Vodka shots


She’s a Rottweiler, no? Doberman? Angrezi kutta hai (is it an English dog)? They all shake their heads in disbelief when I say ‘rasta ka kutta hai (it’s a street dog). Gully mein mila (found him in the bylanes).’ It’s difficult to believe that a dog with such a rich, shiny coat and with such distinct markings could be ‘just’ a street dog, a mongrel, a pariah (except for one very drunk guy who confidently exclaimed Arre, Jackie Shroff ka kutta hai!) But there’s nothing ‘just’ about Vodka; and I say that as someone who’s had more than seven dogs.

For one thing, she’s quite clear that she’s not a dog: she doesn’t like the company of other dogs, she prefers human company. She loves being hugged and squeezed and man handled. She doesn’t wolf down treats but will carefully examine them and then nibble at it delicately; every day she’ll separate the good bits of her meal first and then eat the rest. Often when I’m cooking she’ll watch me patiently sitting at the kitchen table, not on the floor. She believes she has equal rights to the pillows and the warmest part of the bed. The bean bag belongs to her. She craves physical contact. She doesn’t sit beside you, she sits on you. If you’re lying in bed she makes herself comfortable on your hand, arm, stomach or feet. At my work desk or dinner table she’s always under or on my feet. When she’s ready to sleep, she falls on your side, slides down to the bed, and then slides along the length of your torso so her back is fully in contact with your body. Once she’s comfortable, she lifts her hind legs, stretches, kicks you in the face and falls asleep.

In general, females tend to be family oriented, males independent or one-person dogs; and that’s been my experience too. In Vodka’s caseI am the centre of her universe and she is incredibly possessive of me. While she’s madly in love with my girlfriend and extremely attached to my maid, she’ll happily insert herself between them and me, given the opportunity. She won’t let Chloe, my other dog, come near me if she’s being scratched, if Chloe gets there first she squeezes in between us, pushes her away and then snarls if Chloe tries to work her way back. She’ll diplomatically arrange herself between my girlfriend and me when we’re watching TV, and if I leave the room for too long, she’ll come to see where I am and sleep somewhere close by. And like the all-seeing eye of Mordor she’s constantly watching me when I’m home.

You cannot ignore Vodka, she embodies the word ‘dogged’, being tenaciously persistent when she wants attention. When I return home the levels are ratcheted up, and she will scream in excitement and happiness. Sometimes she gets angry for being left alone and is petulantly destructive. I can yell my head off or threaten her with punishment but she doesn’t care. She’ll just wag her tail furiously, a big smile on her face and jump from one seat to the next waiting for you to sit down so that she can sit on your lap or your chest and very gently lick your face clean.

Vodka was an unplanned addition. I already had a dog and I was still recovering from the loss of another one. One evening I entered my building lift and was surprised to hear a pup wailing most piteously. There were only two dogs in my building, mine and my neighbours and both were adults. I got off on my floor and was even more curious: the shrieks were coming from my house. Entering my house I found my enthusiastic neighbours daughter giving a 3-month old pup a bath in my house. The pup who just a few minutes before was gambolling in our lane was clearly screaming bloody murder by the unexpected turn of events. She was visibly relieved when I rescued her from her bath, quietening down immediately after I swaddled her in a towel. Ever since, she’s been inseparable from me except when she has to be given a bath.

When Vodka came to us she was small, black and furry like a big Ushanka, the heavy hat worn by Russians.  After rejecting names like Raisa, Ivana, Alexa and many others we settled on Vodka. But Vodka is only one of her many names: my mother called her Chintamani after the cartoon character in the ICICI ad, because she always looked worried and would frequently climb up the sofa and sniff my mother’s face while she watched TV to make sure everything was alright. When she destroys things because she’s been left alone at home she’s Masti (fun) and when she watches you with soulful eyes in the kitchen, hoping you’ll give her a something to eat she’s Chor (contextual: blackmailer). But the most appropriate and frequently used name is Darpok for Vodka is the most skittish dog I’ve ever had.

Things that Vodka is scared of

  1. People walking behind her carrying plastic bags
  2. Large leaves falling to the ground
  3. Sharp, sudden movements in front of her
  4. Slow deliberate movements toward her
  5. Strangers who want to make friends with her
  6. Suitcases on wheels
  7. Torch light
  8. Cats who fight back

Companion Animal Placement, an American dog-adoption agency, made a wonderful ad in 1998 depicting a middle-aged man undressing from a business suit, putting on make-up, women’s underwear and slipping into a dress in front of his dog. Finally, the dog brings over a matching purse and is petted by his owner.The closing text read, “That’s the great thing about pets. They really don’t care.”

I think many of us too don’t care whether we have a pedigreed dog or one from the street, whether it’s a big, brave dog or just a small, cowardly bundle of fur. It doesn’t matter to me that Vodka is the worst watch dog in the world or is frightened by the rustling of paper bag. I love Vodka and she loves me back and that’s all that counts.

Author: Antoine Lewis