He arrived in a cardboard box, all the way from Kashmir, India seven years ago, a pup no one wanted, with a desi name Sheru that no one liked.
In a household with two established fur balls, he was already the outsider. He made the adults apprehensive but the kids were ecstatic; he with the sturdy mountain gene and a wild streak would grow into a gigantic brute.
No! He was not at all suited for a family that had mostly old folks who shuffled along all day.
Yet this tiny ball of fur, carrying the legacy of the bakharwal sheepdog lineage was going no where.
He was assigned the outdoors. His realm stretched from the front gates to the back yard including the roof but was forbidden from being invited in.
Still, one did not take into account the power of puppy love, especially when there are children in the family.
Sheru was smuggled into the room more often than not- too hot (he needs air conditioning and fan), too wet (his coat will not dry and he’ll be sick), too cold (he’s now acclimatise to this weather instead of the snow), good weather (he’s lonely, see his eyes).
Yeah! His training as the fierce guard dog was in the doldrums.
Well, he grew just as expected, massive and magnificent and mad as a hatter. During winters, his fur would turn russet and gold and thick like a luxurious pile of carpet.
His tawny eyes would flash with myriads of expressions- watchful, protective, drowsy, pleading. Sometimes they would gleam with this utterly demented look which would be followed by a rumbling growl. A warning perhaps but for what? Not a clue but that’s when everyone knew to steer clear.
He lived for his walks, dangling the leash was guaranteed to raise his spirits. That was when he checked out the neighbourhood packs and defended his turf. There was one particularly bad tempered Labrador and a competitive Boxer with whom he routinely had a bark off, the usual line of strays, pugs and retrievers were next.
His favourite spot, thrusting his nose through the bars of the gate, standing on his hind legs and watching the traffic on the street.
The reputation spread far and wide of the house with the scary dog and two beautiful fur balls.
Honestly, the fur balls were far more vicious, they attacked the ankles without a warning.
Not Sheru though. As a rule he would growl, bare his fine set of canines, definitely give a solid chase, bark, graze perhaps but never bite.
The vendors and rag pickers gave him a wide berth and so did the milkman, the newspaper man, the delivery guys, the domestic help, the relatives and the guests. I guess the sight of a 35 kg dog hurtling towards you is enough to break into a full blown panic mode.
No doubt it was irritating keeping him away in hiding like the phantom of the opera and restrictive too, for one could never be out for long because there was no one else who could take over the caring duties, but every one slept easy at night knowing he was patrolling.
He who survived a tumble from the rooftop as a pup, he who instinctively knew when to comfort and when protection was required, he who pranced with sheer joy in welcome and howled his happy howl, he who was responsible for my chipped teeth and scars, there will be none other like him.
This was Sheru, Shiro, Sher Khan, the tiger of this compound.
28 Feb 2019