A lesson from Lila

| 3 MINUTE READ | Being humbled by a Beagle


During early March, much against my advice, my wife decided to squeeze a second dog into her heart and our apartment. A Beagle named Lila.

While she was small enough to cuddle unlike our retriever Zoe, she grew rigid at the lightest touch. An instinct from her time at the lab that she was recently released from. The only event she could associate with the touch of a human hand was the piercing of a needle followed by a disruption in her digestion. From years of associating only pure love with Zoe, it was strange to see so much quiet fear in a dog.

I was never much of a dog lover but had grown to notice their benign influence on the humans around them. As the lockdown began, I was responsible to walk Lila and clean her accidental excretions around the house. While Zoe needed to be walked twice a day, with Lila it was more often. When I mistimed it, I had to follow the cleaning protocol.

Scan the area of impact. Shut the windows. Turn off the fan. Lay newspapers to soak it in. Wait for a while. Then place the marinated newspaper in a garbage bag. Use dry newspaper to wipe the area further. Fill a small amount of water in a bucket and spike it with Lizol. Immerse the mop in it. Then squeeze it down until it is moist but not dripping. Scrub the area clean. Wash the mop in the bathroom. Open the windows, turn on the fan and allow the area to dry.

While I began this exercise without much fuss, as the days progressed into weeks and months, a resistance to how frequently it was being called into action began to accumulate. It grew like a mold around my heart. Lila picked up my steadily darkening mood. My mornings began with an edgy inspection as she anxiously watched me from below the dining table. The rising satisfaction of a ‘clean’ start to the day perversely sharpened the disappointment at the sight of yellow and brown patterns on our white living room floor. My attempts to train Lila slowly imploded from gentle persuasion to frustrated hostility.

Our walks together grew longer and loveless. I would cage her or leave her tied in the foyer outside to draw clear lines between her crime and my punishment. This would engulf her in confusion and grief. As her soft howling cries filtered through the corridors of our home – she would be released by others – isolating me with the unreasonableness of my actions.

Despite all this, she grew in confidence as she settled into her new home. An excited enthusiasm before mealtimes would leave her dancing at the kitchen door, in tune with the aromas that wafted through and exploded her senses. We even heard her briefly growl once to discourage the friendly overtures of a neighbor’s dog.

One early morning as we walked down a new route, a pack of six stray dogs barked menacingly from the other side of the road. I was told later that this was the wrong time to take that route, as they were waiting for their morning feed and therefore aggressively territorial. I immediately turned around to retreat, with Lila trailing me on a long leash. A pulse of fear filled me as I heard a sudden shrieking cry from Lila. Two larger dogs had streaked across the street and pounced on her. As she struggled to escape their grip, the leash slipped out of my hands and Lila charged towards the middle of the road with the strays in hot pursuit. They caught up with her and she seemed to be drowning into their shadows, wailing with a raw urgency as they sank their rabid teeth into her. She was looking straight into my eyes and it felt like I was watching her die.

I charged forward, retrieved her leash and shooed the strays away. All this happened is less than a few seconds. But shock stretches and slows time down as it etches its impressions onto us.

Lila and I walked home together. Sad and defeated.

My wife and daughter dressed her wounds, fed her and held her for a while to calm her down. Once they were done she came to me and curled up near my feet. For the next few days she sought me out and stayed close to wherever I was. I had been a cold and unkind master over the last few months. Completely let her down that morning. And yet she was acknowledging our shared moment of terror and the little scrap of protection that I had extended towards her.

It will take me a lifetime to emulate her unconditional heart.

(This post was also published in ‘The Hindu’)


77 thoughts on “A lesson from Lila

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    1. Being an animal lover I enjoyed reading this. I hope she’s fine. I lost my dog last month, he cried before leaving, it is astonishing to know about their affection.
      Stay safe!


  1. So touching…
    अष्टादेशु पुराणेशु व्याशश्य वचनाम द्वयम,
    परोपकराय पुण्याय, पापाय परपीड़नाम।।
    small acts of kindness, bonding mean a lot !!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful ! There was so much anticipation in your story, incredible piece of writing. Thank you so much for sharing, thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. So touching. Not all pets are affectionate in the way that we expect them to be and that’s okay! Some have had traumatic experiences and so take long to warm up to people. I’m so sorry about what happened, but in light of it all, your good intention and brave act of intervening to remove the strays didn’t go unnoticed. You did the best that you could, and this has strengthened the bond between you and your dog 💗💗

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Good read Anand. Often we miss out the connection between “Sensibility & Sensitivity”…by being insensibly sensitive OR sensitively insensible. It takes mature wisdom to balance and harmonize the two conflicting vectors. But the key to resolving this predicament is “introspective observance”…

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Lovely read Anand! We just got a puppy Jan end. She’s pretty much toilet trained now.. give Lila a treat the instant she pees outside the house, and nothing when she goes inside. Should help.. these things take time. Good luck! Unconditional love indeed.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Anand , what a touching article!!
    Could feel your anguish when the episode happened.Dont be harshi yourself, we all would have reacted the same way ,if not worse, with the constant messing.Yes ,the love that they give us is unconditional.The only other love which is totally unconditional is Parents love__ for their children.As usual your article touches ones core.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dear Anand,

    Very interesting anecdote! Dogs are known to have an unconditional 💓!
    I am reminded of the movie Eight Below which I saw sometime back. It is the
    story of eight sled dogs which were left behind in Antarctica due to force of
    circumstance. The party returned after six months to find many of them alive.
    How they rejoiced on seeing their caretaker!

