BRUNO

 

Dobermann pinschers are complicated characters – they are either downright cranky or annoyingly one-person dogs. My friends had warned me against getting the breed. But, when I saw the scrawny little fellow all wrapped up in a cloth, I was floored. I would have mistaken him for my month-old daughter, if it were not for the little tail sticking out. He was chocolate dark while my girl is gorgeously dusky. Two bundles of joy! How cool was that? The maid brought a milk bottle to feed him. He did not know how to suckle, so she patiently taught him. Gurgling and whimpering, the little fellow tried his best. A few days passed quickly tending to his needs.

I was shocked when I learnt that a Dobermann’s tail had to be docked! I resisted tooth and nail, but with no success as my father-in-law, Mr Nadkarni, was firm. He explained that it was in the medical interest of the dog. The dreaded day arrived. Bruno panicked and passed urine when the tail got severed – I still can’t forget those mourning noises he kept making all day, in different pitches. He was in my arms and looked pathetic, vying for all the attention in the world – a drama king in the making. I named him Bruno that day – not sure why, but for me he was the ‘brown boy’ in the rain, Tra La la..

Baby’s best friend

He grew by leaps and bounds over the next few months, proving to be quite a handful with a whole lot of tricks up his stumped tail. He would steal milk from my baby; if there wasn’t any left, he would lick her face all over. The girl would make little sounds of glee! He would curl up beside her on the divan and place his snout promptly next to her diaper, heavenly smells of midnight lilies, I wonder! Every time we tried to remove him, there would be combined sirens from the two little rascals.

In the next four months or so, he grew bigger and heavier, his mischief multiplied by a hundred times. It was a full-time job for the Mom-in-law Mrs Sumitra to keep him at bay. We finally took the services of a police dog trainer whom Bruno hated dearly. The trainer was a tough master – seeing him, Bruno would run to me pleading and trying all stunts to evade him. With no chance of escaping, he would perform all the lessons he had learnt in one go, and scoot out of our villa. He was adept at performing the hind leg act majestically – standing up on them while doing a Namaste with his paws. He always had a loveable smile plastered across his face. This turned into his biggest USP, all the visitors would bring him special goodies, in return for the exclusive Bruno welcome. He was a millionaire by all standards, with an abundance of dog bones in his kennel.

His senses were sharp. In the mid-nineties, RT Nagar was considered the outskirts, as compared to my city centre work place at Taj Residency on MG Road. I would ride my Hero Honda for 12 long kms, returning late nights often. At the PCTC army corps gate, I used to take a right turn which was about three-quarters of a km from home.  Bruno would start barking in a different manner and my folks would know that I would be arriving pretty soon. Our house also had a lot of open ground around with plenty of snakes. Bruno would smell them immediately and bark in a ferocious manner, giving us a heads up. Viper arrival, beware.

Many happy months slipped by and he turned a year-old. Big and strong, his muscles rippling. He was vying for far more attention than our girl, trying to nudge her out, asking us to carry him instead! He would snuggle besides her given a chance and push her off in a one-sided competition. The girl would raise a ruckus. We were getting worried. The decision to move him into the kennel, came from the boss. I had many sleepless nights hearing Bruno’s sad wails, as he sang in different Beethoven symphonies, and even as if in a Zubin Mehta orchestra! It was insurmountable misery.

Of barks, greets and tricks

The morning walks were, however, like a skating rink experience. Bruno was taller than me and would drag me as per his whims – I simply didn’t have enough strength to control him. All the other street or pet dogs on the P&T Quarters roads would make way for this Hitler in the making. There wouldn’t be even a single yelp from them, till he moved on with his nose up in the air.

One evening a colleague of mine from Taj, Sanjay Goel, and his wife Archana, came to visit us. As they rang the bell, we heard Bruno’s friendly bark. I had instructed him to behave and not to beg for goodies in his Namaste style. I came down from the mezzanine living room, cracking open the door so that our canine friend wouldn’t get in. Lo! He was excitedly frothing and going crazy besides them. As soon as Sanjay pushed the door wider to shake hands, I saw Bruno slip in slyly and gallop up the stairs. Seconds later, we heard a loud thud from above. He had landed full force on the divan where the baby was sleeping! Not a sound or a cry came out, it was all quiet.

I broke into a cold sweat and ran up the stairs, my heart pounding in my mouth. There he was, grinning at me with his head next to the baby’s bum while she was smiling and cooing gently, creating gurgling gibberish sounds.

German dogs are mad buggers; Bruno was an extra special specimen. He would scratch his face with his silly paws or try to bite his limbs, just to while away some time. I used to give him chirputlees (a tight finger snap on his mouth or stubby nose). He would stop for a few moments and get back to it, as soon as he made sure I was busy with something else.

One day, I was tending to the round cement fish tank at the garden while Bruno was busy chasing the frogs away. After a while, he got bored of them. He came and sat next to me, watching the gold fish. I was immersed in cleaning the four-feet tank, when I caught him biting his hind thigh. I yelled. He stopped, ran around the garden and settled down a few feet away. I resumed my deep cleaning when I heard him yelp. I turned just in time to see him in a big pool of blood! In those few minutes, he had bitten himself so hard that the artery had snapped and blood was gushing out like a fountain. I pressed my handkerchief to the wound, but to no avail. Bruno collapsed. Seeing such a big pool of blood, my head spun and I fainted.

I was awakened, God knows how many minutes later, by the gentle splash of water from a worried MIL. She was petrified to see both the heroes unconscious on the ground. I gathered myself up groggily and touched Bruno. He did not move, and was barely breathing. The three of us heaved him up into the car to the GKVK vet hospital nearby…

A lot changed that day. Memories of the unconditional love he gave us bring a big broad smile each time; even to this day. We miss his cheerful, loving antics and a full life of exuberance.

Venu Rao

7th September 2020

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