In Memory of Blackie: The Creatively Named Black Color Dog

About a month ago, Blackie passed away at the age of 15 and a half years. Even though he was officially a ‘street’ dog, he was the closest I have had to what I can call my own pet. He was born in my home in February 2004 and was one of the two pups that survived in the first litter – the other one being Brownie (take a guess why he was named that way). Not sure whatever happened to Brownie – it just disappeared one day – but Blackie stayed put and lived its entire life in the annals of Shankarappa Layout in Rajarajeshwarinagar, Bangalore – with an occassional trip outside of those boundaries.

My parents and I fed Blackie, Brownie, and their mother Trixie almost every single night early on. Even after Trixie and Brownie disappeared, Blackie continued to eat at my place – except, of course, when the neighbors would give Blackie some meat dish! God knows how many hundreds of packs of Tiger Biscuit (among other things) we have fed Blackie over the years – right until its passing. In fact, we no longer called it Tiger biscuit – it just became Blackie Biscuit, and the box became Blackie Dabba (box).

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Blackie, in 2008

There was nothing remotely special about Blackie that you typically don’t find in other loyal street dogs. It had its boundaries, left its mark when and where necessary, had its skirmishes with the other dogs in the hood, knew everyone in the layout, ate what was given to it, followed all the neighborhood people wherever they went (within its boundaries of course), was mostly healthy and clean, got neutered by the municipality, and pretty much lived out its days without much to worry about. But, over time, I realized that Blackie taught me a lot about the world and the people in it.

If you think about it, the typical life expectancy of a dog is a very useful measure to gauge all the changes that take place in our lives. 15 years seems to be just the right amount of time to take stock of where I was when Blackie was born, and where I am now after it had passed. After Blackie was born, I got into Undergrad, graduated, worked for a bit in India, moved to the US, finished my Masters, started working, met my wife (the wife met Blackie), got married, and moved to Canada – meeting many many people along the way. And through all this time, Blackie had been a constant to see me go through all of that – all the highs and, especially, all the lows.

But it was not just what happened in my own life in these 15 years that deserves evaluation. You can even track all the changes society has gone through in the past 15 years and Blackie was still a constant through all of that – and blissfully oblivious to it all. Well, most of it. But there was one change that did affect Blackie and it is something that has made a very large impression in my own mind as well.

In its early years, one of the most endearing sights I remember was seeing Blackie play with all the neighborhood kids after they came back from school. The kids aged anywhere from 6-10 years old and they all got together every evening on the road to play whatever it was that kids played. And I remember Blackie would be hanging out with the kids. The affection was always reciprocal. All the kids would make Blackie part of their activity – simple things like ‘Who touches Blackie’s tail first?’, or trying to use Blackie as some kind of a prop in their games, or trying to make Blackie do something. Whatever it was, Blackie was just happy to be part of all the fun and excitement. There was an unmistakable tint of innocence to that sight, and I believe that is what makes it both endearing and enduring in my mind. But then, like everything else, it didn’t last forever. All the kids grew up and stopped playing outside. They all still petted Blackie when they saw it but that age of innocence had passed and the road would remain empty of that fun.  And now I wonder when exactly Blackie realized that there would be no more games where its tail would be a target or where he could serve as a prop to all the fun around him….

15 years is a long enough time to expect to see a lot of changes in our lives. It is also the general life expectancy of a dog. Blackie has seen me and others in the neighborhood grow older by 15 years and all the changes that come with it. It may have lived an extremely ordinary life, but it has given me some extra-ordinary memories and life lessons. So while it is now undoubtedly in dog heaven, I have to live with the fact that there will no longer be a friendly presence in front my home that would be happy just to see me; and that Blackie’s dabba will now forever remain empty.

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