On 29th April 2023 at 10:27 am Rolf Adenauer Bhattacharya crossed over the rainbow bridge to reach Baikunthadham, his final resting place. I earnestly hope he finds eternal bliss in the abode of Madhav. Lots of love and hugs to my baby…
I have earlier written about how Rolf came into our life… but just to recapture, I am stating it again briefly.
Sometime around this time in the year 2009, Ayush, my son announced that he wants a pet dog and specifically said he doesn’t want the most common pedigree Labrador or Golden Retriever or GSD. Deepika, my wife was totally against the idea as she was mortally scared of the dogs because of a childhood incident. I am a certified dog lover and dogs whether pet or street, loves me back. It took some amount of reasoning and more cajoling to turn her around and we started looking for a suitable one. In this endeavor, a family friend helped a lot. We visited a few breeders but were disappointed as most of them had the ones that we were not interested. It was a Saturday afternoon that we were searching the internet for apartment friendly breeds and I zeroed on Chowchow, a medium sized dog, a bit lazy with shiny long coat of fur. The breed required minimum exercise. A note of caution was its aggressive snappy temperament. I was 99% certain that such a breed will not be found in Delhi. So, when my friend called up a breeder in South Extension and asked if he has a Chowchow puppy and the answer came back affirmative, I was both surprised and elated.
Rolf was a bundle of wool jumping around the room, I picked him up but he jumped from my lap to Deepika’s and comfortably settled down on her lap. We did not choose him but he chose us to be his companions in this life of his.
It wasn’t easy to train a Chowchow especially as a first time pet parent but after the professional trainer hired for him ditched us within a week, I took it upon myself to do the job, spent hours on the internet to learn the process. I concentrated on the basics like responding to his name at a tender age of around 2 months. This was followed by the “sit down”, “lie down” and then not to jump on the bed, sofa or table. The last one is something that I personally don’t like, especially of the dogs that shed a lot of hair.
In the initial days till about 6 months he would de eagerly await by the dining table even after he had been fed…constant reinforcement that he won’t get anything from the table and ignoring his pleading eyes ensured that he would be sitting at a distance. Ignoring his innocent pleading eyes was difficult and I would invariably end up giving him a share of my chicken pieces at the end. But this ensured that he would trust me to give him his legitimate share of all kinds of meat and soon he learnt not to sniff or steal anything from the plate even if they were within his reach. We had decided after checking with his doctor and the above mentioned friend that home cooked food would be best for him. All through his life, he had three meals a day… one boiled egg and buttermilk for breakfast at 9 am, rice with boiled chicken for lunch at 1:30 pm and 2 chapatis with cottage cheese and boiled chicken for dinner at 7:30 pm. The meal times got registered so firmly that he would be waiting by the kitchen door at those times but would never enter the kitchen which was a no-no for him.
Walking him was an exhilarating experience and I enjoyed every moment of it. Some things got ingrained in his brain without my telling him but as a practice. He would not take a step outside the door till the leash is attached and would stop walking if it ever slipped out my hand. Actually, it was Rolf who walked me… every time we went out, he would decide which direction he wanted to go, no amount of pressure or cajoling would change the course of walk. In the mornings we would go out of the colony for a long walk (2-3 km) and meet lots of street dogs on our path. They would invariably bark at us but Rolf & I used to ignore them and keep walking. Some of those became friends and others started respecting our right to walk through their territory without harming each other. One or two street dogs were aggressive and would be in attack mode but the stick in my hand deterred them for any misadventure. I never understood why he or for that matter any dog would pee on certain car tyres and tree trunks leaving some others completely untouched.
Till 3 months, we did not take Rolf out for a walk and he would pee and do his potty at our back balcony on the newspaper spread out for that purpose but once he started going out he stopped peeing inside the house… he would, unlike other dogs, do potty only once a day and that too was a real test of my patience because he would look for secluded place and will do it only if there are no strangers around. Once done, he would rush back home as quickly as possible. It was this brisk walking that probably helped me in keeping my diabetes in control.
Rolf was a real celebrity in his own right; complete strangers on the road would stop and admire him. There was an instance where a mother-daughter duo going on the opposite direction took a u-turn and came to us just to cuddle him and take photographs with him. I found Hyderabad is a more pet loving city… in NCC Urban where we resided, every kid playing would stop by to pet Rolf and he enjoyed all the attention while on his walk. There was a lab called Kobe with whom Rolf had something special, they would stare at each other from a distance but never come close. It was Kobe’s human father who first noticed some anomaly in Rolf’s walking and brought to my attention. He was kind of dragging his left front leg while walking…it was very subtle and only visible through close observation. The doctor in Hyderabad suggested some multi-vitamin tablets which I could with great difficulty make him take…it was war every time I tried to put one through his throat.
