The Memdogs

A week ago or so, I left a comment over at Atul’s blog in which I mentioned my dogs. Atul responded with a question about my use of the plural, and I realized that I have never given a proper welcome here to my second third (counting Gemma) little Miss Thing. Then Salim left a comment asking about Callie and I took it to mean that the universe is telling me it’s time to give the two girls who light up my life their due.

In her four-plus months with me, Callie has blossomed into a loving, sweet, and funny little dog. I continue to marvel at how dainty she is, just 11 pounds (Gemma weighed close to 20), and how she has not let the bad things which have happened to her in life get her down. There are still reminders of her puppy mill past: her little tongue peeks out because she has few teeth to help keep it inside her mouth, and she hunches protectively over her food bowl as if she were still in a small cage and in danger of going hungry.

But she no longer needs to be on my lap around the clock and she doesn’t sleep all the time anymore either. She fairly dances along the street, greeting people with a wagging tail, and noses her way through the grass at the park before rolling deliriously in it. Though she still follows on my heels like a little shadow, I don’t mind: it feels good to be so necessary to another creature’s happiness, especially one who has become so necessary to mine.

Once she became invested in being here, though, it began to distress her whenever I went out without her. It was heartbreaking to hear her chuffing, hoarse, frantic little bark as I walked away. Her vocal cords were not cut surgically, but it seems likely that the puppy mill breeder shoved a tube or something down her throat to damage them—it’s a fairly common practice and done to keep the dogs quiet and not draw attention. Whatever was done, she doesn’t bark like a normal dog and it’s a pitiful sound.

So I took leave of my senses and at the end of June I got a nine-month-old puppy to keep her company, a beautiful girl from a breeder in upstate New York.

She came with the name Emma, but after a solid week of calling her Gemma by mistake I decided to rechristen her Gilda (my favorite Rita Hayworth film, and one of my favorite comediennes too). Given her glittery golden highlights and beautiful red fur it seemed appropriate and, most importantly, she seemed to like it.

This mattered because she did not like much about her new home with us. Having spent her whole puppy life thus far in the country, she was—is—completely freaked out by life in the city.

Garbage trucks are big Godzilla monsters coming TO GET HER OMG RUN RUN RUN RUUNN Other people are also potentially dangerous predators to be viewed with deep suspicion; she doesn’t even know what to think about all the noisy heavy machinery (we have two seasons here, winter and construction). The buses and trains rushing past startle her anew every day despite being a constant. In short, I cannot figure out if she is mentally ill or just kind of slow on the uptake. She looks perpetually worried and I call her The Nahiiin! Dog.

But inside the house shy, terrified Gilda transforms into a veritable little She-Devil. Toys lie scattered around waiting to trip me up and anything in a wastepaper basket gets shredded. She has taught Callie some doggie behaviors which include chewing on my carpets and books (NO!), but also the fun game of fetch and the joys of eating a stick. Outside, her melodramatic shivering seems to have given Callie new confidence, as if she’s saying, “Don’t worry Gilda, I’ve gotten used to all this racket and you will too!”

They also put their heads together on occasion to talk about me and I am glad I have no idea what they are saying.

Callie has been and continues to be a balm for the sadness of the past year. I know that my father and Gemma steered us to each other. I see their love shining out of her huge liquid eyes, and in her becoming the Princess she is meant to be. I love watching Gilda growl at her own reflection in the mirror and bark ferociously at the mailman from the safety of her position behind me; and appreciate the small victories of a day with no accidents and a walk with more sniffing than panic. At night they sprawl across the bed, taking up way more space than their combined 25 pounds or so ought to, but I don’t care.

We are family and it makes me happy.

62 Comments to “The Memdogs”

  1. I will once again point out the obvious – your girls are incredibly beautiful!! And this line, made me gulp back a sob as I thought about my little boy who’s growing up way too fast.

    “But she no longer needs to be on my lap around the clock and she doesn’t sleep all the time anymore either.”

