I’m quite an eccentric person. I overanalyze every situation, I overwork when I needn’t, I am overcritical of myself, and I am overtly concerned about those that I consider dear. That’s who I see when I look at the mirror; a nervous wreck about to tip over from all the overcompensating. That said, I am probably most eccentric when I am jumping around to trashy pop music on the radio with not a care in the world. It is about the being that jumps alongside me, with his ears flapping and slapping him in his own face, that I feel I must tell a story.
One of the clichés you often hear is that ‘A dog is a man’s best friend’. In many ways, I’m living that very cliché. My best friend is my two year old boxer, Beans. Most people are curious about why he’s called that. He was all of two months when he came home to us. He was so tiny, he fit in a shoebox. However, he was simply too full of beans to stay put. That’s where his name came from. Two years later, and he’s still the same; an antsy little jack in the box, with mischief in his enormous, round eyes.
We had a dog called Pepper before Beans came home. Pepper was a fairly terrifying German shepherd. He has successfully managed to leave both my younger brother and I with scarred arms for life. We loved him, and he loved us, but both parties did so with a mutual respect for each others’ boundaries. When we decided to bring Beans home, we did so with much apprehension. We had no idea how Pepper would take to him. What happened, however, left us dumbfounded. Pepper took him under his wing as if he were his own; teaching him the ways of the world, inspiring in him a loud, manly bark. They’d play in the sun for hours on end, chasing each other around the cars in the driveway, much to the dismay of my father. What Beans had managed to do was to take an angry dog of many years and turn him around completely. It was heart-breaking to watch Pepper leave us as he moved on to the beyond, and it was further painful to watch Beans cope with his loss. Yet, I am grateful for the time they got together.
While Pepper was the kind that liked to rough things out, Beans is a bit of a fancypants. He absolutely hates puddles. As a puppy, he’d wait to be carried over one, lest his little white socks got muddy. Now, he’s big enough to hop right over them, and does so as if he is doing an Irish jig. He’s always been a bit strangely proportioned; a tiny body with a tiny head, eyes large enough to prompt our house help to make jokes about how he is definitely my long lost brother, ears so large that Big Ears from ‘The Adventures of Noddy’ would be put to shame, and a tongue that simply does not fit in his buccal cavity. He walks with something of a trot, causing his ears to bob up and down like the majestic, large wings of a dragon. What he is, really, is a ball of energy that just whizzes around the place making it impossible for one not to be greatly affected by his presence.
Beans invites everyone into our home, friend or foe. He’s much too friendly to hurt a person in vengeance. Yet, he’s a strong boy and has managed to knock people down onto the ground, where he keeps them pinned, licking their faces with such zeal that they are left desiring a long shower to reverse the done damage. I often describe how coming home every day feels like living the title sequence to the Flintstones cartoon. In his enthusiasm, Beans knocks us down as Dino, the purple dinosaur, would Fred Flintstone. This excessive enthusiasm is often misconstrued as an act of terror by those wary of the canine kind. And so we find we have to keep Beans tied to his corner in the dining room. What follows generally melts the hearts of most people. He proceeds to wail a lengthy plea as a seasoned opera singer would perform a ballad of lost love. I find myself arguing irrationally with my parents about how we needn’t feel socially obliged to invite those over that do not comprehend that our dog is as much a part of our home as we are, and that the proposition of having to keep him tied to the grills of our windows is a preposterous one.
This was an ongoing problem we had to deal with every time a very dear aunt would come home. Her fear of dogs can be compared to my fear of elevators. She too feels cornered and claustrophobic, with shallow breaths and lightheadedness. However, she loves us, and so had learned to love Beans from a distance. While she thought he was incredibly adorable to look at, the fact that his canines stuck out funnily from his lower jaw, almost playing peek-a-boo with the generous folds of skin on his smushed snout, posed a constant reminder that he was, after all, a dog with sharp teeth and the potential to attack. He would sit tied in his corner and she would sit tight in her chair, both equally aware of each others’ presence. One day, by some accident, Beans was let loose while my aunt was home. We scampered to stop him from embracing her as he usually does people, but he was much too quick for us. Almost sensing her apprehension he eased his head into her lap gently looking up at her with his large, sappy eyes. Incidentally, that’s his secret super power as far as the begging for food goes. It never fails him. She realized that the monstrous image she had of Beans in her head was just that; a figment of her imagination. She picked her hand up and placed it precariously on his head. And the rest is history.
Sometimes I’m taken back to when Beans was a puppy. I could carry him around in my palm; his soft, coin sized paws tickling my fingers. I remember how he’d curl into a ball and fall asleep in the niche between my pillow and my clavicle, his floppy ears making me giggle. Our mother tried her best to make sure he stayed off our beds. But Beans is something of an unstoppable force. It wasn’t long before she began picking him up and putting him to sleep on her belly during her afternoon naps. Soon enough, he was too tall to stop. One jump and he’d make it onto the bed.
My family is fanatical about cricket. During the Indian Premier League, we sit glued to the television somehow managing to fit on the bed in my parents’ room. We’re not tiny people. As you can imagine, the four of us on one measly bed is quite a compact fit. Beans, I fear, lives under the illusion that he is a man of great stature, and so simply must have right of way and the best seat in the house. One hop and he’s on top of the bed, walking all over us with no respect for our bodies. Many loud exclaims of pain later, when Beans has found his spot, he too watches keenly, feigning interest in our hooting, swearing and cheering. When the advertisements come on, Beans sits up looking at the TV in rapture, tilting his head from one side to the other in synchrony with the jingles.
Beans has a very defined relationship with each member of our family. My grandmother and him tend to stay away from each other. He knows better than to mess with her lest she chase after him with her walker, bringing imminent doom. He treats my brother as a brother. Flings him around, chases after him, gets slick with his ladies, and all the rest. My mother is regarded with a combination of fear, love and respect. Yet, she’s his comfort blanket; his mummy. Beans often confuses our father for a young boy, and so needs reminding otherwise. He loves Pa dearly. Especially the bald pâté on his head that Beans seems to think is a lollipop meant for licking purposes. Sarita, our house help, may as well be our elder sister. To Beans, however, she is the bringer of food, the love of his life. In short, the quintessential Indian housewife every run in the mill boy and his mummy are seeking so desperately.
What Beans and I share is a love for each other that I find hard to illustrate eloquently. I adore him with such ferocity that sometimes I make myself sick worrying about him. I welcome him to share any food that I know for certain shall not hurt him. I tickle his belly until he’s upside down with a melancholic grin and a psychotic look in his eyes. I teach him how to groove to dhichick-dhichik Bollywood music; an integral quality one must possess for me to love them unconditionally. And I try very hard to find him a viable match from his own species. He loves being groomed; so I find myself bathing him, brushing his teeth, and combing him until he’s lulled into a slumber.
In return, he loves me and protects me from any harm that may come my way. It angers him when anyone so much as raises their voice around me. He stands tall, lets out a loud, authoritative bark, and then boxes my attacker with his front paws threateningly. He sulks if I don’t make it home at night giving my parents silent, angry glares as he frequents my room only to return disappointed. He knows when I am sad, in pain, happy, pensive. I’m eager to get home every day despite having to travel for hours on end, because that’s where he’ll be waiting for me; my best friend with his tongue sticking out and no pants on - wagging his behind excitedly, ready to unleash his slobbery tongue on my face, and making me feel missed, loved and home every single day.