I have been duped…


Forgive me, for I have misled you. I have given you false information from the beginning and I am truly sorry. Well, please believe me when I say that I haven’t willfully told untruths, I have been duped.

It all started when the yellow fuzzball came to our house. It was veni, vidi, vici – we were silly putty in his little paws, floppy ears, cute pink tongue and round chocolate drop eyes. He saw the male in the house and very wisely showed him the belly in submission. Now, I understand, it was all a ploy – to sneak into our hearts and make his permanent abode there.

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I took him to Ryan’s preschool for Ryan’s show and tell. The 20 week old puppy lay quietly on his back so 16 little 4 year olds could rumble over him. He didn’t bat an eyelid but savored the love. He was the star student in his puppy kindergarten class. The trainer insisted I should think of using him as a therapy dog. He is an honorary lap dog, he crouches down low so the little dogs and puppies can have an access to his face. He literally whimpers as we walk by the lion-hearted, neighborhood alpha dog Chihuahua’s house. I almost crumble at the behavior of my 94 pound dog and the ultra pacifist, anti-war me urges him to ‘stand up tall since he can eat that little dog for breakfast!’ He doesn’t kill the stink bugs, just sniffs them and turns away. His dad is very curious about what he would do if he ever caught a bunny or a chipmunk.

‘He won’t know what to do with them. He will probably end up licking them and loving them!’ says the man.

I used to nod my head as my heart swelled up in pride for our pacifist, gentle, loving pup. But now, I am not so sure.

Sage has worked hard at building up his image of gentle giant. I puff up in pride as I grant the requests of children and adults

‘May I pet your dog?’

‘Oh sure. He is very friendly!’

It took him a few years to figure out that he really can’t do much damage to the teasing chipmunks and the taunting bunny rabbits in our yard, so he shows them a sagely non chalance. He exudes a ‘I have achieved Nirvana, and you can’t reach my inner peace’ kind of a vibe when the annoying animals come close to his fence. He pricks his ears and watches the blue jays and cardinal couples carefully as they land on and take off from his fence post. I don’t quite know what he thinks of those species who fly around in air. Only the fox who peeks in our yard from time to time is simply intolerable, still. He paces the floor when he smells the fox scent, tells us with his eyes to open the back door and once we comply, he flies out to yell obscenities at the fox and drive him away from the periphery of our yard. But the beautiful fox points out the futility of Sage’s manic behavior as he calmly sits and grooms himself, just partly hidden from the human and canine sight while Sage foams at the mouth.

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I believed in the gentleness of my boy and I expounded it in blogs, updates and conversations. But I have been disillusioned and it is time to tell the truth.

On a beautiful summer evening, my shadow and I ditched the kids in the house and decided to spend some quiet time on the back deck. Just Sage and I, and the cerulean sky above us, the emerald foliage around us, the few fireflies, the occasional chipmunk, some birds and the general stillness. I sat looking out at the big tree in my backyard, looking up to see the sky turn pink with the rays of the setting sun, Sage rested his head on the ledge as he kept his eyes on the flitting birds. There was a small white butterfly/ moth like creature hovering around Sage’s snout for a while. It was flitting around him, doing its dance. Sage was so still, I wondered if he even felt it. I was contemplating getting my camera so if the butterfly/moth ever sat on Sage’s fur, I would take a picture of my gentle dog who wouldn’t hurt a (butter) fly. Suddenly…SNAP and the CRUNCH MUNCH!!! He calmly snapped at the poor thing, took it in his mouth and crunched munched it up. Very calmly, in a very Sage like way, but very expertly like a professional killer.

‘Sage, you monster!!! You just ate a poor, little, pretty butterfly!!’

He looked at me with his gorgeous chocolate eyes ‘Lady, do you mind keeping your voice down? I am contemplating nature here!’ And turned away! Not a trace of remorse! Nada!!

Now I can never say ‘Oh Sage won’t hurt a fly!’ Because he FREAKING ate one. Not a fly, perhaps, but a butterfly!!! Or a moth!! Or whatever that winged creature was.

The transformation.


When I make my husband sit down and read this blog at gun point, he will be mortified that I shared some of his deepest secrets with the world. But share I must because those moments and secrets are very tender and when we are both old and Sage is just a memory, we can look back at this and remember the unconditional and uncomplicated love he generously gave us.