    Hugs to you and your family.

  2. Leroy confirms that being concerned about garbage trucks is not only normal and proper but absolutely required. 40 pounds of muttkin rescue love from their friend in IL!

    • She hates all trucks with a passion, but garbage trucks are Especially Hellish. I wonder if it’s because they understand at some level that stuff is crushed back there by that gaping maw and it could so easily be them?

      Love back to you and Leroy :)

  3. memsaab, Callie and Gilda look precious. my Raja says ‘Woof!’ He is a dog we got from a shelter, and was supposed to be 50lbs. In toto. He was 50lbs and counting at the age of 6 months. Now he tips the scales at 85. :) He is a huge bundle of love and joy, and thinks nothing of trying to clamber onto our laps the way he did when he was pup. (Actually, he still thinks he *is* a pup!!) He also thinks everyone is his best friend, and welcomes them with deep barks meant to be friendly – and he is one big grin.

    He is six years now, and five days younger than my son. He is also suffering from Lymphoma and has been through one protocol of chemo. We are keeping our fingers crossed. The hollow he will leave in our lives is a large one, as and when the end comes. I hope he lives painfree until then.

    ps: He thinks garbage trucks are evil too. Or he is angry that they are taking things away that he would have liked to eat. I’m not sure. Because, to Raja, the world is divided into two – things he can eat, and things he hasn’t tried yet.

    • Oh Anu, I’m sorry :( He sounds like a love, and far too young to be so ill. I hope he gets through the treatment with flying colors. I lost my Gemma in March, and I still cry for her all the time—I love these two, but they aren’t her. They do each just worm their way into your heart to stay forever.

      And I think you are absolutely right about the garbage trucks! Don’t know why I didn’t think of that! It’s always all about food. (I almost named Gilda Rani, except here I would have had to explain it and spell it to people for the rest of her life!) :) Keep me posted on Raja’s progress and give him a hug from me.

  4. memdogs, what a great title !

    The two of them, both callie and Gilda are extremely lucky and fortunate to have you. In fact , all dogs deserve to have a sympathetic owner.

    My theory about dogs is, they were domesticated some 40,000 years ago, and from that time they cast their lots with humankind. from that day onwards, it is the duty of humankind to give each one of them a home. It pains me to see so many dogs which are called street dogs and given a bad name. They are not street dogs, they are orphans whom no human beings have adopted. If everyone adopts a pup from the street then there will be no street dog left and every dog will have a home and a loving family. And the love and affection that they shower towards their human owners in return is priceless that no amoun of money can buy.

    I loved the photographs of Callie and Gilda. Hopefully the scars of their past will heal the best they can. I hope dogs do not have as long memories as elephants and that will hopefully help them leave their past behind.

    The way Callie gets worried when you are not around for a few hours shows how much you mean to her. Indeed it is liberating when they can no longer be so dependent on you.

    I, rather my wife and daughter, have a cat and two dogs, and all of them were adopted when they were very young. The cat, a female,, who is the seniormost of the three in age is called nuppy. She is one year old as of now, as she was adopted in september 2010, when just a few days old. In october 2010, my wife brought a small pup and he was named Bholey (means “simpleton” in Hindi). nuppy was quite wary of the new addition for some time but within a day or so, she became used to him and the two became really close. In november 2010, my wife brought another pup, which looked like a bale of cotton.He was named Boomer, but by now he is being called “Chhotey”-junior in Hindi. In their younger days, all the three pets, then nearly of the same sizes, loved to sleep huddled together in a basket, with Chhotey being kept between nuppy and Bholey, apparently to protect him. This was a decision taken by nuppy and Bholey, not by any humans :D

    Sometimes, my wife would order Bholey to stay out of home at night. You are a big dog now, stay out and protect the home like a watchdog, she would tell Bholey. But Bholey would protest loudly and insist on being taken inside. He would create so much noise that my wife would be forced to take her in. As soon as he was allowed in, he would run towards the basket, take his place adjacent to chhotey, and settle down. when I would go and look at them, I would find Bholey heaving a huge sigh of relief on being allowed back among his family. :D

