This story is about Layla, a Great Dane.
She wasn't just a dog who was rescued by Friendicoes and adopted by me five years ago.
She and I, in the words of the beautiful Jim Morrison, were "Riders on the Storm."
She came into my life and rescued me, actually. Layla silenced my demons and danced with my angels.
I was going through a major personal crisis.
I failed to read/recognize the warning signs! My ex-hubby didn't like dogs or Led Zeppelin!
My marriage of 12 years had broken up. Although I was very sure that I could not spend my life with a man who had turned into a stranger, those who have gone through such a situation would agree that it is tough. And even tougher if you are a woman. Tougher yet is when you are perceived to be from a higher "status' family vis-à-vis the husband... who spared no effort in painting me as a spoilt and arrogant rich-bitch.
Rant: I am so bloody glad the man is out of my life. It was my mistake all along. I failed to read/recognize the warning signs! My ex-hubby didn't like dogs or Led Zeppelin!
Auto suggestion: Stop!
Yes, let me not digress by talking about a deplorable human and a loser.
Let me tell you instead about a beautiful animal and a winner.
Layla's trajectory starts out as the typical story I have seen in my many, many years of being associated with animal rights and welfare. A pedigreed puppy is bought for a huge sum of money to enhance the owner's social status. The puppy grows into a huge Great Dane who requires love and attention, daily walks, exercise, grooming, nutritious food and supplements—all of which cannot be handled by the man Friday or the private security guard. The dog is chained or hit/abused. The Great Dane turns aggressive, falls sick and is then promptly dumped in Friendicoes.
"Can you take her in, Aparajita?"asked the very wonderful Geeta Sheshmani of Friendicoes, a trifle desperately. That evening, I remember, nine dogs of various pedigrees and age had been abandoned at the already overflowing shelter. It was human callousness and cowardice at its worst! Abandoning a dog who was completely dependent on you for no fault of his except that he was sick or old or you were leaving town!
One look at that regal face and the Eric Clapton moment happened—"Layla, you got me on my knees." We both fell for each other!
I hesitated. I had never kept a Great Dane before and knew nothing about the breed. I worried about the fact that I stayed in a first floor apartment. I had a demanding job. The dog was aggressive. And I also felt I was not ready for another dog. I had just lost my Boxer girl and my three other ones (all rescued) had been dropped off in my parents' home as I planned to take a break and just '"travel" ( read: wander).
But one look at that regal face and the Eric Clapton moment happened—"Layla, you got me on my knees." We both fell for each other! "Alpha females bonding," laughed my sister, when I told her that I was bringing Layla home.
That is how a great friendship and love story started. Mine and Layla's.
Her world revolved around me and me alone. Though she was attached to my family when they came visiting, her eyes would search mine out and signal that she loved me best. She would sleep the whole day, only to wake up at 6pm, when she knew I would be returning. She never lost that aggressiveness towards other people and her fierce protection towards me sent many a Romeo wanting to come up for coffee, scurrying. All those stories about single woman being "hunted?" Well, Layla jaan shooed all the "hunters" away with her deep-throated bark that struck fear in the most amorous male heart (and other masculine appendages!). Great Danes are called gentle giants. Yes, with me she was gentle... an exquisite tenderness which wrapped my heart and soul in deep layers of unconditional love.
I preferred spending time with her instead of attending all the happening dos that I kept getting invited to.
Layla was the most important person in my life too. Even in the dead December cold of Delhi, I would wake up at 4am and take her for a two-hour walk every day in the Jahanpannah city forest and park. That did me a whole lotta good actually, saving me from the effects of stress binging! The typical aftermath of a broken relationship, where you tend to let yourself go physically and mentally, didn't happen to me. Because of those long walks, my health peaked, my skin glowed, my eyes shone! Almost the merry widow (hope springs eternal )! When my Bong cook would disappear because of the repeated excuses of "ami bemaar", "bou bemaar'', "baaacha bhishon bemaar", I would subsist on leftover pizza, but would cook Layla's food every day. I preferred spending time with her instead of attending all the happening dos that I kept getting invited to. My holidays were infrequent too. Not because Layla wouldn't have been looked after, but because even a few days away from her seemed an eternity. Life felt so incomplete without that beloved face next to me in the morning.
Like all Danes, she was great fun and goofy too! Those moment of Dane craziness resulted in many broken vases, punctured cushions and resultantly maids leaving in a huff. And the Lord help me, she honestly thought she was a lap dog! Her great weakness was Britannia's "Little Heart" biscuits and chicken tikka, a weird snack combo we adopted for our Friday night Jim Morrison, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix etc etc jam sessions. Oh yeah, we were solid, old-school rocker chicks!
I lost her to the dreaded bloat disease. It was very quick. She thankfully did not suffer much. I rushed her to the vet praying like I have never prayed before in my life. But, we both knew in those fleeting seconds before she collapsed, that we had to let go of each other. Her eyes looked into mine and I read them. "This is the end, beautiful friend...my only friend," they told me.
She died in my arms.
I wept like I have never wept before and understood for the first time what being broken meant.
Her eyes looked into mine and I read them. "This is the end, beautiful friend...my only friend," they told me.
I know I will never get over that feeling of complete loss and abandonment. I don't want to either. It is a very bittersweet feeling, you know. Thinking about her causes me great pain and great happiness, both. I will adjust to live in that love and loss once again...slowly rebuild myself. I will become whole again but I will never be the same.
I grieve her and I know it is forever .For grief and love come together. I realize that no one can take Layla's place. I have loved many a time... all the beautiful animals who have been a part of life. Each of them has a place in my heart. But, Layla will rule over them all . She will, till eternity, be my queen of hearts.
Layla taught me an important lesson. That in life it's not where you go but who you travel with that matters.
As always, I appeal to anyone who reads my stories: Adopt! Please don't shop!
This post first appeared here.