….a coconut ‘dehusker’ extraordinaire !
KEFA, Sept 2006 – Oct 2017
First, something that can grip you by the throat –
The Power of the Dog (Rudyard Kipling, 1865 – 1936)
There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie—
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.
When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find—it’s your own affair—
But … you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.
When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!).
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone—wherever it goes—for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.
We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long—
So why in Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?
And now, the story of Kefa:
Part 1 – Coming home
It was a rainy morning at the start of September. There was a small, wet, dark bundle in the corner of the bus shelter. If anyone had paid attention they would’ve observed that the bundle was trembling, and whimpering frequently, and that it smelt, strongly, like wet blankets. But no one stopped to observe the bundle. Buses came and went, people got on, got off and generally went about their business as if there was nothing unusual about a wet, whimpering, bundle in the corner of the bus shelter.
Finally, a couple of hours later, one of the persons who came to catch a bus (a tall young man in jeans and a t-shirt, with a satchel that reached his hip) noticed this bundle, and thought there was something there that demanded a second look. He squatted next to it and looked at it closely. What he realised took his breath away. The bundle was actually four tiny pups, clinging together for warmth and a feeling of security. They were newborn he assumed, since they were really tiny and since their eyes were still shut. They were not only wet, they were hungry. He figured so from the way they were nuzzling each other as if they were seeking their mother’s belly. The smallest of them, sensing a presence nearby, stuck a foreleg out. The paw hooked into the loop of his shoelace. It was almost as if (so the young man perceived) the little one was demanding to be taken home!
He stepped outside, and looked in all directions to see if he could spot the mother and remind her of her responsibilites. There was no other dog in sight. He supposed that she was out foraging, and decided to wait with the pups until she returned. Half an hour passed with no sign of a mother. The young man thought that this meant one of two things – either something had happened to the mother and she wasn’t coming back, or, even worse, the pups had been abandoned here by someone who kept the mother but didn’t want to deal with the pups. Either way, he thought, they wouldn’t survive left where they were.
So, with an unspoken assurance to them that he’d be back, he ran home as fast as his long legs would carry him. He burst into the house, alarming his mother for a moment (until she realised he was OK). He explained the situation, and asked for a carton in which he could place the pups. They found one and he ran back to the bus shelter with it. He’d been away about ten minutes, and he hoped the pups were safe.
They were. At least, they were just as he’d left them. He gently picked up each pup, wiped it as dry as he could with his t-shirt, and placed it in the carton. Each one squirmed, chest thumping, in his unfamiliar hands. When their mouths came into contact with his fingers or palm they carried out a desperate exploration in the hope of finding a food source. (When they didn’t find any, the whimpers developed into soft wails.) When he had all four in the carton, he closed the flaps, and walked home with it, trying to cushion it as much as possible on his forearms.
At home, he and his mother first fed the pups, getting them to suckle on cotton swabs soaked in milk. They also examined the pups with delight – the warmth and softness of their bodies, the dampness of their little noses, their tiny pink tongues, the velvet feel of their paws. After a while of oohing and aahing, his mother started the conversation that he’d hoped they wouldn’t have so soon.
“Have you thought of what you’re going to do next?”
“Well,” he hesitated, “I thought we could keep them?”
“I don’t think we’re going to be able to do that”, she said. “They all need to be looked after really carefully for a while, and they’d suffer if we didn’t do that adequately”.
“At least until we find homes for them?” he asked.
“No”, she said, “we may not be able to do that soon enough. I think you should take them to the animal care centre at the Blue Cross.”
“Can’t we keep two, at least? I promise to look after them. Please?”
“Well, since you put it that way, OK, one. But, the others go to the Blue Cross, first thing tomorrow. So, pick the one you’d like to keep.”
He had no difficulty making that decision! He cuddled each one. He wished he could look into their eyes, but they were still shut. He considered their colour (they ranged from light brown to brownish-black). But all this was out of curiosity; he had already made his choice. It was the tiniest that had reached out to him, and he assumed that the tiniest would be the one that needed most nurturing. So, he picked up the runt, a boy, brownish-black, and thought “OK fella, you’re it!”
He skipped college the next day too, and called a friend over to help him take the rest to the Blue Cross. The neighbour (who had observed the previous evening’s events) had asked to keep one. So, one stayed, one went to another home, and two, in the carton, were taken to the animal shelter at the Blue Cross.
