They named her 'The Dog Woman' as she was always seen with stray dogs in parks, on roads, in markets, feeding them biscuits, rotis, muffins etc. In fact, she was a crazy animal lover. She had been seen sobbing uncontrollably holding a dying donkey's head in her lap, feeding bananas to a very old, sick monkey on her kitchen balcony, rescuing birds entangled in kite strings, jumping into a gutter to save an injured piglet, stepping carefully over ants while walking, preventing a co-passenger from killing a wasp and setting it free when the metro doors opened at the next station, carrying sick and abused animals to shelters for treatment, berating drivers of bullock carts and horse carts for whipping the bulls and horses, even singing lullabies to puppies and kittens. She bought bird cages only to open them and watch the birds fly away, built small shelters for dogs in winters and kept earthen pots filled with water in summers. She had already gone through full course of anti-rabies shots twice as a result of (not bites, never bites) tiny playful nips, once from a dog and another time from a guinea pig. Some people thought she was eccentric. She believed she was born to love animals and they her.
The park she frequented regularly for her morning walk was a haven for many strays. One such dog family was her favourite. She had named them Mommy, Timmy and Lucy. After the morning treat all three would frolic around, chase each other, chase birds and squirrels, and then chase her around the park. Timmy pestered her for a tummy rub on completion of each round she took and she obliged happily.
One particular morning she found Timmy a bit subdued. After having his share of biscuits he just sat there at the beginning of the trail waiting for her to return, only to howl woefully. She noticed Lucy was missing. After giving Timmy his tummy rub she muttered softly, “Where is your sis, little boy? Is she ok?”
Timmy just howled. And thus, this pattern repeated after each round she took of the park. He was clearly distressed and now so was she. “Are you ill my boy? Is your lil' sister injured? Let's find her and take her to the vet.”
Timmy howled. Holding him close, she caressed his forehead when suddenly she recalled an old superstition. Dogs are known to howl when they sense death and see souls. Her heart beat faster and her thoughts flew to her family at once. Her daughter, who worked with an airlines, was already en route to Mumbai. Her youngest daughter would be boarding her school bus in another ten minutes. Her pace quickened as she started for home, chiding herself for being silly. Timmy howled and followed. She walked faster. Her husband had enemies, a voice whispered from nowhere. She shook her head vigorously. Timmy followed, and howled. Two of her kids stayed in hostels in different cities. She tried to calm herself down. Maybe Lucy was ill? Or maybe she was even dead? That would explain Timmy's weird behaviour. Of course! It could be Timmy himself. He must be ill, she assured herself. As she neared the road she crouched towards Timmy and whispered, “Don't worry sweetheart, I'll be back soon and we'll go together to a nice doctor. He might give you a bone to chew too! You'll be ok, I promise.” As she started to cross the street to her home, their hearts connected one last time through their eyes and she felt peace descend on her. There was a blast of a clamorous horn along with piercing screech of tires. She never knew what hit her.