We shifted back to Delhi in November 2020 and my first task was to take Rolf to the vet for a thorough check-up. Rolf was in good health; his internal organs were in perfect condition as was his teeth which I guess was because of the Dentastix that each evening he would have post dinner. The only issue was the setting in of early arthritis… this was something inevitable with his age. A dog becomes a senior citizen once it reaches 8 human years (60 dog years) and Rolf was 11.5 human years!! The doctor suggested that I take him to a park for walk on the grass/ soft soil… but this was difficult to implement as the colony parks maintained by MCD did not allow dogs those days. The walk on the soft soil/ grass perhaps would have alleviated his rheumatic pains in later years.
His doctor had cautioned me that once his health starts deteriorate, it will have a spiraling effect. We continued with his medication some of which were imported and costly but for Rolf I was ready to go any length to make him healthy. In the initial days the medicines worked perfectly and he somewhat regained his healthy demeanor and started walking and climbing the stairs normally albeit slower.
Rolf maintained a steady health through the year and celebrated his 13th birthday and we including the vet whose father is the breeder from whom we had got Rolf, were elated because he had crossed the milestone which none in his lineage had achieved. The vet attributed this to his upbringing and the home cooked food that he has been having ever since.
However, our joy was short lived as 3 months down the line, he became suddenly very ill and had to be administered saline/ glucose followed by antibiotics. He survived but lost his bladder and renal control. We made futile attempts to search for Adult Diapers for Dogs both online and offline stores and finally decided on human diapers carving out a hole for his tail which he wore till the end. Rolf would walk up and down the stairs till about last November-Dec ember (2022) but since the beginning of this year he has to be carried down and lifted up the stairs. Once on the road, by his sheer willpower he would hop around the 50 meter perimeter of our house and spend time observing the movement of people, other pets and vehicles. Those who had seen him since he came to us were visibly distressed and sad.
Looking at his health condition and need for special care, I decided that I won’t leave him alone… at least Deepika or I will always be there to look after him. For two years, Deepika & I did not take any vacation together; one of us would always be available for him. More so because the housekeeper who was very fond of him was also aging and it wasn’t possible for her to manage the hourly needs. Deepika had to travel once in a while for professional requirement but I stayed put to look after him. It was frustrating seeing him suffer and slowly becoming a vegetable. I was helpless, frustrated and angry at myself for it was beyond my control… sometimes I would be very rough with Rolf and regret immediately because it was not his fault that he was unable to stand even for two minutes while I put the diaper on him. I would keep a brave face for the others but cry privately. I am not a religious/ ritualistic person and don’t usually pray to any higher deity but I silently prayed to Madhav to relieve his pains and take him in his lap for eternity.
We realized the lights are dimming for him in the beginning of April this year when was unable to stand on the foam (yoga) mat to eat his food and one of us had to hold him up while he ate from the bowl. Then a week down the line he refused to even try to stand, his hind legs were practically paralyzed and front legs could not take his bonny weight of 25+ kg even with support. He stopped having his regular meal of rice mixed with chicken pieces so we started giving him only chicken and cottage cheese but the latter caused stomach issues and it was only chicken (he stopped having eggs too) and buttermilk. We were fearful that perhaps he won’t possibly survive for his 14th birthday but the fighter in him fought on and we quietly celebrated his milestone 14th birthday with his favorite Vanilla ice-cream from Basking Robbins.
He was stable for two days after his birthday and then started showing symptoms of kidney failure…whatever little he was eating it would come out within a short time as potty… needing change of diaper frequently. Also he started drinking lots of water…his head was down and hind portion unresponsive. He even did not have the energy to snap at me while I moved his position which he was doing couple of weeks ago, in fact he had bitten me twice as I lifted him to clean up.
Ayush came on Friday 28th April and sat with Rolf but he did not show much enthusiasm, it seemed as if he has given up completely. Probably he knew it was time for him to move on. His biting me was also, probably a sign of cutting ties/ bond. All through the day he consumed only water and buttermilk, did not touch any solids. In the evening I tried feeding him boiled chicken but he turned his face away. Tears were welling up inside me but I remained strong for the sake of others at home. I made some fish fingers for Ayush from which I offered a small piece to Rolf which he after lots of deliberation (sniffing and licking) ate… I had only one more in my plate which I gave him as well. That was his last meal.
I had contemplated, argued, debated with myself ever since the day the doctor gave up all hopes of Rolf’s health improvement and suggested that I euthanize him. He told me, “You have given him a very good life and taken care of his every need… because of your upbringing he has been such a wonderful, happy and calm dog, quite contrary to the breed’s nature. Let him go in dignity”. I was wearing a dark glass so the doctor could not see the tears welling up in my eyes with his every word. Rolf was my Jigar ka Tukra and constant companion… how can I let go of him. More pertinent question was “What right do I have to take away a life’’? However, all the dilemma and questions swept away as the days went by and Rolf slowly started becoming a vegetable… unable to move an inch on his own. It was the toughest decision I had taken and pray to Madhav that I don’t have to repeat it again for anyone in this lifetime.
His last rites were performed in Hindu tradition and we had the final closer after his asthi-kalash were immersed in the Ganges followed by Havan for his noble soul to cross the Baitarani to reach the Baikunthadham, his final resting place in the laps of Madhav.