To put it very stereotypically, Sean was the quintessential male who was getting a dog. Just before Sage came to us at 8 weeks, he would make arbitrary comments like ‘a dog is just that, a pet! I find it funny when people make it their children. They humanize them! That is ridiculous!’ He doesn’t come from necessarily a dog loving family, although they owned a dog when he was growing up. He dog sat for friends, but as a dog owner, he was a newbie. I heard him and stayed silent, not knowing what kind of owner he would turn out to be. Of one thing, I was certain, he wasn’t going to be an unkind one. I read up zillion books on puppies, dog training, dog ailments, fictional dog stories. I went back to my childhood favorite James Herriot. I rented Marley and Me to watch with the kids (and then did a lot of explaining to 4 year old Ryan – as Marley’s owners tried to conceive a baby) ! Finally, after thanksgiving, Sage was ready to come to us.

As Sage walked into our house diffidently, the three of us – my two children and I melted like ice cream on a hot summer day. Sean kept his distance so as not to ‘overwhelm’ the puppy. Finally, when he uttered ‘Hi there big guy!’ Sage looked up at the big, tall human, heard his deep voice, promptly rolled over on his back and presented his belly in complete submission. That continued for quite some time. A sighting of Sean and bam – tummy side up, little paws kicking in the air in total submission. I am sure the first few nights, Sean silently questioned our decision of bringing a puppy in the family. Sage squealed and cried and wanted the furry comfort of his mommy. I was a poor substitute. I carried his crate to the guest room, put it right next to the bed, let one of my arms dangle where he could sniff my fingers. That seemed to calm him. We both caught a few winks that way for about a week, till Sage started sleeping through the night.

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The first few months were fun and frustrating. There were chewed furniture, there were accidents, there were sock stealing and sharp puppy teeth. Sean was loving but firm. And Sage was still….a dog, a pet. Then one fine morning, we decided to take our 8 month old scared dog to a dog park in an attempt to socialize him. It was a disaster from the start. Sage stood by us, tail between his legs, literally shaking. Sometimes he would peek his little nose to take a sniff and retreat quickly when another dog came by to say hello. In the meantime, a German Shepherd and a huge Mastiff mix got into a terrible fight resulting in a ripped ear and a bite on one of the owner’s arm. While this chaos ensued, we tried to make a hasty retreat. But Sean was apprehended by a pit bull who cornered the poor guy and started barking viciously at him. A transformation happened before my eyes. The runt of the litter, our scared puppy launched himself between the pit bull and his human. He didn’t bark back but he stood his ground and protected his ‘dad’. The owner of the pit bull ran up, apologizing profusely. The dog didn’t like people standing in front of a chain link fence. Sean was doing just that, it was ‘nothing personal’. We left, and needless to say, never went back to that particular dog park.

The relationship, however, between the dog and the man changed. I don’t know if I attribute the change towards that particular incident or the charm that Sage naturally possesses and it was simply a matter of time. All I can say, I witnessed a change in words and demeanor. Gone was the ‘pet’ owner, instead ‘dad’ took over. I overheard mumblings like ‘you are my boy! you are my good boy! Aren’t you my good boy?” as Sage’s belly got rubbed. Ryan was chastised with ‘leave your brother alone’ when he was too rough with the pup. I was found thus, “Go find your mummy! Where’s is your mummy, Sage?”

Today Sean is most certainly the prefered parent as he is the one responsible for walks, runs and playtime. Mom is the one responsible for heartworm pills, flea medication, and dreaded baths. As I see Sean walk around the yard, trimming bushes, sweeping the driveway, I know his white shadow is not far behind. Sage follows him with adoring gaze and a heart full of love. When Sean comes home, he waits patiently for his dad to get out of work clothes before he claims his share of attention. After the initial romp, those two are joined at the hip. Sage silently pads along with Sean, and flops down with a sigh where ever Sean settles. Often times the long snout peeks in through Sean’s hands to investigate the laptop dad is working on. Sean gives an absent-minded patting on his head, and Sage just disintegrates in happiness. He smiles widely, settles down at Sean’s feet, closes his eyes and lets out a sigh of contentment. As long his favorite man is by his side, all is right with the world. They play, run, converse or just commune silently. The mutual giving is a thing of beauty for me to witness. The adoration and the love are precious. Sage came into our lives for a reason, I know. He teaches us to love selflessly, without holding back.

