Did you read the short story Cat Person? I read it and I didn’t like it. Instead of discussing what didn’t work for me in the story, I am choosing to respond to it by writing my version of it — Dog Person. 🙂 I hope I would like this silly story. 😉
Misba met Ravana on a Sunday night toward the end of her shift at the pet store. It was her first week there, but Ravana was a regular. He bought 3 kgs of Pedigree, a pack of tiny bones, and a tin of treats. The owner was visibly delighted to see Ravana. “How are the dogs doing, Ravana?” the owner swiped Ravana’s card. “They are all okay. Looks like Muthu has to lose some weight. The boy has been eating his sister’s food too. Greedy fellow!” The owner chuckled. Misba dropped Ravana’s things in a holdall which Ravana brought. “Would you like me to bring the bag to your car?” Misba asked. That’s when he noticed Misba’s presence. “I don’t have a car. I am just a street away from the store and I walk. But thank you!”
After Ravana left, the owner and Misba dusted the store before shutting it for the day. “Ravana has three dogs, Misba,” the owner sounded like he was talking to himself. Misba had to strain to catch his words.
“Muthu, Meena, Marudhu! They are mongrels whom he rescued from the street.”
“What about his family, Uncle?”
“I haven’t asked him and he hasn’t mentioned too. But the man has been my customer since he rescued the dogs. It’s been about four years.”
Misba never had pets. Her family’s religious values didn’t allow. But her heart ached whenever she saw people with their dogs. She might not have raised an animal, but she knew the joy and agony of sharing one’s soul with an animal.
Ravana frequented. When the owner was not around, Misba exercised the liberty to interview Ravana about his dogs, the painful past of the mongrels, and how they all had gained health and vigour after they were adopted by Ravana. “Would you like to meet them, Misba?” Ravana asked nonchalantly, as he dropped the treats and toys in his bag. If anybody else had asked that question, Misba would have said no, without paying another thought. But this was Ravana. The man who had three dogs. Even if he was a molester or a murderer, Misba could find her way out. She remembered the reassuring presence of the pepper spray canister in her satchel. “May I drop by after the shift? I am closing at 7 tonight.” Ravana wrote his address behind the bill and left it on the counter. He was not the one to text his address.
On her way to Ravana’s house, Misba bought a bag of apples for the dogs. She remembered Ravana mentioning that his dogs loved fruits. Misba didn’t have to search for Ravana’s modest house. One of the dogs was at the gate, barking at a feral cat. She wasn’t sure if she could open the gate. From the threshold, Misba called for Ravana. The man sprinted from the drawing room, the dogs followed him, and he opened the gate. “I thought you wouldn’t come, Misba. Thank you for visiting. Thank you!” Misba asked if she could get a knife to chop the apples and to treat the dogs.
She sank in his sofa, with a plate and a knife in her lap, and all the three dogs sat around her, drooling and asking. Muthu was a black dog with a patch of white fur on his chest. “The tuxedo doggie,” Ravana laughed. Meena was all brown, and Marudhu was all white except a black patch around his left eye. “The pirate!” Misba, who was usually taciturn, couldn’t reach for any word that evening. Her silence was thicker. After six apples were cut and Misba’s hands were polished, Marudhu jumped on the torn black sofa and lied beside her, with his snout between his paws. Meena placed her velvety jaw on Misba’s feet, while Muthu sat against Misba, demanding her to scratch his chest and forehead. How could Misba say no!
The image of Misba being surrounded by his dogs warmed Ravana’s heart. From the way his dogs took to Misba, he knew her love for them was pure, unconditional. He let her soak in the moment, while he sat on the floor, reading RK Narayan’s A Tiger for Malgudi.
The room was filled with silence and it was comfortable.
The dogs began to snore, as though they had signed a pact to follow a rhythm. Muthu started the tune, Marudhu took it from him, and Meena ended it. The snoring went on and on. Misba had to be at home before 9, but she had no strength in her heart to wake up the dogs.
“Would you like to come next weekend too, Misba?” asked Ravana as he slipped a bookmark into his book. He asked his dogs to let Misba go. She stood up, dusted the fur on her t-shirt and jeans, touched the dogs’s heads one more time, and shook hands with Ravana. As she buckled her footwear, Ravana came to the door with a bunch of books in hands. “These are for you. Looks like you are a dog person too. You would love these books.” Misba took them from him like a child, reluctantly, but her eyes betrayed her enthusiasm. She read the titles aloud. The Art of Racing in The Rain by Garth Stein. Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones. The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart. Dog Boy by Eva Hornung. Dog Songs by Mary Oliver. “When you come next time, we can watch some dog movies together and discuss these books. It would be fun. And thanks for the apples!” Ravana clapped on her back.
Misba didn’t have to use the canister. She was not sure if she would ever use it in Ravana’s house, but she loved the dogs and Ravana’s silence. She didn’t know why he lived alone– No! She didn’t know why he didn’t have a human companion. With three dogs, a pregnant bookshelf, a modest house that could do with a fresh coat of paint, and the sort of silence that was comforting, Ravana seemed content and happy. That was enough for Misba — for her friend and his furry friends to be happy.