This week’s column is dedicated to those of my readers, who are also dog lovers. Ever since I can remember, I have seen this furry canine in and around my home – and where there are dogs there are likely to be dog stories.

The other day I watched the movie ‘Hachiko’ at home, surrounded by my sniffling family. I was perhaps too egotistic to admit that I too was bleary eyed and affected by the story of the dog, who waited every day for years, outside the railway station, for his dead master to return and died at the spot – loyal to the end.

I can faintly recall a dim grey shape and the touch of warm fur from my early childhood, whenever I catch sight of a German Shepherd on the road or in someone’s compound. My mother often narrated stories about Delilah, our Alsatian, and my older siblings continue to remember her fondly, whenever we take a trip down memory lane.

One of my mother’s favourite tales was how she often instructed this amazing creature to watch over us as we slept tucked inside mosquito nets on the back patio and my parents went for their after dinner walk. On returning to the house, they would always find the dog sitting beside our beds, happy to have performed her duty faithfully.

Another of my mother’s story was about the night when this wonderful creature averted what could have been a tragedy. One wintry night, while we slept inside the house, my mother and father went out for a walk on our rather longish drive, accompanied by the dog. As they approached a dense cane thicket bordering the drive, Delilah bounded forward with deep throated growls and then ran back to tug at my mother’s clothes. Perturbed at this behavior, my father flashed his torch around to discover a fully grown cobra in the middle of the drive, just a few yards ahead of them. My parents were certain to step on the snake and suffer the consequences had the dog not given them adequate warning.

‘Lilly’ was a black mongrel, which strayed into our lives when I was about ten years old, when one of our domestic help found her cowering under the hedge and brought her shivering to my mother. In a family that already had a couple of dogs, she grew up on left-overs and relative neglect, into a large ugly black thing. I do not recall what prompted the decision, but one day she was put in a vehicle to be abandoned some forty miles away from Lahore near Sheikhupura.  Ten days later, we saw a shadow of the former Lilly totter up the drive to collapse with a wagging tail at my mother’s feet. Her front paws were a bloody mess and she had a nasty wound in her side, but she had set an example of canine loyalty by returning to the family that had so callously abandoned her. How she had managed to find her way back from forty miles, across the maze of city roads and through hazardous traffic is enigma. Her return changed her status in our household and she became a pet that she had always deserved to be, till the day she died of old age – happy, contented and much pampered.

‘Jenny’ was brought to us by a family friend in a small card board box. She was a Golden Retriever, who assumed charge of the family immediately on arrival. As she grew up, she started displaying qualities that left us spell bound. It was as if she could actually communicate with us with uncanny intelligence. She slept outside our bedroom door during summers, where she could feel the cool air coming from beneath the door. Her winters were spent on a blanket in front of the gas heater in our television lounge and any attempts to remove the blanket would galvanize her into holding one corner in her mouth with deep throated growls that said plainly, “hands off my property”. She always won in the end and would then curl herself into a ball heaving a loud sigh of victory.

‘Tiny’ was a small white Russian Semoyd that became part of my in-laws family and soon ascended to the top of the ‘food chain’. This bundle of energy developed a close association with my wife’s younger brother and soon assumed the role of official protector. One had to be careful how one interacted with the young boy with the dog in the vicinity, for one was apt to be confronted by an angry bundle of fur, emitting threatening barks as if saying, “back off buddy or else”.

We are in the company of an aging black and white Cocker Spaniel these days. I have often seen the creature making the rounds of the grounds at night in spite of the cold and his old bones. That is one reason, why he is coddled by every member of my family, for that is the least we can do in return for his unflinching loyalty.

A befitting way to wind up this week’s column will be to write a few lines in tribute to the canines, which perform public service every day. These include those that act as the eyes and ears of sightless individuals and those that rescue victims from beneath tons of snow and collapsed concrete. Then there are the dogs that keep citizens safe by doing police and detective work and others who provide therapeutic companionship to terminally sick patient’s in hospital wards. No wonder that the species is rightfully called ‘man’s best friend’.

The writer belongs to a very old and established family of the Walled City. His forte is the study of History.