    The dogs and cat played interesting games among themselves and the dogs in fact learnt to behave in a cat like manner in many ways. The cat would easily jumped into the laps of her human owners , or jump beside them on their sofa/bed/chair. The two pups too would try to follow suit, but fail. When the pups became older, they too could climb up, and now they, especially chhote, loves to climb up and snuggle up against his human companions.

    nuppy is sometimes thrown out of the house by my wife but she invariably comes back. she can manage, even if she has to stay out of the home for a few days. Recently, she was out for a couple of weeks and I thought we had lost her and she had forgotten us, but one fine day, she was back. And the dogs too welcomed her back.

    nuppy, despite being one year old now , is quite tiny, just 2 kilograms (5 pounds). Bholey and Chhote though have grown up to be around 15-20 Kgms each, and now they tend to bully nuppy because of their size. But nuppy still loves to play with them and perhaps thinks of those days when they too were her size and they could play on a level playing field. :D

    The dogs, despite their sizes, still insist on jumping into the laps of my wife. When my wife decides to take her weight by standing on the weighing machine, the next thing she does is hold the dogs in her lap to take the combined weight, and the difference in the two weights gives the weight of the dog. Whenever my wife climbs on the weighing machine, the dogs know that they will get an opportunity to climb on the laps of my wife and they fight among themselves to be the first in the queue.

    I must say, the pets have brought great pleasures in our lives and they in turn have got a loving and caring human company and lives that as stray cat/ dogs they could not have dreamed of.

    • I have so many things to say here Atul, I don’t know where to start. I guess I will start with thanking you for sharing your pet stories—they truly are lucky ones, and it sounds like they know it. That’s the beauty of them, they do know when they’ve been rescued and when they are loved. Puppy mill owners (I hate to call them breeders, although of course that’s all they do) liken dogs to livestock when they defend their actions and I can only shake my head at their complete ignorance. First of all, dogs are NOT livestock—as you so rightly point out, they cast their lot in with us tens of thousands of years ago and that has changed them. They are not wolves either, although many people like to pretend they are. Second of all, of course, is that livestock don’t deserve to be treated the way they are either. We should be ashamed of ourselves as a species, that we feel so arrogantly special and entitled.

      • Indeed , they know it that they are fortunate. nuppy and bholey certainly know it. Chhote, the youngest and immature sometimes runs away from home. nuppy then gets worried, fearing that he would lose his way. She goes out and brings her back. And Chhote obeys her too.

  5. memsaab, thanks for the understanding. It was a shock to us, as you can imagine. He has never had to go to the vet anytime in the past six years – except for the annual visit where they gave him his shots. In fact, the girls at the vet’s office would always exclaim at how healthy he was. And then, this! :(

    The chemo is supposed to only give him another year – well, another four months now. Apparently, only about 1% of dogs that get lymphoma stay in remission for about three years. Mostly, they relapse in about six months. We are past the six months now, and are monitoring him closely (every month at the vet’s). We hope he will be one of the lucky ones; in the short time he has been with us, he has wound himself around our hearts. I daren’t think about what his demise will do to both my boys. He is the most loving dog. Ever. And I am sure every single dog owner will say the same about *their* dogs! :)

    • My friend Ellen’s lovely corgi Dylan died from lymphoma a couple of months ago…he was 14 and had a great life, and he actually did very well on chemo for a while. Veterinarians here say that dogs deal with it a lot better than humans do for some reason.

      Raja is lucky to have a family who cares for him so much, and when it’s time to let him go you will have the comfort of knowing you did your very best for him and gave him a great life. I hope you get more years with him rather than months, since he is so young he might be one of those rare ones. Lots of hugs to you, I know what you are going through :(

  6. Both Callie and Gilda look beautiful and I am so glad that you have them with you. I am especially glad for Callie because of the way she had been treated earlier, and though neither one can ever replace Gemma, they each have a corner of your heart now, and all your readers’ hearts too!

