Faithful, in life and death

That day, Jeevan, a fifth grader, returned home with a cute-looking pup in one hand and his school bag in the other. Chucking the bag into the main hall and cuddling what he considered a priceless possession, he ran to his mother, who was busy in the kitchen garden. Stroking the pup on its head, Jeevan showed it to her. "From where have you brought it?" asked the lady. "I found it lying under a roadside tree on my way back from school with none to claim it," replied the boy in a compelling voice. Watering the garden hedge, his mom told him to leave it in the portico.

A bit past the twilight hour, Jeevan's two elder brothers returned from school and were pleasantly surprised by the presence of a sweet-looking pup in the house. Fallow for the most part with a snowy white streak running down the middle of the head to the upper end of the rosy Beezer, the pup won the love and affection of everyone in the family. Jeevan's mother took special care to bathe the pup regularly. Within weeks, the tiddly John-come-lately in the family endeared everyone.  

Named Rosie after its bright red nose, the pup - a high breed from Rajapalayam in Tamil Nadu well known for tall, sturdy, ferocious canines - shot up well above three feet as the months rolled by. On weekends, Jeevan would walk it to his school playground at evenings with his bosom friend and classmate, Gopu. Holding Rosie tight on a leash at one corner of the vast playground with Jeevan standing at the other distant corner, Gopu would unleash and let it gallop at full pelt. Both youngsters would soak in the sight of the dog darting from one end to the other and jumping onto its master's shoulders.

Rosie would lie every night on a towel spread for it under Jeevan's bed. On nippy nights, after everyone had sunk into sound slumber, the pet would jump onto Jeevan's bed, snuggle furtively into his blanket, lie pillowing its head on the boy's legs and sleep as snug as a bug in a rug. Well before the crack of dawn, it would get back down unbeknownst to everyone in the house.

On that fateful day, Jeevan, all of nine years then, fell sick with pneumonia. Others in the family had a trying time persuading the dog to eat while its fondest master was bedridden. All treatments possible in the mid-1940s proved futile and the youngster turned up his toes within a week. When Jeevan's corpse was carried to the sepulchre, the languished dog went alongside the funeral procession to the grave unnoticed by anyone.

The distraught family searched for Rosie high and low but to little avail. Three days later, the ill-news that Rosie was lying dead close to where its idolised master had been consigned to flames descended on the family, dealing a second blow to everyone in the bereaved family. The faithful dog had been so grief-stricken that it had preferred starving to death to outliving its master.

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