09 February 2016.
Late at night, my phone beeped. Late night messages and late night phone calls; both scare me. As far as I’ve known, neither have ever brought good news. I twisted and turned in my bed, a restless night lying ahead of me. A sudden thump woke me up completely at dawn. Eerie howls echoed through our street. About 8 – 10 dogs were gathered around someone, or something slumped. Fear gripped me. Had there been an accident? Cold air came swooping in as I pushed open the window, pushing sleep completely out of my eyes.
As the sun rose and a beautiful morning greeted me, I saw the slumped something. It was a dog, perhaps the victim of a road kill. The animal lay there, still and cold. Life had ebbed away as a new day began for everyone else…
I have never really been a dog lover. In fact, as a child, I held a fear or perhaps some sort of dread for this species. For years, I screamed, hid behind doors or relatives, and at times possible even ran away at the sight of a dog. But then, people around me started to have dogs as pets. Both my aunts, a best friend…all these families opened their doors and hearts to this creature. I adjusted to the idea of sharing space with dogs, but never really petted them willingly.
Today, as I watched the carcass of this animal, I didn’t realise that another dog, miles away from me, had already lost its life. Absentmindedly, I checked that late night message and I suddenly felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. The message began…’A sad news…’ The rest remains a hazy nightmare.
A fluffly hairball, a crazy grey and white dog came rushing towards me, the first day I stepped in Hagen. It was the summer of 2007 and I was in Germany for a cultural exchange programme. My host family had come to receive me at the airport but the first one to welcome me into the house hadn’t been a person, but this dog. Fenya.
She was a baby, a lovely dog with her whims and fancies. My first instinct had been to back off; a dog leaping on me was one of my nightmares. But this dog did not know how to take No for an answer. She welcomed me not only into her house, but also her life. My 5-weeks long stay in this house would have been incomplete had it not been for dear Fenya.
7 years later, while in the UK for my post-graduation, the proximity to Germany tempted me for a visit. I was back in Hagen, back to the same house, back to my family. And once again, Fenya was running out….her ready wag telling me that I had been missed in this house, by everyone. She still guarded my door, she still caught me by surprise by sleeping on the stairs, she still growled if I crept up for a glass of water in the middle of the night. We went for walks in the lovely woods, we played ball in parks, we even had crazy fits for no reasons whatsoever.
All my life, I have seen a lot of pets. I sat next to few, even allowed them to occasionally sniff me. But Fenya was the first and the only dog I shared house with. She was someone who taught me that dogs are a part of the family too. The first animal to show me unconditional love.
Today as I read the news of her death with a lump in my throat, I realise I can never truly explain what Fenya means to me. I can just know, I can just feel, I can just remember and I will, always miss…