Out of all four footed creatures, there is one that has gained the reputation of being man’s oldest and best friend. This remarkable beast is characterised by unflinching loyalty, affection and devotion to duty – traits which much of the human race regretfully lacks. Our home has never been without this animal as far back as memory serves and the relationship has provided every one of us with unending joy. It is for this reason alone that I am dedicating the current piece to an awesome member of the canine family known to all and sundry as – the Dog.

Delilah, a short coat ‘German Shepherd’ came into our home as a pup, when I was a baby. It is for this reason that stories about her early days were handed down to me by my parents. As I grew up and developed the gift of memory, I came to love this beautiful grey and black animal, whose utter devotion to my father, mother and me and my two elder siblings was nothing short of amazing.

My parents were in the habit of taking an after dinner stroll on our drive, but before leaving the rear terrace, where we used to sleep during summers, my mother would tell Delilah to stay and watch over us. This faithful dog would sit next to our cots till her return – not allowing anyone to approach the spot. As winters arrived and we began sleeping indoors, Delilah would accompany my parents on their nocturnal walk. It was during one of these strolls that she began to behave strangely, not allowing them to walk another step. My father switched on his torch to discover a Cobra blocking their path with its hood fully extended. My father rushed back to the house to get his shotgun and the deadly reptile was quickly dispatched. The episode was narrated to us next morning and curiosity led us to the trash heap, where the dead snake was awaiting to be carted away by municipality workers. Needless to say that Delilah became a pampered member of our family till the day she passed away at the age of thirteen dog years.

A lot of canines came and went thereafter, but the one that left poignant memories was an ugly looking mongrel called Lilly. This creature came into our life as a stray pup that somehow entered our compound and then stayed put. My mother fed her and cared for her, when she was unwell. In spite of the fact that no one pampered her, Lilly never displayed anything less than extreme affection for the family. It was because of my paternal grandmother’s insistence that a decision was taken to abandon Lilly far from the house. This was done twice, but every time morning found the dog sleeping at her usual spot. It was finally decided to leave her somewhere so far away so that she couldn’t return. Accordingly our driver dropped her near Sheikhupura. Three days later, we saw a dirty and bleeding Lilly staggering up our drive in an amazing display of devotion and love that melted even my grandmother’s heart. Lilly became a fully accepted member of the family and passed the rest of her life happily.

Jenny was a Golden Retriever puppy presented to me by a colleague somewhere in the 1980s. The retriever family is characterised with unlimited energy, which in this case manifested itself through dug up flower beds. After each misdemeanour, this beautiful dog would sit looking at her accuser with limpid eyes and a superbly innocent expression that erased all thoughts of scolding her. In fact Jenny became so adept at manipulating us that she got away with everything that would have fetched any other dog some form of admonishment. This four footed wonder had the captivating habit of walking up to family members as they sat in the verandah and placing her neck on their thigh. This was her way of expressing love and being grateful to us for returning the sentiment. Jenny died at the ripe old age of fifteen years and was buried at a spot near the Margalla Hills that is even now visited by my offspring.

It was after Jenny’s death that we resolved never to keep a dog again as its passing away was too painful. We kept this resolve faithfully for a mere two years, when another bundle of unbounded energy and eyes that said a thousand words, came into our lives. Needless to say that our home continues to be ruled by furry bodies and wildly wagging ‘canine tails’.