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Can you grow young again for me, so I can see those gray button eyes filled with mischief once more? Not that your topaz eyes of today are any less beautiful, let me hasten to add. ‘What shall I do next?’ they used to ask at every step. ‘Shall I run away with mom’s brassiere or dad’s spectacles? Maybe I should jump into the bucket with the mop in it and splash some water around. That would send unsuspecting mom flying, wheeeeee! What fun!‘ Can we have some more of that fun (minus making mom fall!)?

Will you grow young again for me, so I can feast my eyes on your cute and short snout that poked around everywhere with curiosity? Not that your long snout is any less cuter, or the jowls that you now have that give you dignity. That snout with the sweet puppy smell, poked me awake, pushed my hands away when I tried to take away the bottle you were pushing around. That snout you rested on the pillow on my bed and slept like a baby. You were a baby then, of course. How else would you sleep, eh?

Won’t you grow young again so you can nibble on me with your needle sharp baby teeth. Not that I don’t like your teeth now which are no longer as sharp or as bright a white of yesteryear, but tinged with a shade of yellow. I love them too, as much as I ever can and I am grateful they don’t bite and leave marks on me anymore. But I want to be bitten inadvertently, playfully, have marks on my hands and forearms exactly like when you were a puppy, and have the vet say, ‘Ma’am, your hands are worse than mine, and I am a vet!’ How annoyed dad used to be seeing those marks. He wanted to send you away for being so naughty. That made me really angry and I glared at him, muttering to myself, ‘Over my dead body!’

How about growing younger so I can once again scratch your little pot belly? Not that I don’t love the slight potbelly you have now that age has gifted you. In between the two stages were your lean, mean days. They were no less in any way. Just saying. When as a pup you slept next to me, belly up, all fours in the air, tiny head resting on my arm, it was all I could do to not squish you to a pulp because the cuteness quotient was going through the roof.

Can I once again see you struggle to climb the steps on your little chubby legs that I often playfully asked you to lend me. Mummy has only two legs, how about giving me one of yours so we can both have three each? Not that your legs now are any less dear to me now. The nails on your paws don’t retract as much as they used to. You lick your paws all the time and I wonder with a sinking heart if they pain you. You are not nifty climbing the stairs these days. So you don’t follow me upstairs ALL the time like you used to, preferring to stay with dad in his study on the ground floor. I don’t mind. Whatever is comfortable for you.

You don’t have to grow young again for me to see those soft and silky, floppy, ears. They are bigger than they were, and yet somehow, the same. The hearing though seems to have lessened. Now I am the one who hears most sounds before you. But, your deafening barks are the same as ever when you do hear. Your enemies, the cats, the stray dog which has made its home next-door, the neighbor lady, the woman who collects waste, anyone who bangs on the gate, the list goes on. It even includes the Greater Coucal that once dared go ghoop ghoop in your presence. Whenever you make known your displeasure, the sound reverberates just as before, trying to make a dent in my poor eardrums.

I miss your sitting on my head while I was asleep, getting your chubby feet entangled in my long hair. I remember how you used to stand next to the bed and cry, wanting to be lifted and deposited on it. Now too you do a different version of it, half hanging on to the bed, waiting for me to pull you up, or give you a push from behind, because you cannot seem to climb on your own. Where you used to wante me to get off the computer and take you out, you are happy for me to sit there for then you can sit at my feet contentedly. You were never a foodie, an odd thing for a Labrador. You nibbled at your food then, and do so now.

All you do these days is sleep, and then sleep some more. I have to coax and cajole you to get out and about. You have taken on some new habits. You want to drink water from the tap and not from the various dishes kept in almost every room for Your Majesty’s convenience. You want to snack on the Kerala banana chips which you used to look at with disdain. You prefer fish or chicken to beef. Where as you shrugged off too many hugs, you are all for them now. You always want to have your head and behind the ears, scratched, given belly rubs and massages. Don’t stop, is your motto.

I can sometimes hear dad say, ‘That’s enough for now!’ But it is never, is it? You whine a little to get him to change his mind. ‘Ohh okay!’ he says, while patting you on the head. But with me you are different. You sit at my feet and not ask for any favors (I willingly give them without asking, you have too much of it!). If I am in the kitchen, you prefer to be there, to keep me company, effectively blocking my access to the refrigerator.

I keep reminding dad that you are now older than even him in human years, at least you will be on your birthday on the fourth of this month. I wish for time to stand still, not move forward any more. Not that time will ever listen to me. But mostly I wish you could be a puppy just for a day.

Advance Happy Ninth Birthday Wishes, baby.

© Shail Mohan 2020