“Oh, shut up!” Nidhi cried. But--“Bow-wow! Bow-wow!”
“Okay, okay, doggie!” She pretended to pet the (make believe) dog, her younger sister, six-year-old Pallavi. It was the only way to make her stop.
“Ouch!” Ankur yelped. Their brother and the middle child, he thought he’d be strong minded and ignore the doggie but she retaliated by taking a sharp nip at his leg. “Hey, that hurts.”
He mussed her hair and got a growl in return. Ankur sighed and stroked her head the way she expected them to do it.
At first it had been funny, Pallavi going around on all fours and barking and nibbling at their hands. They had encouraged her by patting her head and shaking hands (or paws!). Then she had insisted on lapping up water like a dog and dipping her mouth into her plate which was not funny at all but quite disgusting.
Ma, too had laughed in the beginning, but she no longer enjoyed it when Pallavi came and licked her all over her face when she felt affectionate, or tugged at her sari pallu with her teeth when she wanted something. Her knees became filthy from crawling around and no amount of scrubbing would make them clean. The worst was trying to guess what she was saying because she had given up speaking the human language and would insist on doggie talk --a series of barks in different tones or enraged yelps when she felt she wasn’t getting what she wanted.
Papa had also thought it a big joke when she fetched his newspaper between her teeth but getting a soggy paper every day did not please him at all now. Yes, the whole family was pretty fed up with her doggiemania.
It had all begun when Pallavi had asked to keep a dog and their parents had refused. “I refuse to clean up after a pup,” Ma had said. “I know you all. You’ll only play with the dog and leave all the dirty work for me.”
Pallavi, the youngest and used to getting her own way had fussed and fumed. But Ma had been adamant. So she’d adopted this doggie act as a way of showing how much she loved dogs and putting pressure on Ma. “I’ll become the doggie you won’t get me,” she’d said. And become an all around nuisance. Worse, she seemed to be enjoying it thoroughly.
Of course, she was a proper little girl at school or with her friends. She did put on the doggie act for them at times, for fun. But for her family members, it was reserved full time.
“We have to do something,” Ankur groaned. “She bit me really hard that time.”
“What can we do?” Nidhi frowned. “Ma’s not going to get a dog just to stop her. And you know how stubborn Pallavi can be.”
“Well it’s really embarrassing when my friends come and she barks at them,” Ankur said disgustedly. “They think she’s nuts or something. I mean once or twice is okay. But every time!”
“Let’s just hope she gets fed up of it herself,” Nidhi said.
“I doubt it. She’s having too much fun bugging us.”
But the solution seemed to come-- sooner than they expected. The idea came to Nidhi in a flash. A rather mean one, but with Pallavi one needed to take desperate measures! It was a Saturday afternoon and Ma decided to take them out for lunch as a treat. Nidhi looked at Pallavi crawling around on all fours and said, “But Ma, they don’t allow dogs at restaurants.”
Ma caught on at once. “Then I’m afraid our dear little doggie will have to stay at home,” she said with a twinkle in her eye.
There was dead silence from Pallavi. One could see a struggle going on there. A difficult choice, the beloved doggie act or the pleasure of eating out, something Pallavi really enjoyed. But the doggie act won because she let out an indignant yelp which seemed to mean “Go to blazes!” and crawled off.
They didn’t enjoy the outing. Nidhi felt really mean thinking of Pallavi alone. Ma kept wondering what she was doing. Finally they got her favourite burger and ice cream packed and took it home. But she just sniffed them and turned her face away haughtily, which made them feel worse.
The dull summer afternoon dragged on miserably. Nidhi was trying to read a book and ignore Pallavi curled up in a corner of the drawing room when she heard the sound. A scraping noise, metal grating against metal. For a while she ignored it thinking it must be something on the road. But it sounded quite close, almost-- She looked up and froze.
A burglar! Cutting away at the wire netting on the door. Doing a good job too, because he’d already managed to sever quite a bit. Soon he would enter the house! And then -- Nidhi opened her mouth to scream but her vocal chords seemed paralyzed. No sound would emerge. But she had to warn Ma! They had to stop him, but how? He seemed to be armed, with a sharp wire cutter at least. Suppose he attacked them?
She was getting desperate when she heard the other noise. A growl at first, low, menacing. Then a series of barks, loud, outraged. So startling and realistic that she jumped up in fright herself! Then she found her voice. “Chor! Chor!” she yelled. More barks rang out. Ma and Ankur came running and added their voices to the din. She saw the thief hesitate. Then he heard the answering shouts in the street outside, “Pakdo! Pakdo!” and the sound of running feet. And took to his heels ...
“I think we really need a dog,” Ma said, later, narrating the incident to Papa.
“My friend’s dog has just had pups,” Pallavi piped up, her face smeared with ice cream.
“So at last we’ll have a real dog!” Nidhi and Ankur sighed with relief. “Not a doggiemaniac!”
The yelps they got in reply sounded quite good for a change!
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