    • They are very different from one another, and from Gemma but yes—I suppose that’s how people feel about their children, I’ve got enough love for them all and they do so much for me too. Callie is just a heart-meltingly sweet girl, and Gilda is hilarious. When she settles down a bit she’s going to be a great dog I think :)

  7. I loved the nahiiiin face. She could give a stiff competition to Asha Parekh.

  8. Oh, the ‘nahin’ expression is so funny. Both Callie and Gilda look absolutely adorable. May Memsaab and the memdogs have lots and lots of happiness together.

  9. I like the picture of them together. You must be having your hands full grooming them together :). What are their opinion of hindi films :)?

    • I am sad to say that neither of them seems very interested in watching movies. I don’t think Callie sees all that well. Gilda might get there—she sometimes barks at the television when there are dogs barking on a show or movie—but right now she’s mostly exhausted at the end of the day from being by turns naughty and traumatized :)

  10. The first two caps: Are you raising the curtains to reveal the Memdogs? Or are they ‘Pardanashin’? (i.e. Mems behind the veil :)) Callie appears to have become more camera savvy while Gilda is probably thinking about you with the camera: “What is this mechanical contraption she is pointing at me?”

    • Those are both Gilda, hiding underneath a chair from the big bad world that’s out to kill and maim her. Neither of them particularly likes being photographed, unlike Gemma who really enjoyed posing :)

  11. Oh, what a beautiful, beautiful post! There’s SO much goodness and love oozing out of it, you could scoop out buckets and buckets and it wouldn’t make the slightest difference. :-)

    Am SO happy for you, Greta, that Callie and Gilda are fulfilling you once again, the way Gemma did for years. Of course, they’re not Gemma – and one shouldn’t expect them to be either. They’re different – but, in their own way, they’ve found their place in your heart and everytime you feel a bit low, I’m sure just looking at them and their antics makes you cheer up just that little bit.

    And I’m SO happy for them too, especially Callie. After all she’s been through, she deserves to be loved and pampered to bits. And she couldn’t have asked for a better mom for this treatment. :-)

    Both Callie and Gilda look SO cute in all these pics. They seem to be very different types of dogs – the last set of two pics (separate pics of them) illustrates this perfectly. Callie looks so calm and poised, Gilda has a firebrand “don’t mess with me” look in her eyes. :-) They could be Asha Parekh and Helen in Teesri Manzil, adorable in their own ways. :-)

    And the comments here are also SO touching. Sorry to hear about Anu’s dog, Raja (my namesake). And Atul’s comment is SO lovely too.

    • I love Atul’s comment too :) Well, I pretty much love Atul and his family. And now we are all pulling for Raja (your namesake canine) for sure.

      And the Asha-Helen comparison is pretty apt! :D

  12. This is a beautiful post. I wish dogs could read!

    • They read us humans pretty well :) These two know that I adore them, even though I feel like I’m constantly shouting “NO!” at Gilda! Now I know how my own mom felt all those years ago! I guess I probably yelled at Gemma too (she was only ten weeks old when I got her) but I forgot all the bad puppy moments when she grew up :)

  13. `Bade nek bade seedhe, bade sacche hote hain, insaanon se jaanwar acchhe hote hain…’
    What a loving, moving tribute to your pets! Yes, if they could read what you’ve written, they would love you more than ever.
    I’m a scaredy cat when it comes to dogs, having been nipped by one, hounded by one on my way to college one day (it kept waiting for me outside the common room that one day decades ago) and encountering unruly ones on my walks – one would’ve got hit by oncoming traffic had I not asked it to `Stay’ (the owners left it unleashed in their backyard which backs out to the main road).
    We have a dear friend who insists his dog was reborn as his son – it was torture for my friend to come in to work as his beloved pet lay dying, 20 years ago. Ever since, I’ve been convinced there must be something truly noble about the bond between humans and their pet friends.
    Callie and Gilda are lucky to have your love.

