Love at First Sight, and Chaos Thereafter
She came with her big brown eyes wide, at that time almost dark blonde hair, looking at us with curiosity and apprehension. The bonding was immediate, and the relationship has grown over the years to be of mutual respect, deep love, occasional tantrums, and a wilful stubbornness that she brings to everything she does.
Cuba burst into our lives eight years ago, and immediately attached herself to the family and the friends she met within the first week of her arrival. They all have a special place in her heart, and she makes sure they know it with the extra special greeting that she reserves only for those who cared to visit her when she needed them the most---having been torn away from her mother and siblings, and trying to adjust with bouncing confidence to her new surroundings.
Despite sharing her space with two others, she quickly established herself as the head of the roost, baring her teeth occasionally when the others crossed her path, but for the most part using a coquettish mix of charm and roguishness to win them over. She adored our bulldog Jaba who taught her how to dig the clothes out of cupboards and settle in with only her eyes visible; she tolerated our Manchester Terrier Pinocchio who was a bit of a bully but was unable to subdue her spirit somehow. An occasional lick would reassure him that she was not fighting for territory and there was sufficient space for all.
Cuba set her own rules and made sure we followed them. She decided early on that while baths were not to be taken, there was fun in voluntary play under the shower. So there she was in the bathroom ahead of others, waiting for the shower to be turned on, so that she could attack the water with the ferocity of a lion. The play continued ---and still does---until she is drenched, exhausted with biting and barking at the water, and settles down to let others use the bathroom now that she is done with it.
She has her set of foes---can’t think of a single friend from amongst her own tribe. So there is Buddy, the neighbours black Tibetan mastiff who she has a love-hate relationship with. She rushes to their gate as if she is going to kill him if she finds him, and if by chance he is standing on the other side, she dissolves into a little, flirtatious, hey-how-are-you girl, There is the ‘kaala kutta’ who she looks out for when on walks, having had the occasional skirmish with him from which she emerged as the victor, having bitten him on the nose. The two are daggers drawn, with Cuba trotting on the road outside his house with a “come on out mister and I will finish you” swagger. And then there is Bambie, a pretty stray who has been adopted by all in the vicinity who Cuba hates with the ferocity of competition. Bambie after initial confrontation has decided it is better than cross swords with the other woman, who shows no signs of backing off from the self created feud. And every now and again Cuba rushes to one of her two favourite windows in the house, barking (she has this wail of a bark) at imagined and real enemies with gusto. It drives all others in the house crazy, but she could not give a damn as she is keeping the world at bay. Or so she firmly believes!
But Cuba does not like people on the road either, and only the brave and the strong can take her for a walk for she spends all her energy barking at every passerby as if he is the biggest enemy. Not the she, she likes women, and loves young women and girls in particular. A group of girls laughing and talking get that extra smile from her, approval as she is used to the same at home. She hates men walking slowly, they make her hackles rise, as do little children who she just cannot stand.
Cuba owns her house. Nothing can happen without her sticking her little nose into it. She has mapped me out to a tee, predicting my movement in the house. For instance in the morning as soon as I open the cupboard she dashes into the bathroom knowing that I usually follow this activity, with a bath. She hates it when she goes wrong, and looks up at the ceiling, as if she is actually doing something else that requires her full concentration, with the little, almost unnoticeable, shake of her head registering the discomfiture of making a wrong prediction.
She loves presents no matter who they are for, opens them a trifle un-elegantly one must confess, and burrows deep into one’s handbag in sheer disbelief that there is nothing for her, on the days one returns from a visit out of Delhi without a visible gift in hand. She loves well wrapped presents as she gets to untie ribbons and delicately strip the wrapping apart. In fact she is so good at it that we give her the tightly, over taped, gifts to open as she is very careful in ensuring the gift inside comes out unscathed.
Cuba speaks all the time. A movie is interrupted with a low growl, that becomes a more insistent bark if she is ignored. She has a different tone for different issues….a low key yowl kind of thing if she wants to go to pee; a full throated bark if she is hungry; a strange authoritarian i-want-it-now growling bark when she wants a biscuit; excited screaming barks when she thinks she will be going out with you….. and communicates all that she wishes to say. Which is a lot at any given point in time, as silence not seen by her as a virtue.
They say that dogs do not watch television, but for Cuba it is one of her many pastimes. Her favourite movie is 101 Dalmatians that she watches with glee, barking her way through it. She watches television with us, although her reaction is reserved only for when dogs and other animals appear on the screen. She can differentiate between the human and the animal, and while the first species are ignored with the disdain they deserve, any form of the latter arouse her interest, curiosity, and hence passion registered with full throated barks and attacks on the television screen at times. She used to like an advertisement with little cartoon figures to a point that she would come running to the television set at the sound of the jingle that accompanied the visuals. And then bark her way through the seconds, probably thinking that she was belting out the song rather melodiously! That advertisement is no longer on the air, Cuba’s loss, our gain.
Cuba is finicky about food, and the same routine staple diet is not for her. She will turn away from her meals, until and unless a variety is introduced---in that she will not eat the same stuff for days on end like stupid, greedy dogs! She loves everything red---watermelon, tomatoes, and sweet papaya have her drooling, with little barks scolding you for not feeding her a full meal of these.
Cuba by the way is an Airedale Terrier, hot tempered, wilful, stubborn, loyal and loving as they come. I am not sure whether she notices any difference between herself and us, somehow I suspect not. At some point after she came she started what all of us now call the ‘moment’. This constitutes Cuba voluntarily coming to you, placing two paws on your knees while you are sitting, balancing (the more precarious the more soulful the moment) and then standing rod stiff in this position. She stays until she wants to as this is her ultimate gesture of love, and if you try to move her she fights back to remain until the ‘moment’ for her is over. She is the mistress of the house, and makes sure we all know it, every single second of the day!