Elton John wrote ‘Your Song’ for the love of his life. I hope he won’t mind if I use just a couple of his lines for both my son with four legs and his human dad because life is indeed wonderful since they are in the world. I don’t know whether humanizing an animal is good or bad, all I know that Sage has added immeasurable value to our lives. His patience, perseverance, unconditional love enrich our lives. In our tumultuous google calendar dictated life, he provides the gentle shade where we come to relax, and unwind. His non judgemental, loving presence is our comfort. Sean transformed from a dog owner to a daddy. I am not surprised. How can one not, when one is given unadulterated adoration for no reason other than simply being, just existing!

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Parallel universe


Sage came to us in the usual way.

4 year old Sahana said ‘Mom, may I please have a dog?’

Mom said, ‘Not right now!’

4 year old Sahana said, ‘When can I have a dog?’

Mom said, ‘When you are older and can take care of it?’

4 year old Sahana said, ‘When I am 10?’

Mom (to end the conversation) ‘Sure!’ Thinking the little girl won’t be 10 for a long, long time.

Well, she turned 10 in the blink of an eye.

What can I say about Sage? Take a look for yourself, but do hold on to your heart. The cuteness overload in these pictures have wreaked havoc in mine.

Sage at 8 weeks.
Sage at 8 weeks.

One pup sleeping, two others faking.

What did I do?

Peek a boo

Just a boy and his dog.

Dental care.

Now.

Sage is the most wonderful, most Sagely, kindest, gentlest, smartest dog that ever graced the face of the earth. What, you think I am biased? Well….! He is the gentle salve for Sahana’s teenage angst ridden, troubled soul, he was the non judgemental listener to Ryan’s halted reading when he started to read, he is my silent companion and the soft presence just under my feet when I settle on the couch with a book, and he is Sean’s shadow and a supervisor to all his chores. Nothing comes into our house without a quiet inspection of a reddish brown nose and a long snout.

He has faults too. He considers himself an honorary lap dog and wants to get his 94 pound body on to guests’ lap to show them his affection. He also feels it is a privilege for humans to scratch a particular spot on his back, right where his tail begins and in letting them do so he is doing them a favor. When they stop, he uses his wet nose and long snout to give a gentle nudge to remind them of their sacred duty.

But this blog is not about my dog, Sage (did I say, he is wonderful?)! This blog is about the parallel universe that we discovered because of Sage. The universe of dog lovers.

We learned the protocol of never exchanging greetings with a dog’s human before greeting the dog. That is a big no-no. We scratch the dog, pet him/her, shower him with attention, focus all our energy on our dogs playing, try desperately to untangle the leash which, inevitably gets entangled while the doggies wag, and jump, and play bow and play. We smile at them, comment how cute they are together, we exchange information about our dogs – their name, age, chewing habits, vet care. All this conversation happens, primarily without eye contact and without formal introduction. We don’t need those. Introductions in these cases are redundant. We just pick up and go with it. When our dogs lose interest, we do too. We mumble a ‘Have a good day’ and move on…till we see the next pup on our walk.

Dog lovers universe is very black and white, there are no 50 shades of grey in between. You are in if you completely, utterly and unconditionally love dogs. You are out if you don’t completely give yourself up to canine love. You don’t have to own a dog to belong, you just have to feel the love for dogs (and animals in general). We are pretty inclusive that way. We applaud the works of those tireless humans who dedicate their time and energy to save, foster, care for and adopt dogs and try to give them their forever home. We encourage our children to volunteer at animal shelters in the summer. We inform our fellow citizens of this parallel universe that their dog has gone to the bathroom and whether they need plastic bags to pick up the poop. We discuss the nitty gritties of doggie behavior for hours and think nothing unusual about it. We feel most comfortable in dog parks and automatically bend our knees without thinking when big dogs come bounding at us. We, as I said, earlier, bond quickly, deplore puppy mills and we stand united in our condemnation against those who do unspeakable things to man’s best friend.

We understand the joys of watching a puppy tumble, a young dog run leash free, a senior snooze in the sun. We feel the warmth of the wet nose just by hearing a description, we love each others’ pups and firmly believe puppy kisses are good for the soul. We read SPCA newsletters cover to cover and get overjoyed at every successful adoption story. We wish the dog and his/her human well. We watch back to back episodes of Dog 101 and look forward to more. We baby talk to the pictures of our friends’ dogs that they post on Facebook and engage in lengthy conversation with perfect strangers on social media about dogs.

And only we understand the full depth of sorrow of fellow members of our universe when they lose a canine child. No words of consolation suffice, so we just sit by their side and hold their hands and feel their grief.