    • I’m sorry you are scared of dogs…some of them are dangerous, no doubt, but usually that’s a result of mistreatment at the hands of humans to begin with…I don’t know who or what Gemma will return as, but I hope I meet her, whatever she is :) I do truly feel Gemma and my Dad in Callie though.

  14. Callie and Gilda are two very beautfiul and fortunate doggies…as I have said before, I hope I come back to earth as one of your pets, Greta! Thanks for sharing them with us, I never tire of seeing cute puppy dog pictures!

    And it is nice to hear about the pets of other readers of Memsaab’s blog, as well. It warms my heart!!

  15. Beautiful, beautiful gals those two. ‘Nahin’ dog indeed :-D, how I laughed! Loved the comments as usual.

    I don’t know what I’d do without the big ugly who seems to terrify anyone that sees her for the first time, all of her 110 muscly lbs and jowls :-) The other one is a 15 lb powder puff – they look hilarious together. My disciplinarian brother maintains that if I’d had children they would’ve been the worst behaved brats if the way I’ve brought up our dogs is any indication – apparently he hasn’t seen such badly behaved ones because I indulge them so (I don’t think I’d be quite as forbearing with human babies….). But as friend G says, manners in a dog is overrated. I agree – their limitless capacity for love and all other good things that make life wonderful excuses all.

    Thanks for another wonderful post.

    • I need to see pictures of all these pets :) And LOL at your brother—I am pretty sure that I would have far less patience for human children than I do dogs.

      Wish I had room for a big ugly!

  16. Lovely pictures of Gilda and Callie. Callie seems quite self confident now. Well done!!
    I think there ‘must’ be a way to start them on to hindi films. :)
    Do you think they’ll find some madcap Shammi film attention worthy? Isn’t that what is suggested to anyone wanting an introduction to old films?

    Praying for all to go well for Raja.

  17. Nice to come back and read tales of everyone’s pets. :) I liked the Asha Parekh – Helen comparison for Callie and Gilda.

    Thanks, Raja (the human one), memsaab, pacifist and everyone else who is rooting for Raja (the canine one :) ) I wish I could post a snap of him; maybe I will put it up later.

  18. Anu, my dog had cancer too but we got her through it fine with Homeopathy. She was an old dog then, much older than your Raja, but when she came out of it she was better than ever before. Animals are so sensitive, these simpler, deeper forms of medication work beautifully on them. Do look into it? I’ve used nothing but Homeopathy on the whole family for over 10 years now and my faith in it is absolute. It may heal Raja, and if it should fail to do so, it will definitely tide him through some bad times and make his end peaceful.


    • I wish I had tried more homeopathic remedies with Gemma. By the end she was taking so many medications, it broke my heart. When she started having to take meds to treat the side effects of other meds I knew it was not good.

  19. These partings are heart rending :( (oh why o why). After I lost my pet rabbit I firmly decided never to have a pet again – till my daughter landed up with a stray tom-cat. After cuddling into our hearts over months he disappeared one day…. My daughter was inconsolable .. and I feared the worst.

    I sometimes think a parrot would make the best pet – they are said to live for a 100 years – he/she would then surely outlive me :D

    • Well you never can tell about these things—the parrot could get sick and die at the age of 5, just like some humans do. As grief-stricken as I was when I lost Gemma, I wouldn’t trade the years I had with her for anything. Same as my Dad :) What I learned from her, and gained from those years with her, is irreplaceable. And I know that Callie and Gilda are having the same impact already—and hopefully will be around for a while to love and be loved by.

