Life Lessons From A Wise Furry Friend

It wasn’t once or many years ago. It was only yesterday that Hatchi (I always spelled it with a ‘t’, although it was always corrected by my family) was alive. Our third dog, which is my children’s dog and my daughter’s dog to be precise. Indeed, on his first visit to Jalandhar on January 13th this year, he was delighted to have the large bungalow and garden to himself, undeterred by the looming presence of the two older sheepdogs. He fully appreciated the uniqueness of this opportunity and ran and paced and rolled the length of the greens while chasing the birds away from the branches, fence and our patch of sky above the house. That he was quite content with his escapades was shown by his no-nonsense attitude, even to those uninitiated in interpreting canine communication.

An indie from the Mussoorie Hills who was separated from his mother and litter early after birth, the resilient pup raced around until he landed on the academy’s Happy Valley grounds just outside the badminton courts. There the two young daughters of my colleagues found him hungry and thirsty and so vulnerable. The perceptive girls had nothing on hand but a packet of Lays chips and a bottle of Coke and fed him that. Given the enterprising spirit and the unspoken but ever-present influence of the Academy Kids Gang, the pup was placed in the care of the guard at the LBSNAA’s main entrance. He was officially christened as Hachi (inspired by the Japanese film the gang had seen in the Academy auditorium a few days earlier) and officially given the status of the Academy’s PET. Diet and care plans were drawn up and duty rosters distributed within the gang. The gang was joined by several officer cadets and also by my 30-year-old daughter Megha, who took a sabbatical after five years as a senior manager at Godrej Properties in Hiranandani, Mumbai.

It was preordained that Megha and Hatchi (I’ll go back to my spelling of his name) should meet. Some beings have such a connection, deep and inevitable, like a continuum from a past. A heavy snow and hail storm in February 2018 reportedly brought Hatchi to “Himshikhar”, the director’s bungalow, until the nice weather returned. Although after a week the sun shone brightly and winter gave way to spring and the following seasons, Hatchi continued to be a resident of Himshikhar. He went to Delhi with us after I was posted to Delhi as Secretary of the Indian Government and became the youngest member of the family.

Friendly, lovely, bright: He not only delighted the Mussoorie children’s gang with his girlfriend Lily (the housekeeper of Himshikhar), but also our staff and friends. Until he began to show clear patterns of personality change in the CWG Village apartment, becoming more pronounced in New Moti Bagh. Growling, aggressive, hyperactive: he put people off, including us. In fact, he became uncontrollable after biting Megha twice and her sibling Mohit three times, the latter escaping serious eye injury in one of those attacks. Marginalized by his behavior, we set about moving him to a farmhouse on the Delhi border, albeit with great reluctance and even resistance on Megha’s part. Hatchi was transported to the farmhouse, but for exactly one day less than a week. Megha was wracked with guilt for leaving him, as she was a person with a deep, if often misguided, sense of integrity. Her uproar grew when an animal communicator she hired (I’ve never known such professionals!) revealed Hatchi’s big plans to run away from the farmhouse and his deep remorse over his behavior and how desperate he was to return to US GOOD, according to PEOPLE. So, at an exorbitant cost, paid for by Megha out of her tiny savings, the goblin was taken to a canine correction facility where he was instructed on how to monitor and improve his behavior, including socializing with his tribe and ours.

He was also diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy at this point, causing seizures that may have been genetic and not curable. These episodic bursts of electrical storms in his brain left him confused, scared (he could feel it starting), fuzzy (jumping around and hitting things), convulsing, drooling, losing control of his bladder and bowels. Hatchi needed to be home with his family. Megha, the mother, took full responsibility and enlisted the very willing support of Mohit, especially after we moved to Punjab after my retirement. You read and research about the condition; communicates with people who handle such pets; consulted a number of doctors; constantly optimized his medication and diet (and spared no expense); trained themselves to judge the onset of a seizure; deal with it in-house while Megha held him while Mohit prepared the diazepam shot and injected it rectally. Socializing, family gatherings, travel, going out, “chilling” have been restricted to prioritize Hatchicare. Covid was no deterrent, with Hatchi himself having to be hospitalized or taken for a consultation at its peak, with them masked three times and with a face masked apart from wearing gloves. And the siblings enjoyed his presence between epileptic episodes: taking him on vacations, ordering his favorite keto pizzas on Fridays, driving him to New Moti Bagh for his walks (he loved that place), and more.

When a child is man’s parent (a gender-sensitive adaptation of the original adage), I’ve learned a lot from my children and their relationship with Hatchi. After I got married, we always had dogs as pets in the house. But Hatchi wasn’t just a pet. Hatchi was a child with an illness. That there are no limits to doing and trying and continuing to do this for those you care about. That life is dynamic and we can shape it to suit the purposes of the time(s). That caring is not a compulsion or restriction, but what you want and want to do. That caring can improve a condition: Hatchi got better, easily and slowly, as she got used to being with our inner circle of friends and family. That love and caring are just as important, if not more so, than medication and consultations. That coping with a condition and a situation is what human striving is and should remain: and not to let it go under. Most importantly, he has brought the four of us even closer together, drawing us even closer together at a time in life when parents and children tend to grow further apart.

But most important is the value he brought to my children’s lives. For his sake, despite personal differences, they stuck together, sharing accommodation in Green Park and then GK I. He enabled them to become more responsible, empathetic, cooperative, and caring. The most important thing is to put someone else’s needs and urgencies ahead of your own. The Life Lessons Hatchi Left Us: The four-legged goblin’s resilience in the face of convulsive trauma twice a month is a snack. He was happy and sunny and in between lively and playful. So the tiny wolf (as my son described him) preached to us to make the most of what life offers to everyone.

The animal communicator called him an old soul. He was also a lovely soul. The grief from friends and family, in person and on social media, has been a reassuring handshake for Megha Mohit. Aged over four and having moved to Chandigarh from Mussoorie to Delhi, he chose Jalandhar on his very first visit to take his last breath on January 14, 2022, which was held by both Megha and Mohit. Despite his condition, he was not suffering in his final minutes, although he was breathing heavily for a time. While we are distressed, especially at not being able to understand the cause of death, this brings us some relief. As when he was alive, the effort to resuscitate him continued at midnight, video call to his doctor in Delhi, oral resuscitation, resuscitation etc. Also prophetic soul, he had told the Animal Communicator last November that he did not have much time left . He may have known that his earthly sojourn would be brief, but for the life lessons we are given, his life was as purposeful as if he were repaying some kind of karmic debt. He rests in the open garden of my husband’s childhood home in Jalandhar, with some treats, his pillow, daily dose of medication and his favorite chew bone buried. Rest in peace Hatchi.

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