I remember the first one that I got close to was Johhny the dog. Incidentally, he wasn't ours. He was my neighbour's dog. A stray, but very docile. For a long time I used to be terrified of him, but one day when he sneaked into our garden, dad fed him biscuits. Then I did too, and we became friends. Everyday after school when my auto dropped me off he would be waiting near the gate for me to let him in. My school auto ran on a partial mix of kerosene so when I got back home I would be stinking of sweat, motor oil, kerosene and lord knows what other substance fueled the auto. But he was the only one who dint seem to mind.
One fine day the neighbours (not very friendly ones) dint let him out, I still dont know why. Johnny jumped the compound and got in. Nobody believed me though. They thought I freed him. After a couple of days they put him in their car and drove away. Johnny never came back after that.
A couple of years later during school lunch break, me and some of my classmates went exploring in the wilderness. Yes there was a sort of wilderness in our school grounds, proper forest sort, with bamboo and teakwook trees. In one trench we found a dead dog and some of her just born puppies. Immediately I fell in love with a particular black one. It was an epic week, every break 5 of us running to that spot with food to feed the litter. One day I took one pup home, concealed in my lunch basket.
Mom had a fit.
At that time, I dint understand the fact that a purely vegetarian family of 3, living in a first floor house, with all of us absent in the house for most of the day was not an ideal place for a dog. Dad gave an option. Either I had to stay in the house, or the dog. I, being the selfish ass that I am, chose me. So I saw as the puppy was given away to a friend of dad who had a farm.
(If you said ee-aah-ee-aah-oh in your head, here is a highest of Fives for you)
The next year, my school played host to a flock of strange white birds. Me and my friend Harsha spent that year during breaks trying to chase and capture one of them. We called it, very intelligently, the kakaokakkkak-KAkk birds.
In 9th standard, my friend Abhijith got me a fighter fish. Unlike other fishes, this one required no maintainence at all. I remember emptying a Bournvita Jar (yes, kids.. bornvita used to come in Glass jars then) and put him in it. His primary diet was mosquitoes. My dad named him Solle-Kyatha. (My kannada friends will get it)
Abhijith said that the fighter was expected to live for about 3 to 4 weeks. Kyatha survived for 2 and a half years. I remember when we shifted to our present house, I sat in the truck with his pearl-pet mansion in my lap.
I dint mention that after Johnny, I was terrified of dogs again. The constant reports of how some strays mauled some kids did not help. It was until when I was reading The Alchemist, I think. Paulo Coehlo makes a very interesting point about animal's intelligence and how they assess you. It's in the eye contact, he says.
After that, I used to feed some strays near my house. one dog got a little friendly and set up territory near my house. I used to sit out on the cement in the evening, and she used to come sit with me. I used to talk to her and she seemed to understand.
One night I came home late (perfectly sober) and she barked at me and chased me till the end of my road. ME, who fed her and gave her company. Now cat lovers will be smirking, and the dog camp will come up with the theory that she was somehow protecting my house. I take no stand.
After then I haven't had any pets. Just some animals that I'm friends with here and there. There is a nice ginger cat at Lemon Tree who I named venktesha, and his black friend ChintamaNi.
That brings me back to how I was telling my friend I'm going to have a pet Giraffe and how I'm going to name him Jeff. You know, to accompany the more Imaginary MuraLi The Silly Crocodile.
She suggested I write a Note about it, so here it is. This one is for you, you know who you are ;)