A Lady like none other

The author’s wife Yvonne with Lady.

In the forty-five years that Yvonne and I have spent together, I have never seen her so distraught, so devastated, as when Lady died. Twenty years later, we both still turn weepy when we think of that day, and of her.

Lady was as human as any animal could ever be. She could communicate, with almost no ambiguity, exactly what she wanted to say. That word ‘symbiotic’ was coined to describe the relationship that developed between her and us, especially Yvonne.

She’d come to Yvonne with a look, and Yvonne would say ‘you’ve had your walk already – you need to go again?’ And Lady would rush to the front door and sit by it, waiting to be let out.

From the first day we brought her home, Lady slept in our bedroom, in her own bassinet. We’d built special low futons for ourselves, so that each night, she could come around to each of our bedsides, tuck her nose between our neck and our pillow, and sigh deeply as we told her what a beautiful girl she was and how much we loved her.

And then she’d trot off to her own bed, there to stay until she heard one of us stir in the morning.

Lady had a great sense of humour. She’d smile, she’d make laughing sounds that were clearly laughing sounds. She was a happy girl who hated unhappiness and anger. I left home one day on the gust of a noisy quarrel with Yvonne; Lady took refuge under a chair, from where she watched and listened, terrified. I came home that evening with a long-handled broom for my wife.

“Because you’re a witch,” I said. And then I saw Lady grinning up at me. Coward, she was saying to me . . . don’t think I don’t know what you were too scared to say.

On her face that said “So you’re bigger than me and you’re my mommy . . . but what the heck did I do to deserve this?” Yvonne would cry from the shame of it, but not for long, because Lady would be all over her, telling her it was alright, adults make mistakes too.
There was no more disciplined and obedient girl in the world than our Lady. Sit, we’d say, and she’d stay put in front of her scalding hot bowl of meat soup for as long as it would take to cool, a pool of drool forming in front of her, waiting for the words: ‘OK, baby. Bad girl’, Yvonne would say; ‘go to the balcony and don’t come back in till I call you’. Two hours later, done with whatever she was doing, she’d remember she’d banished Lady – and rush to the balcony, to find her still sitting there, in the corner, a baleful look.

In Jakarta, 1986 Lady lived an astonishing seventeen and a half years. That’s a lot longer than Dalmatians usually would. One day we brought home an adorable
new puppy, liver-spotted this time, six- weeks old, to keep her company. But one cannot stem the tide of time, however gently it may flow. Lady had grown old and tired, her sight going, her hearing almost gone, the back legs unable to hold her up more than a few minutes at a time.

She’d travelled with us, from Calcutta where she found us, to Bombay, and then to Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur. She was healthy and happy to the end; just tired.

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A Lady like none other

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