Hrishikesh opened the door to his flat. Tired after a punishing day at work, he wanted to grab a quick meal and sleep off.
As he walked inside, a pretty little dog ran up to greet him, his tail bobbing like it always did. Cole, the vivacious cocker spaniel, had been missing him while he was away.
Within moments, Hrishikesh’s sleepiness vanished. Sitting on the red beanbag near the door, he started kissing the dog’s face while running his hand through his head. Cole reciprocated with wet kisses, thrilled that Daddy was back: his Daddy, whom he had taken care of after Mommy left the house. It was because of him that Hrishikesh had rediscovered his zest for work, which disappeared for several months after Rita had gone away.
What would have happened had Cole not been around to cheer him up? Hrishikesh, who had battled depression after his wife’s departure, didn’t wish to answer that question. What he couldn’t forget, however, was how Rita had left him one week after she had said she would.
Small but frequent fights had become too much for her, she had said. The situation could be tackled in a mature way, he had responded. Insisting that she couldn’t endure such debates any longer, she said that she had made up her mind to leave.
Soon, she was gone.
Time seemed to fly after she left. One week made way for another, and the latter for one more. Saddened and helpless, Hrishikesh would sit in front of the computer for hours, trying to work but without success. Cole would sit in front of him, wondering what had gone wrong. At times, he barked softly, hoping that Daddy would leave his chair and play with him. There were times when he stood on his two hind legs and simply stared at him. Hrishikesh did not respond to his gestures, making him moan in disappointment. He sat down thereafter, looking at him intently.
The house seemed dreadfully empty.
One day was what it took to initiate the process of change for the better. For quite some time, Hrishikesh would take Cole for morning walks without spending too much time in the park, where they went. That day, both of them went for a walk and played for a long time. Hrishikesh had carried Cole’s favourite red ball. They played Chase The Ball in the park and got back home. The little cocker spaniel seemed overjoyed. His Daddy grinned from ear to ear too.
Hrishikesh and Cole went for long morning walks thereafter. Once back home, he started responding to the dog’s tantrums and mischief. He started giving him regular baths, spent time brushing his teeth, bought him new toys, and had his dinner when Cole did. Cole finished his food really fast, and watched his Daddy eat.
Life was returning to normal. Hrishikesh had started working with a new energy. And, when he went to sleep at night, he didn’t miss Rita any longer. Cole, who had taken her place, snored loudly within minutes of lying down.
At that time, everything seemed right with the world.
A few months later, misfortune lowered his spirits once again. On an ominous morning, he noticed that Cole had slowed down. When he drew the dog closer, he realised that he had fallen ill. By the time both of them left for the veterinarian, Cole began to sweat and pant. He had a very high fever and vomited several times in quick succession.
The veterinarian’s medicine didn’t improve his condition for a day. Hrishikesh stayed awake at night, staring at Cole who slept uneasily. Fearing the worst, he found himself in tears from time to time.
The veterinarian had prescribed the right medicines though. The following day, Cole seemed better. After another 24 hours, he was as fit as ever. For hours that evening, he and his dad sat quietly. Even today, Hrishikesh believes Cole realised that Daddy had been a very worried man.
The little one was there in Hrishikesh’s life when Rita had left. He had seen him through his tough times when he needed him the most. By sleeping next to him, playing with him, or simply having his dinner when Daddy did, he had become a human presence that Hrishikesh needed desperately.
Cole had been a good son.
Dogs don’t live as long as humans do. After nursing his Daddy back to health, Cole had left for an unknown world a couple of years ago. But Hrishikesh will be always grateful to him, Cole’s unconditional love having written a few bright chapters in his life after everything seemed lost.