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Dog days

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on January 19, 2018 Published on January 19, 2018

My sister in Chennai has a nine-month old Beagle puppy named DimSum. He’s a big chunky fellow, handsome in a Beagle-y way. He has silky ears and an angelic expression in his eyes when he looks up.

Then he looks down, his brow clouds over and his true nature is revealed: he’s a Dominator, armed and deadly. He pees wherever he likes, chews whatever he likes and when he’s especially annoyed, he poops in unsuitable places. Such as the bed. The carpet. The dining room. The stairs. When he’s not making deposits, he’s lying on the sofas and looking bored. When he’s not looking bored, he’s pushing over his box of doggy-toys and tearing up the cushions in my sister’s study.

I arrived here a week ago, to find that the household lives in a state of perpetual terror. One gets used to anything, however, even the constant threat of sudden doo-doo. Alas the house also is under siege from another creature altogether: a feral cat nicknamed Musharraf. I’d heard about him but not seen him. Then one morning he appears at the window-grille of the drawing room upstairs. Silent as a shadow, he slinks in, a giant black-and- white tom, heading straight towards DimSum’s dinner bowl. Battle-scarred. Ragged-eared. Eyes like nuclear warheads.

I leap up with a shriek. DimSum comes galloping in. Musharraf dives under the sofa. I throw open the front door, hoping to avoid carnage but DimSum prances forward, standing like a goalkeeper, barring the exit. Right then, Musharraf springs out from under the sofa directly under DimSum’s nose. “WAHHH!” I howl. “FITTZZZZZZ!” snarls the cat, his tail puffed out like a bottle-brush. “YIIIIIIII!” screams DimSum, ears flying sideways. And boom! Musharraf flies out.

The next evening, I’m on the phone, talking to my editor in Delhi, when DimSum begins to bark. The front door is open and he dashes to the top of the stairs. His voice booms in the stairwell, he sounds like a lion. My nephew runs out too, guessing that Musharraf is attempting a fresh assault. I continue with my phone-call. A moment later DimSum shoots back in, looking shocked. He brakes to a halt in the middle of the dining room and prepares to poop!

Forgetting that I’m on the phone, I begin to bellow, “NONONONOOOO! Noooo! Naughty boy — STOP! STOP!” DimSum looks up astonished. The idea of pausing in mid-evacuation is so absurd that for a moment, he considers it. My nephew runs back in all breathless, saying, “It WAS Musharraf! And he’s got away again!” All the while, I continue braying discouragements at DimSum. But before I can shoo him outside, he drops his load then scampers off to rest and recuperate in my sister’s bedroom.

I finally return to my call apologising profusely. My editor asks worriedly, “Was it a child or a dog?” A dog, I tell her. “What was he doing?” she says. “Flexing his bowels,” I say.

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

Published on January 19, 2018
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