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A home for Terry

Padma Ganapati 19:54 IST
The terrier became increasingly fierce. Even the kids who were familiar with him began to have problems. His behaviour became steadily worse. Things came to a head when Terry bit the gardener!

Aditya and Anirudh – Adi and Ani for short – were twins. Adi was friendly and outgoing with a broad grin that proclaimed his bonhomie whereas Ani was shy and retiring with a half-smile that he reserved for special people. Both were smart. Adi asked questions and Ani found the answers! Together, they were a pair to reckon with.

There was a much-loved terrier in their neighbourhood, a favourite with all the kids. He was called Terry. He was their friend. He played with them and enjoyed their games and pranks as much as they did. He added his joyous barking to the kids’ chatter. He was their self-appointed guardian as well, never permitting any harm to come to them.

Everything was fine and dandy until the summer. The kids had their vacation. They had lots of time to be out in the open, playing boisterous games and indulging in harmless mischief. Just when things seemed perfect, with even the weather being mild for that time of the year, the joyous days came to an abrupt end. Tragedy struck. Terry, the centre of attention, went missing. The kids were heart-broken.

They looked here, there and everywhere but there was no trace of Terry. “Perhaps, he has been run over,” said Karuna, big tears rolling down her rosy cheeks. Anand’s sensitive face looked pinched. Chubby-faced Gopal stood with a long face. Chitra, usually chirpy, wore a gloomy expression.

As Terry was a special dog, the kids concluded that he must have been stolen by some unscrupulous fellows and sold at a huge price. Or else, he must have been run over as Karuna had said. It didn’t bear thinking about. Yet, it was a strong possibility. Terry was far too intelligent and well-trained to have got lost.

After a week, Terry turned up as mysteriously as he had disappeared. The kids let out a chorus of ecstatic cries. No VIP could have got a warmer welcome! The children rejoiced at having their gutsy guard back. But Terry had changed. It was observant Ani who first noticed the signs of change. “He barks too much since he got back and he is quite bad-tempered,” he remarked.

“Don’t imagine things,” replied Adi, assuming a rather superior manner.

“No, I’m not. Just observe him and you will notice it too,” asserted Ani, in his usual quiet fashion.
Adi knew from experience that Ani didn’t make idle comments. So he began to watch Terry closely. Ani was right. It wasn’t long before Karuna, Anand, Chitra and Gopal noticed it as well.

“Terry is getting to be difficult. He is aggressive and tends to attack strangers,” a neighbour pointed out. Soon, more complaints followed. “It isn’t safe to let him roam around so freely,” grumbled an elderly gentleman. “He should be tied up,” suggested his wife. “We should put up a ‘Beware of dog’ sign,” recommended another resident.

“Tying him up will not help. It will only make him worse,” argued the kids. So it was decided to put up a ‘Beware of dog’ sign to warn strangers. In the days that followed Terry became increasingly troublesome. Even the kids who were familiar with him began to have problems. His behaviour became steadily worse. Things came to a head when Terry bit the gardener. The gardener had been around a long time and was a huge fan of Terry. This was certainly erratic behaviour. Immediate action had to be taken.

The residents held a meeting to discuss how to deal with Terry. He was very dear to them, so no one was keen on any drastic action. At the same time, something had to be done about him. He was becoming a menace. What was the remedy? Send him away? No one was keen on that as they had got used to Terry frisking about. Have him put to sleep? The very thought was dreadful. The only solution seemed to be to tie him up. It wasn’t a pleasant prospect to confine him to a small space. But they had no other choice.

So Terry went into a dog house – a lot better than most kennels because it was big, bright and airy. No animal likes its movements restricted and a spirited canine like Terry resented it greatly. He did what he was best at. He barked even without provocation and generally made a nuisance of himself during the day. When Thimma went to give him food, he snarled. At night, he whined so pathetically that it wrung the residents’ hearts. Thimma walked Terry both morning and evening. He was a strong man. Even so, he had a tough time managing Terry as he tugged and pulled at the leash.

One morning, when Thimma took Terry out, the dog broke free. All efforts to catch him proved futile. He crouched in a corner, snarling when anyone went near, or stood glaring at passersby. Every now and then, he let out an angry bark.

It was then that Ani had a brainwave. “The poor fellow is hungry and frightened,” he said, all sympathy for Terry.

“Then he should allow us to feed him. He looks ready to attack anyone who approaches him,” answered Adi.

Karuna intervened. “We shut him up and deprived him of his freedom. Naturally he is upset.”
“That’s why we need to win his trust, draw him out and feed him,” explained Ani.
“How do we do that?” demanded Anand.

“First, get some biscuits and give them to him,” replied Ani. At once, Adi rushed off to collect the food.

“In the mood he is in, it may be difficult,” predicted Chitra.
“Of course, it will!” Karuna was emphatic.

It was difficult. Ani coaxed and cajoled Terry. He spoke sweetly and encouragingly. After a long time, Terry deigned to eat a biscuit. “Come on, have one more,” Ani persuaded but Terry turned away. Ignoring the snub, Ani left some biscuits for Terry. “We’ll bring you more food tomorrow,” he promised as they dispersed.

The next day, there was literally a hamper of food – all Terry’s favourites. But the sullen dog showed no interest. He ignored the food. When Ani tried to feed him, he snapped furiously. It wasn’t safe to leave him loose. He was ferocious and might cause serious trouble.

Ani took a small towel and wrapped it round his hand. Then he picked up a piece of meat. “There is a shed near here. It has two doors, one in front and the other at the back. We will leave both doors open. When Terry comes in, close the front door noiselessly, Adi. While Terry is picking at the meat, I’ll slip out of the back door and shut it,” he instructed.
“But how will you manage it?” asked Chitra.

“Watch me,” Ani replied.

He neared Terry and held out the meat. Even if he bit, his teeth would sink into the towel. Terry sniffed. Holding on to the meat in his towelled hand, Ani slowly moved to the shed. When Terry entered, he offered the meat. The dog grabbed it and the towel came off with the meat. Puzzled, Terry picked began to examine the towel. Adi closed the front door and Ani exited from the back door.

Terry was taken to the vet. “He isn’t rabid but certainly fierce. He can’t be a house dog but he’ll make an excellent farm dog. I have a friend who is looking for one. His farm will make an excellent home for Terry.” The vet looked at the kids. “How about it?” he asked.
“Fine,” said the kids. They would miss Terry but he would have a good home.

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