Remembering Diana

Diana was my first German Shepherd. In fact, she was the first dog in my family. I was 5 years old when my parents brought her home. At the beginning, I used to be terrified by her, even though she was a baby herself. Whenever I came home from school in the afternoon, she always used to rush out to greet me, and I used to run for high ground inside the house. She wasn’t allowed to get up on beds, so that was a safe, convenient option. This went on for a couple of months until one day she casually got on the bed, cornered me and licked me all over the face. From that moment on, a friendship began that was to last for more than a decade.

Diana was different from all the other dogs I’ve had. That by itself doesn’t say much. Because if you’re a dog lover, you’d know that they all have unique personalities, just like us. Where Diana was different was that she maintained a dignity and a regal air, that I’m yet to see in another dog. Her demeanor always made it clear that her obedience was a privilege that she granted us, and it was subject to her moods. For example, if you wanted her to go out of a room and she wanted to stay, stay she would. This doesn’t mean she was a nuisance. She was intelligent and she knew the habits of the house well. She knew what each member of the family did at what time, and what was required of her at those times. She mostly lived by those rules, we didn’t have to give her instructions every now and then. In return, we had to make some adjustments for her as well. She did not like being screamed at, or being made to do something she didn’t want to. There were some other unwritten rules as well. For example, she didn’t particularly like it if someone started moving in her general direction carrying a stick of some sorts. No, she didn’t pounce and rip anyone’s throat off if this happened. She just started growling in a very low voice and whoever was committing that folly usually got the message real quick. And of course, nobody ever dared raise their hands on her. Whenever she got the hint that such a course of action is being considered, she bared her teeth and snarled, and trust me, that was a sight which would make even a Jaeger from Pacific Rim pause and reconsider. Oh by the way, she also didn’t like carrot slices in her rice-vegetables-meat meal.

It brings both a smile to my face and, I’m not ashamed to admit, tears to my eyes as I write this (not the carrot you idiot, the bit before that), because it reminds me of the best part of our relationship: her rules didn’t apply to me. I was the baby of the house, and she treated me exactly like one. I was her charge, under her protection, as well as her honorary master. She took those duties upon herself, and she took them with a fierce sincerity that not many humans are capable of. As I’ve mentioned before, her obedience was not something automatically given, but any instructions from me were always carried out. That is, as far as possible. For example, I had once opened the door of the fridge and urged her to eat everything that was inside. She had walked away. My bad, I know. I was trying to get some sort of revenge on my parents for some sort of offense. Anyway, like I was saying, she always listened to me. This had its benefits. Parents would often come to seek my help after one of their instructions went completely ignored. Once I could safely get her to do whatever was required, I was free to claim my own reward. Also, as I’ve said before, she didn’t like being pushed, and firmly discouraged  anybody from trying it. I, on the other hand, got away with murder. When a few rooms, and a staircase to the terrace were added to our house, she initially refused to climb. The poor girl was terrified of heights, you see. So I did what not many brave men would have tried. I grabbed her leash and almost literally dragged her to the roof. It worked. She was initially wary of the sides, but once she realized she was in no imminent danger of falling over the edge, the roof became our new daily playground.  I was also the only one she allowed to beat her, whether there was a reason or not. Not that anybody else was dumb enough to try. And finally, the best part. No one in the house could scream at, scold, threaten or raise their hands on me, so long as she was around. She just didn’t tolerate it. I remember a day when I kept raising all sorts of hell in the house until dad finally lost his temper.  He screamed for me to stop, and was coming in my direction to probably land a slap or two. However, before dad could walk the two or three steps necessary, Diana had materialized from somewhere and was standing right in front of me. And..I have never ever seen an animal look so terrifying as she did at that moment. She had taken a perfect guard position between me and dad, with her hind legs braced to jump, hackles raised and every teeth bared in a ferocious snarl. A low but menacing growl came from her throat that left absolutely no doubt about her intentions. I still remember the fear and disbelief on my dad’s face as he had backed away slowly. Afterwards, I was furious that she had threatened my dad and landed quite a few punches on her back. She just affectionately licked my face and walked away. That’s how she was.

Diana died peacefully in 2001, a few days after my summer vacation was over. No, she’s not forgotten, as you can see. Incidentally, She was born on 25th December,1988. I am an atheist, but that date seems oddly appropriate. After all, what can be a better time to remember a guardian angel?

(p.s – We didn’t have a digital camera back then, so couldn’t post a photo. Apologies to anyone who wanted to see her.)

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