THE LAST QUARREL
I was a vet practicing in Pune at that time, and one of my regular 'patients' was a Spaniel, a pet adored and doted upon by Mr and Ms Chauhan.
Once I requested the couple to let me keep the dog at my residence for a few days, so that it could be under constant observation. For the dog was lethargic, gloomy, ill at ease, not feeding properly - not at all the happy, bumpy, bouncy dog it usually was.
The next day Ms Chauhan came to inquire.
"What's the matter with the dog? Is it something serious?" she asked with genuine anxiety.
"I can't find anything really wrong. If at all, it's a trivial thing. Have you scolded it or punished it? Dogs are like people, some are more sensitive than others, and may suddenly go out of mood if its dignity is hurt."
"Oh, no. Can't even think of such a thing. You know how much it's loved and attended to."
"Are you taking it out for regular walks and exercises? Laziness or boredom might have put it off like this."
She confirmed that the dog was being properly looked after, and that there was no negligence from that point of view.
In the evening the husband came, and was as worried as his wife had been. He too confirmed that the dog was receiving proper food, bath and exercises.
"Then I can't see what's the matter with it. My medical check up shows it to be physically healthy."
"Can it be something serious, like cancer or anything dreadful?" asked Mr Chauhan in alarm.
I assured him that there was no such possibility, and told him that if I could not really diagnose the ailment, I would take the expert opinion of my seniors.
The next day, Ms Chauhan came again and I told her that the dog was eating better now. If it improved further, she could take it home the following Sunday.
"And don't worry too much about it," I added. "It's not at all good at this stage. You're carrying a child, and your peace of mind is vital."
Her husband came in the evening and made the usual inquiries.
I was a little surprised. "Are you coming direct from your office?" I asked.
"No, I was at home. I didn't go to work today," he replied.
"Then you must have heard from your wife. I told her everything," said I.
"Did she come here? I don't know."
"It's strange. Since both of you love the dog so much, this is the first news she'd have given you, and this is probably what you two are discussing day and night."
"Er - I'm sorry. I wouldn't speak about our personal problems to anyone else. But you're no outsider. You've been our friend and guide, and as close as a family member, for over a decade. I'm ashamed though. We're not on speaking terms since the beginning of this month."
"What?" I cried almost in disbelief.
"Yes, that's it. I'm sorry but -"
"Petty quarrels, I can understand. But this sounds serious," I said with concern.
"There were violent shouting, quarrels and unrest for a week, then we stopped talking to each other."
"Mr Chauhan, now I know what's the matter with the dog. Pets are sensitive, and need peace and love as much as they need food and water. The hostile environment, the tension in the atmosphere, all this has shaken and upset the poor creature."
"But we've never ill-treated the dog or ignored it. We love it dearly."
"You're mistaken. You two loved the dog separately, but you two didn't love each other. The family bond, the cohesion, the conducive atmosphere, the genial warmth - this was missing. The pet sensed it, and suffered from an emotional trauma, may be it felt terribly insecure. Unless you two make it up and make the home peaceful, warm and cheerful, the dog will never be emotionally normal."
Just then Ms Chauhan came, but seeing her husband, wanted to withdraw. I stopped her.
"No, I want you together," said I.
I explained everything once again.
"By the way, if a dog is affected so badly, can you imagine, my dear girl, how the child in your womb must be suffering. You, both of you, must be ashamed of yourself. You're subjecting an innocent soul, even before it's born, to needless trauma," I said, half in anguish and half in wrath.
After thinking for sometime, they both appeared visibly embarrassed and apologized, promising never to repeat the blunder. I advised them to immediately see their doctor.
"Today, you've done us, and the to-be born baby, a great service," said Ms Chauhan.
"My dear, you're not just a client to me, you're like one of my family. I'm not blaming anyone singly, for you both are equally at fault. But now that the realization has dawned on you, I hope you'll prove to be a loving, well-adjusted couple, for the sake of the child and the pet."
They promised, held each other's hand and looked at each other. The Spaniel gave a bark of delight and leapt up.