The furry residents of #171

Roshan Thyagarajan’s American bulldog and indie tug at your heart strings
Last Updated : 29 July 2023, 00:56 IST

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His eyes, they move like marbles on a suspended linen sheet, just so without ever revealing an intention — black and careful, melancholy personified.

Only, he isn’t melancholic, not in the least.

It’s all a ruse to draw you in — puppy eyes are real if you’re still asking — because before you know it, his mouth widens to something surreal, and in there, you see glimpses of a universe forgotten. Occasionally, that mouth and his heavy panting, elevate the fear of mortality before an indelicate, indiscriminate, sloppy lick calms the nerves.

That’s what it’s like to wake up to a near-two-year-old American bully with no concept of personal space.

See, Hank isn’t for the faint-hearted. Nor is he for those uncomfortable with a surprisingly fast teapot for he runs as if a boar on the attack. He isn’t for those who aren’t particularly fond of vacuum cleaners for his fur is ubiquitous. He isn’t for those in a co-dependent relationship with their furniture for he reckons wood and leather are food. He isn’t for those who are unwilling to accommodate his desire to play big spoon for his arms — though comically short — try a wraparound, always.

Hank isn’t for those unable to let go of their clothes, their shoes, their phone cables, their sleep, their sanity, their understanding of dogs, their today, their tomorrow, their now. Everything shall be lost to his mouth, his eyes, his porky grunts, his solemn stares, his rotund personality, bum scratches, and those kisses…

Hank isn’t for everyone, but he is for us. Through him, the emotionally stunted residents of #171 have finally realised what it means to be a family, and in that, our house became a home.

Layla might be a tad offended by this relegation, but she’s too cat-like to care.

See, we adopted Layla close to five years ago because, I — wisely in retrospect — assumed a broken indie could mend a broken heart. She was four months old at the time and already had enough trauma to make our trauma feel pedantic.

Cock-eyed and slender with a tail meant to be among Pampas grass, Layla’s every move became the beginning of all our conversations, once we got rid of her hair from our mouths of course.

But in time, she settled into the corners, not wanting to be seen by mere mortals. Only emerging and engaging when she knew no one had the time nor the energy to. She was now furniture, the best we ever had, but she wasn’t a dog. She was the youngest of the trio of women who dictate all things at #171.

As if to compensate for the lack of men at home, Hank arrived. My friends called on me in October 2021 and said they were putting up the ‘Pillsbury Doughboy’ up for adoption. He was the youngest of two, and boy, was he chunky, and seemingly quiet.

A couple of calm days ensued, thus prompting me to name him after one of my favourite authors (Henry Charles Bukowski, aka Hank). It was the eyes — they were sad, old and wise. Perhaps with a tinge of hatred towards me the day he was neutered and put inside a cone collar. It was a tough day for the men of #171!

I reckon the hatred has left him for he now looks at me from either one of his rooms — he has an open garage for his shenanigans and the guest room is his with a cot to sleep with his legs in the air — with love and desperation for attention.

When he gets the rubs, he’s quick to let go and rush for the ball for he reckons playing fetch is what makes us happy. I’m pretty certain he doesn’t do it because he wants to.

Layla doesn’t bother with balls or playing with us, lest she dirty her paws. On the contrary, Hank is dirt.

From ungracefully rolling in the mud in his garage to plonking his entirety into puddles of rain water to snatching diapers off bins to eating cow dung as dessert, Hank doesn’t care much for aesthetics or smells. He knows his undying love, selflessness, and that cute bum, make up for his disdain for all things clean.

He doesn’t mind the weekly shower for he enjoys the taste of filth-infused sud, but he wouldn’t miss such inane acts of hygiene should we stop. To his chagrin, we won’t because, besides keeping him clean, we like to let the most selfless of us all know that we love and we care.

We’re fairly inept as a family in telling someone we love them, but we’re good at service. And so as I rub my mother’s feet and Hank’s chunky backside simultaneously, Layla and my sister look on.

Layla wags her tail without moving her eyes. My sister says ‘lunch is ready’.

Home is where all things broken become whole.

PS: Hank stinks again.

Published 28 July 2023, 18:21 IST

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