A feeding routine was quickly established. (There was no need for a playing routine, since the pup was kept engaged every moment when he was not sleeping or feeding.)
The young man had obviously been giving serious thought to a suitable name. At breakfast the next day he announced that since (i) the pup smelt faintly (and pleasantly) of coffee, and (ii) the coffee bean was originally from a principality called Kefa, in Ethiopia, this pup would be KEFA.
The logic of this set of statements being absolutely clear, there was no debate.
And so it was that Kefa found his home – the place where he would open his eyes two days after his arrival.
Part 2 – Puppy days
In short order, Kefa determined that his family had three full-time members…
– his brother (he had to be that, since he’d brought him home, since he was always ready to play and to engage in some rough-and-tumble, and since he surreptitiously provided frequent treats),
– Mom (she had to be that, since she was of gentle touch and voice, and since she was absolutely dependable, providing his food and drink at regular times – times that he learnt to use to set his circadian clock),
– Dad (he had to be that, because he was the one who, except for the occasional enoyable moments of stroking and patting, would spend his time on exclamations such as “No, no, no!” or “Come back here with my socks!” or “Bad boy! This isn’t where you should pee or poop!”),
…And three other members (since they shared the same smells) who came home in between longish periods away….
– another brother, also willing to play (but in his own way, getting Kefa to do stuff outdoors, rather than wrestling indoors),
– two sisters who, when they were not debating whether he was blackish-brown or black-turning-brown and whether his eyes were brown or brownish-blue, took turns cuddling and tickling him (at least as long as he was light enough for them to lift with one hand).
It was a wonderful time. Kefa enjoyed the affection and attention of his brother and the other five satellites as much as he enjoyed observing them in their orbits. He empathised with them when they were, occasionally, too dumb to understand his needs. On his part he understood everything about them – when they needed attention, when they needed a lick and a hug, when they would prefer just quiet companionship, and even when he should make himself scarce.
He even understood Dad’s attempts to ‘discipline’ him. He realised that ‘discipline’ on his part would make Mom and Dad’s life a little easier. So he figured out that sofas and beds were not meant to be made use of when Dad was around, or when Mom was overworked.
However, smart though he was, he just couldn’t figure out this thing about socks. Why would anyone leave these wonderful, smelly, tasty things around at floor level, if it weren’t for Kefa to chew on and leave holes in? After all, didn’t they give him his food and drink at floor level? Didn’t they toss treats onto the floor sometimes, for him to grab? Weren’t socks, then, treats too? Well, obviously, he was the only one who thought so. Over time, though, the rest of the family realised that socks on the floor were an open invitation, and started to keep them in difficult-to-reach places.
He thought home and heaven were one place, until his family started to take him out for walks. He then realized that heaven was larger. It was present in spots that his family, for some inexplicable reason, called ‘poles’ or ‘posts’. Just because they carried lights and wires at the top?! Their actual purpose, he knew, was at the base. They were repositories of the most heavenly aromas known, designed to bring colour into anyone’s life.
One day, when he was about eight months old, Kefa, without realising it, lifted a hind leg to contribute to the collection at the base of the ‘pole’.
Puppy days were officially over!
= = = = =
Watch this space for forthcoming posts with the rest of Kefa’s story. (And I’ll try to keep them coming without very long intervals!)
But we can’t leave this space without a couple of dog songs, can we?! So, here’s Cat Stevens with “I love my dog”, from his 1967 album ‘Matthew and Son’.
Here’s the song with lots of doggie pics,
I love my dog (with lots of doggie pics)
And here’s Cat Stevens live!
Can’t wait to read part 2 of the story. Have forwarded this article to three more people who are die hard dog lovers.
Thanks Sumita. I’ll try not to keep you waiting too long! Thanks, also, for letting your friends know.
Liked the way apparently trivial things are narrated. Great creativity.
Thanks GR. And, I appreciate that you said ‘apparently’ trivial !
It was nice to read something from you after a long time. Waiting for Part 2!
I could feel every emotion described here, Sir. So well-narrated.
Great read! Don’t keep us waiting too long for Part 2! ……and then some….
Very absorbing. Nice to read your writing, Sir.
Love pup stories. Unconditional love in its purest form. Nice one Roy