  20. Adithi, thanks for the advice; now that the chemo protocol is over, we *have* switched to homeopathy. My boss had very good results with homeopathy for her dogs and so we decided to try them. I have great faith in homeopathy myself. So it wasn’t a great leap to use it for Raja. Keeping fingers crossed for him.

    memsaab, hint taken, but the image src html didn’t seem to work; or I wasn’t using it correctly. Most of the snaps are stored in nef format and it’s a time-consuming process to convert them to jpg. Will do so some time. :) For the time being, I have a couple of shots stored on the laptop and uploaded them on Picasa to share with you; the link is

  21. The Nahiiii dog. hahahah you sure have a splendid sense of humour!

  22. How adorable…I miss my old family beagle, now…sniff, sniff. I can’t have a dog, living alone and out so often, but it is a loss. Hug your lovely little ones for me!

  23. Nice to hear you are recovering from the loss of Gemma and that you have Callie and Gilda now. I remember you devoting some attention to the (stray) dogs in Hindi movies. On my recent long visit to India I met various people who had adopted these strays as pets–these same people would probably have adopted foreign pedigrees in the past. Nice to see Indian dogs get some loving homes. They are very affectionate and just want a kind word and loving pat.

    • I have met some very loving and playful street dogs in my travels in India :) I’ve also seen some who were clearly injured or starving : ( I hope attitudes are changing about spaying and neutering…it’s really the best way to keep the population under control! We have a ways to go here on that too—the dog park I go to every day has a few unneutered dogs, and it’s just irresponsible. They cause the most trouble there too.

      • Hmmm Neutered… Well its convenient for us humans (we don’t want our kids to see that …!!!!!). But I remember one day I was cutting grass in the park for my rabbit when a rustic stopped and asked what I was doing. After I explained and we got talking, he asked me if I was keeping a single rabbit or a pair. When I told him that she was single, he said I was doing the animal an injustice by keeping her single for life. The simple sincerity with which he said left me totally silenced….

  24. Love you and your dogs!
    Lovely post and loved Atul’s and Anu’s stories as well. I hope Raja can live for more years without pain! It is always sad to lose a pet, after all you lose a family member. I lost one, when I was 15 and at times when I remember the episode , tears do well up in my eyes. And this May, my parents lost theirs and when I visited them in August, they cried while recounting the story.
    I am glad that Callie and Gilda have each other now and they both have you!
    Looking forward to more posts on them!

  25. Today is to be the day of service and remembrance here in the US. Everyone’s talking about that fateful day and missing and caring for one’s loved ones. I am somewhat glad I hadn’t read this beautiful post earlier; today seems a particularly appropriate day to read it and appreciate. I wish your girls all the love and happiness in the world. Memsaab and Memdogs – what an awesome combination!

    If you are taking a break for a few minutes, I invite you to read this humorous piece from filmmaker Dibakar Banerjee:

    • Ha ha, I’d seen that Banerjee piece, it is very funny. I am avoiding the media today like the plague…well, I pretty much do that every day, but especially today :) I’m going to cuddle with my girls and watch an Indian film!

  26. Aww! Greta, they are so beautiful

  27. Hi gemma, i know im ages late, but i am a late entrant to ur blog. I happened to spy on ur post on dogs…. i am beside myself with joy, coz i claim to be the WORLD ‘S BIGGEST, CRAZIEST DOG LOVER, EVER.. I couldnt sleep after reading about the cruelty of animal breeders. Heartrending:(.
    I love it when u speak of apprehension when animals are on screen. Love you, gemma!!.
    Oh, im sorry to ask, but, ….. raja doggie is no more, right??:((.
    I lost my most beautiful golden cocker spaniel on aug 8, last year, after brightening my life for 10 years. I miss her every waking moment:(.
    Actually, waiting to join her across the rainbow bridge….

    • I’m sorry for your loss, it does hurt so much. I’ve lost three in the last six years beginning with Miss Gemma, but I am still blessed with Gilda. There are always dogs who need loving homes, so I hope you find another companion when you are ready :)

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