I Put My Dog on a Pedestal and He Fell
By Priyal Nahata, UG’24
I remember the first time I met Enzo, the Italian-Calcuttan beagle, at my date's place. Earlier, Avi would use him as bait on Bumble, and for the first few awkward minutes of the date, he used him again as a buffer. Enzo ran up to me, sniffed my red-coloured hair and immediately tried to put all of it in his two-by-two inch mouth. He was highly protective of his father, so much so that he wouldn't let us hug, but luckily that resulted in our first kiss being under the sheets, giggling and holding each other while a curious beagle kept scratching at the edges. Now, he can't fall asleep without begrudgingly cooping up next to our feet. It's still fascinating to me how much these two roommates—my boyfriend and Enzo—are alike. Almost every time Avi falls asleep on call, I have no clue who is snoring; they both insist on sleeping completely head to toe covered under the heavy bedsheet, regardless of the season. They also have the same judgemental side-eye look each time I hide something from them: in Enzo's case, his squeaky toy; in Avi's, his beloved bowl of onions. Co-parenting Enzo has become a large part of our relationship and shapes our present and future, in 6-feet Avi-sized and small 13 inches beagle-sized ways.
Our relationship has been through three geographical phases. The first was dating in the same city and the collection of memories and stories made there. Every morning when Avi and I would be cuddling on the bed, there would be aggressive scratches on the door, followed by a doe-eyed beagle's tip taps walking up to the bed to join us in a family cuddle chain. Whenever Enzo got excited and wanted to play, I would hop onto the gaming chair as he would bark at me from the bed—me trying to roll the chair to him and him throwing a pillow at me, this anarchic game was called Space Wars. Playing catch with this particularly brainy dog was a challenging task, for he would keep running in the opposite direction of the ball till I got exasperated and (lightly) smacked him with an empty condom box. It wasn’t a paradise, though. Sometimes, Enzo would get too excited, even biting Avi’s nose once and causing it to bleed. Similarly, he leapt at me one day, knocking my head on the wall. His overstimulation, sometimes occurring without triggers, was something we had to navigate and be mindful of, since, in the moment, it was difficult to remember not to isolate him when either of us was hurt. However, as the months passed, my affection for "our" dog grew, and both of us became more comfortable with each other's presence and treated each other like family. It gave me a sense of home—the three of us, every part being crucial and irreplaceable.
The second phase came when I shifted to Ashoka—now, we were dating in separate cities. The first time I Zoom-called Avi, I could hear Enzo rushing to the source of my voice. I thought it was endearing at first, till he started beating up the laptop screen and almost shut it close, clearly angry at me. Then, when I tried to reconcile and apologise, that dramatic beagle walked away, giving me one last side-eye look. In our third phase—dating while in different countries—I came to visit Enzo. Unfortunately, Avi was not in the same city, and we missed him terribly. There was an unspoken decision taken to not sleep on the bed, as we both lay next to each other on the cold floor, his paw on my neck. It had been a few months since we had both seen Avi, and sharing that emotion of grief with that tiny dog felt warm and hopeful. That day's goodbye was particularly difficult for I felt that he must not have understood that his parents weren't playing emotional tag with him, just that the circumstances were not in our favour. I don't think there can ever be a perfect or fulfilling goodbye.
The distance between France and India seems shorter when Enzo is a part of the conversations. We regularly talk about Enzo in our future life—forcing him into a custom fit tuxedo at our wedding which he would definitely hate, keeping backup veils in case of a beagle attack, and dropping him at our parent's on the weekdays only to return to a dramatic, offended but ecstatic dog on the weekends, it all seems worth it. My high-pitched "hi Enzo boy" and gloomy goodbyes have been different, but they have that same hope of coming back.
Co-parenting Enzo has redefined what a “complete” family is to me. When I look back, it's a little strange and bizarre to imagine that such strong human emotions of grief, ecstasy, humour and love can be so closely shared with a dog and bind the three of us together. A family doesn’t need to be true to the traditional structure of comprising children; for me, Enzo is more than enough. So perhaps I do put him on a pedestal, in reality and in this piece, even though he probably will get distracted by my now-pink hair, and fall in the opposite direction.