On companionship, love and life
On most days, Shuffle was a pain in the ass. In his first year at home, he chewed up all the furniture, broke my dad’s very expensive glasses (twice!) and stole my grandfather’s biscuits when he wasn’t looking everyday for six months. And this was just his first year.
Over the years, my mom spent many sleepless nights because Shuffle was scared of thunder and had decided that the safest place was her pillow. I’ve called him many names and thrown pillows at him because he would bark at 8am on a Sunday morning. And there was a time my dad was convinced that Shuffle barked whenever we ate dinner because he wanted the spotlight on himself. Needless to say, there was never a meal in our house when he didn’t come begging for food (unless of course there was soup, in which case no one would want to have it).
To clarify, this “being a pain in the ass” was a two way street. I took every opportunity to annoy Shuffle. If he yawned around me, I would always poke my finger in his mouth. After two yawns, and realizing that I would continue to do this, he would walk away to yawn peacefully in another room. Last Diwali, when he was getting in the way while we were decorating the house, my sister and I tied a shiny cloth around his neck, much to his irritation. Once in a semi drunk state, we decided to put a bra on him, and to this day, it is the funniest picture we have of him.
That was just the relationship Shuffle and I had. The cuddly love came from mom. In me, he just had the irritating sibling you can’t help but love. And vice versa for me.
But the interesting thing about being a pain in the ass, is that it is often a common side effect of being a constant companion.
Shuffle came into my life when I was 12 and it felt like we grew up together. I entered adulthood and he became the oldest person in our family, sometimes Zen, but sometimes still the naughty puppy. He was there through exams, graduations, separations, different jobs and finally a pandemic. But more than these big life events, it was spending the day’s mundane moments together that brought most joy.
Last winter, we would fight over who got to bask in the patch of sunlight in my room because it wasn’t big enough for both our bodies. If I was pouring myself chocos and milk for breakfast, Shuffle would show up to share. When I was still in school, I would buy myself a cup of strawberry ice cream at the bus stop, eat a little on the way home and save some to share it with him. And last year, walking Shuffle every evening was almost a sacrosanct time. Work would have to wait because he needed to pee.
As I think about all the different ways in which Shuffle enriched my life, I am most grateful for his constant companionship and for his love. Over the years, I’ve thought a lot about writing about the things Shuffle has taught me. But after months and years of thinking, I realize there are just three lessons from his life.
First is on companionship. Forget about saying the right things or looking like you’re doing the right thing. Forget about saying anything for that matter. Just be there. Most of it is about showing up anyway.
Second lesson is on love. Express your love to those who matter. Even if they locked you in the balcony for an hour because you weren’t behaving yourself.
And the final lesson is on life and what really matters. Shuffle was a ridiculously happy dog. All it took was good food, peaceful sleep, a patch of land to run in (and a puddle of mud to roll in), and people to love.