurgaon, India. Twitter: @VpNavanita