Cold winter evening…8 pm…The dogs (four), had licked their dinner bowls clean, I had rinsed the dishes in the sink and switched off the kitchen lights.
It was time to take the dogs down for their last quick romp in the backyard, to empty bladders and more, and to wag Goodnight to our guard, Madan Singh. Madan and me usually exchange weather forecasts, doggy tales, and a bit of village gossip before we all troop home.
Today evening, while walking down the stairs, I was trying to drape a shawl neatly and had become a little slower than the dogs and Madan. Those 4 canines and 1 man walked into the backyard, and a waiting leopard pounced on the unsuspecting group. I heard the roar, the terrified barking of the dogs, and Madan shouting and flailing his arms. By the time I ran out, Bruni and SherSingh were barking in panic, and I heard that dreadful crunch which is usually the sound of the leopard killing a dog.
Our neighbours ran out, and Mili had reached their room. Bruni and SherSingh were all around me. And there was no Cheetah, or the leopard. Ashen faced Madan had seen the big cat getting entangled in the fencing around the tree saplings, and then it had gone rushing down the forest slope. No one had seen Cheetah, and the only possible presumption was that the leopard had killed Cheetah and dragged her body into the forest.
Shaken, shaken–so badly shaken. Not wanting to believe that possibility, I was the proverbial insane woman. Ran up and down the dark forest slopes, took the car out and went driving a km away, towards the golf course ( hoping that Cheetah had bolted in fright), searched the parade ground, shouted myself hoarse, and couldn’t stop the tears and the heartbreak.
She had been sitting next to me, JUST 30 minutes ago…how could she be gone now? How do I tell the kids, Hema, the world?
Prema, my neighbour, brought in a terrified Mili, and I sat down to write a message to the girls. Immediately, I was talking to my daughter and going through the entire unbelievable sequence with her, sobbing all the while. In the midst of the chat, there was someone ringing the doorbell madly and loudly….
Meanwhile, one of the local drivers, known more for his skills at getting sozzled than driving, drove past. He slowed down to ask Madan if I had lost a dog? Madan replied that the leopard had just taken our Cheetah. Local drunk driver shook his head and proclaimed that he had seen Cheetah 3 kms from our home. Madan jumped into the vehicle, and they both drove to that point as fast as they could.
Sure enough, a shaken and shivery Cheetah was standing on the dark road. She had sprinted a good 3 kms, to save herself, and was now lost. Madan was immediately recognised by her, and the prodigal doggy daughter came home.
I couldn’t stop hugging that bemused drunk driver…. and when he said that he knew me because he had seen me picking trash from the roadside, and really admired me for my “social work”, and how he always looked out for me, I hugged him some more.
Sometimes, it helps to be a little different, to be true to yourself and just do what you believe in. People remember you, they remember your dogs, their coats, and they reach out to help you.
Miracles?! Do you need more proof?! 🙂
PS.. I have four shaken and stirred and tired and terrified dogs in my bedroom tonight. But they are all alive and well and that’s a miracle for me.