Growing up changes a lot of things about you. You pick and drop habits faster than you care to admit, and in hindsight, some of your choices might seem ridiculous. Or worse, comical. But there is also such a thing as your core. Which, for the most part, is indelible. There are certain things which you adored as a child, and which you continue to adore as an adult. Even though you might not admit it. Looking back at my own childhood, no matter how hard I try, I can come up with only two things. My love for wheat dosas and my unwavering adoration of pets.

After two dogs, one cat, a couple of squirrels, a dozen budgies and nearly a million fish, I am still that little kid who feels for the stray dogs and the ‘smelly cats’ of the world. Its hard not to. To be bluntly honest, my relationships with my pets have been more enriching than any human relationship I’ve had, apart from the familial. They never judged or chastised me. Neither was there any expectation from each other, exceeding ┬áthat of just being there for each other. I also can’t remember being socially awkward in front of a dog. (But maybe that’s just me). Unfailingly they were able to make me smile during the worst days of my life. My first dog, Paru was inarguably the best friend I ever had. (I love her so much, I refuse to call her a bitch. As silly as that sounds). Whenever I shut myself in my room, angry or dissapointed about something, (everything, back then) she was always outside my door, unfailingly, scratching it to let her in. As if she had the solution to everything. In fact, she did. That leap on to my lap and those incessant licks which I tried to fight off; she made the world better with her unconditional, uncompromising love. It still brings a tear to my eye when I think of the day she was chained outside the house for dragging in all sorts of muck . I remember arguing with my parents about how unfair that was, and then sitting outside next to Paru ,on a hunger fast of sorts, along with my brother. We didn’t want her to feel lonely.

But for all the love that they bring into our lives, they reduce us to emotional wrecks when they leave. I was away at college when my brother, who had grown into an 18 year old boy-man by then, called me and told me that Paru had passed away. For all his normal ┬ábravado , he was reduced to tears. There I was, trying to be the voice of reason and remind him that she was getting old and it was only a matter of time. But inside,I was absolutely destroyed . That was perhaps the hardest phone conversation I’ve ever had. A pet, much like a person, leaves a void which cannot be filled. But unlike a person, a pet leaves this dangling hope that things will be okay,because you can adopt a new one. But it never is. Every set of paws is unique; one can never replace another. How cruel of them to leave us with that futile ‘hope’. But after being your unwavering companions throughout their lives, I guess you can give them enough leeway for one act of cruelty.

Life goes on. Eventually you grow over their loss. Maybe that’s the one thing that has changed about me as I’ve grown up. I’ve become increasingly unflappable. But that kid inside me still cries when I hear about the loss of a pet. So when Dad told me on Facebook that they had to let the new dog go, I replied with a sad smiley. I am grateful that it wasn’t over the phone. Because if he had said ‘The house has fallen silent without her’ over the phone, I would’ve had to hide that lump in my throat, all over again.

To all the happy critters up in heaven, Thank you.