    Please watch this wonderful movie when you find time.

    TPS Athimbaire

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Absolutely lovely!!
    Have had pets earlier and all of them reciprocate unconditional love. My father had a cow and my brother, toddler in those days, used to sleep on her, put his hands up her nostrils and she never moved a millimetre. These lovely creatures leave such a soothing effect that is beyond description.


  9. Beautiful and so very very touching. As a dog lover, especially my street dog friends are a joy when they recognise you – sometimes a biscuit other times nothing but their joy is boundless

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Life-lessons are not always taught by lecturing gurus, or ancient texts.
    One can learn so much even from a ‘mere’ dog!

    The best gift of all!

    Their unconditional love is (perhaps) what makes them a ‘man’s best friend’?

    Wonderful experience!

    Such are the moments that create inseparable bonds! Also, lifetime memories!
    The simplicity of it all!

    Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks for sharing. It only confirms To the beliefs that dogs are faithful to their masters.
    Great Lila. Note was very touchy.
    Best wishes

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Touching story. Honestly, the first time around I could not complete it after reading the lab routine. I suppose these blogs help you dwell within. Keep going Anand

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Had a lump in my throat as I neared the end of the story … your honesty in sharing your growing aloofness towards Lila and your crumpling sense of guilt after the attack is so poignant. Lila’s continued love for and forgiveness of you is your redemption. Wishing Lila and the Raghavan family many years of loving togetherness!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Dogs are mirrors of our self with an in built quality of making us look within ourselves with a magnifying glass. I have just got my 13th dog, a Beagle pup😊

    Every dog I have lived with has been a learning experience. And I am still learning.
    We try to get into the dog’s mind and try to figure it out, to train it, to develop a relationship with it. But the dog actually gets into our minds and our personalities and characters, and adjusts itself to us – with far more success and far more wisdom.

    Every animal seems to reflect a certain innate quality of Nature herself and a primeval wisdom – an aspect from which the ‘civilized’ human, in his vanity has distanced himself quite effectively in his ‘civilization’.

    Reminds me of the philosophy of Dattatreya – who showed that all Nature is our guru. He’s showcased with 4 dogs lying at his feet, representing (they say) the 4 Vedas.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This made me cry. Our Bella is so much like your Lila, and l get so impatient with her so much that I feel I’m the worst caregiver ever. Yet, she loves me and forgives me time and time again. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story of unconditional love.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. The love of dogs is truly the only unconditional love I’ve ever known. They trust and accept. Your story is lovely and heart breaking (knowing how she was kept before she came to you) and I am thankful that you shared it.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. WHAT An Absolutely heartwarming story Anand…
    they are truly creatures filled with nothing but love for us!
    and yes – they really make an impact on the humans around them and could teach us many a lesson!
    thanks for sharing – love to Lila,

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Thanks for sharing this post . My heart goes out for all the pets we keep and their helplessness to be at our mercy . I too have a pet dog dear to me . I feel very guilty .though I take care of all his needs but I am a little lazy in communicating and playing with him . When he silently looks at me while I am reading or watching TV I steal my gaze away lest his mute look translates to something disturbing .

    Liked by 1 person

  19. We too had got a Beagle from a pharma lab but Beagles can be hard to train and my mother in law refused to get tken in by his melting eyes. She had had enough of dogs in her lifetime ( at one time she had 11 of them) and within four days of our Buddy coming some, she had arranged to send him off. I can never forget the look in his eyes and that of my daughter for letting them both down.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Lila looks beautiful, and the story of your epiphany with her is moving.
    I also think you underestimate your value as Alpha male. You may have not kept hold of the lead, but you did rescue her – and this second time, in a much more direct way than taking her from that lab. It sounds like a very special bond has formed.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. What a gorgeous story. My husband and boys have been angling to get a dog for a long time, and while I know I will enjoy the companionship, I also know I’m prone to resenting my precious time being used up by chores and training–like you say. However, probably, my heart, too, can be softened!


  22. I too had a pet rescued from a laboratory.

    A rabbit whose need for contact and affection had been denied during his first year of life isolated in a tiny cage.

    The day I picked him up from the RSPCA there were questions to answer, forms to fill, health checks to be done and money to be paid. The rabbit endured the hour or so it took, stiff and stoical in his carry case.

    Finally he was released from the cage and for the first time I stroked the infinitely soft fur of his head, neck and shoulders. He immediately dissolved into a floppy, fluffy heap, his eyes closed in utter contentment.

    The RSPCA had named him Arthur, but I knew that wouldn’t do. I gazed down at the tiny, warm bundle of bliss and whispered him his new name.


    Liked by 1 person

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