Today is a gloomy day, both as far as the weather, as we are in the midst of a coldwave, and are also grieving for our pet dog! ‘Meha’, a female dog from the Indian Army, with Army Number tattooed in her ear, from the cast or retired category, had come to us after she had completed her military service of nearly seven years.

This was our second Army Dog and what a wonderful dog she was; ‘stately’ does not do her personality full justice, for she was at a different level altogether and our entire family fell in love with her at first sight.

Besides her commanding personality and disciplined stances, her snow white fur was so beautiful that my daughter, Rashmi immediately dubbed her ‘My Polar Bear’. An apt nickname as her heavy and white fur was soft, fluffy and silken to the touch. Like all dogs she loved being rubbed: that indeed was the way to her heart!

Ours is a pet-loving family and pet dogs have been part of us for decades. It was my wife, Daulat, who introduced us all to pet dogs. She had lived with pet dogs since she was four years old, when she was presented a Cocker Spaniel, by her father, Maj Gen D A Surve, who was the GOC of the then Bombay Area at Mumbai.

We had more than one pet dog when our two daughters were born. Both have thereafter not been without pet dogs. Even today, the older Rashmi has three. all strays adopted by the family, despite living in an apartment. The younger daughter, Manisha, who resides at Bhubaneswar (Orissa) has one male Labrador, in her spacious bungalow.

The only periods that we were away from our pet dogs were when we were abroad, first when I was posted as the Military and Defence Advisor in India’s High Commission at Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) during 1981-84; and later in 1988-89, when I was selected to attend the US Army War College Course at Carliyle (USA).

When the three grandchildren were born, they inherited our love for pet dogs. now they cannot think about not having a pet dog traipsing at their feet!

Reverting to our darling, Meha, I had received intimation from the Veterinary Directorate at Army Headquarters that a cast dog had been allotted to me, and that I should make arrangements to collect her from Meerut, their Centre and complete the documentation. While I was still finalising plans to bring her to our home, my grandson Mayank, who was at Delhi learnt of it and immediately drove to Meerut, obtained my formal authority on-line and reached home with Meha, fairly late the same night.

Despite the long journey, Meha was as bright as one of her age would be and took no time to assimilate in the family. Being a well-trained army dog, she used to get alert whenever she heard even a slight noise or sense the approach of anyone.

We already had another pet dog, Tamara, less than two years old, a female Labrador who had been brought from Kolhapur. She too got used to looking up to Meha, not just as a companion, but also as a mother figure.

We now had the energy of the young Tamara, always ready to play and the quiet and well poised visage of Meha that oozed experience, discipline and army training, a great combination. Our domestic staff too became enamoured of her, though they had strict instructions to treat both dogs equally!

Meha and Tamara in our garden

Approximately six months of her being with us, it was discovered that she had a major medical problem. there was a cancerous tumour, very close to her urethra. Her treatment started under the capable supervision of our army veterinarian doctor who was commanding the veterinary unit in the military station, where a Pet Clinic was also run for pets of army families.

When Meha’s cancer was confirmed, my wife took her to the well-appointed Pet Hospital of the Haryana Government and also consulted a renowned Veterinary surgeon of the city. The doctors advised rest and medications to contain the cancer, while surgery was not advised.

While we all were greatly perturbed, my wife, whose motherly instincts came to the fore, ensured that all prescribed medicines were duly given on time, as well as the most nourishing food.

Meha had tolerated the medicines and injections well, but soon it was apparent that she had reached an advanced stage of cancer.

My wife, who is very good with all animals, especially dogs, did not accept that we had reached a dead-end. She then took Meha to the University Veterinary Hospital, GADVASU, Ludhiana in Punjab, that was the most renowned in the region.

They did all the investigations and opined that unfortunately the cancer had spread to other parts of the body, especially the lungs and some other organs and no surgery could be undertaken.

Thereafter, it was a case of looking after Meha well, giving her all the love and attention, conservative treatment and carrying out daily dressings of her wounds.

Despite her deterioration of health, daily bleeding, discomfort and pain, Meha never complained. She slept most of the time, but ate well and went out for her walks with the dog walker. Her presence in the house and her demeanour were sufficient for us.

It was only in the last few days that it became obvious that she was fading, but she never complained. Her last two nights were really painful for her. My wife sat with her head in her lap for most of these two nights!

Early this morning, it was obvious to all that her time had come. But Meha never made any noises but remained calm, surrounded by us.

Meha passed away at about 11 a.m. hours on January 16 2023, leaving us saddened beyond words. She was buried with respect and affection in our yard, where three of our earlier pet dogs buried there will be her companions!

Tamara and Meha basking in the winter sun

Some dogs (and people) exude charm, poise and dignity and their presence cannot be missed. Well, that about sums up the personality of Meha, who will be sorely missed.

Lt General Vijay Oberoi is a former Vice Chief of Army Staff; and Former Founder President of the War Wounded Foundation. Views expressed are the writer’s own.