My Life with Titan the mutt and Mr. Cat
The bibliophile in me has been a late bloomer. I discovered Enid Blyton when I was 13 and in awe of The Famous Five’s George only because George had Timmy. Even back then, I knew that the closest I would ever get to having a dog of my own and being a sleuth was by vicariously living off a piece of fiction.
That changed in 2016
5th October 2016 to be precise when Titan the mutt limped in.
I was recovering from dengue. The loss of appetite received almost no help thanks to the papaya leaf juice shots to help stabilize my platelet count. I was barely sitting up straight. That I had to postpone the first open-call writing workshop on self-expression was a side-effect I would deal with later. Around 10 AM that morning, my mother tapped me awake – which was unusual. She had never done that before; not even when I’d missed my alarm and gotten late for school. Too inert to notice or care, I got up only to plonk myself on the couch in the living room, failing to notice a carton on the floor. When my mother gestured towards it, I inspected it with slight trepidation. Was there a cat inside? P.S.: I hated* cats
Inside the carton was a ragamuffin pup. The George in me I squealed. Slightly terrified by his new environs and still cautiously gauging it, the pup refused to be cornered into submission, shoving his snout through and out of the holes in his carton.
My brother, while on his way to the railway station, had spotted this pupper limping about the place. Heartmelt happened and an indie pup from the street was brought into a 2BHK apartment already inhabited by five sapiens.
The plan was to nurse the pup back to health i.e. fix the limp and then let him up for adoption. To this very day, no one knows when we – the five sapiens – decided that this young canine would stay.
After much deliberation, he was christened Titan.
The titan in Titan the mutt
Titan’s limp was presumed to be a fracture and a second opinion necessitated that we admit him at a clinic for a couple of days. A week into his ‘stay’, his vet informed us that our warrior from the streets had gnawed his damaged paw off!
After our initial shock wore off, we learnt that our prescient pup had detected gangrene developing in his wound and decidedly took matters into his own jaws! Medical procedures were immediately carried out to amputate the limb and then forty days after Titan the mutt first found us, a real titan returned home to us. What’s in a name anyone?
Pity is what Titan receives from all and sundry Because Pity is what a three-legged-dog gets and Awe is what a family that adopts a three-legged-dog gets. Misplaced emotions IMHO. Sure, dogs like Titan i.e. indies – even the four-legged ones – don’t stand a chance at being adopted in comparison to their pedigree counterparts but Titan’s never needed any Pity. One limb down, the pup had already learnt to navigate his way on his remaining three limbs, without a fuss. The world was still his playground.
The resilience of a dog
Does he not feel pain? Of course, he does Does he not know fear? Titan is a very anxious dog But does he let any of his handicaps hold him from being the doggo who chases pigeons, squirrels and his own tail? Hell no Does his handicap come in the way of his instincts to be territorial and take on dogs his own size or even larger? Absolutely not Does he whimper and whine? Yes, whenever his sapiens are eating and he demands his share by inducing guilt – an emotion only us wretched humans are capable of.
Titan the mutt knows three things: resilience, sleep and love And I’ve been making notes ever since.
Belled with a cat
Remember how I said I hated* cats?
On the 5th of October 2017 – a whole year later – Mr. Cat – entered the same 2 BHK apartment with five sapiens and now one canine. Mr. Cat – a scrawny three-month-old kitten then – had gotten separated from his brood during one of Mumbai’s infamous downpours. His first respondent couldn’t continue housing him and that’s the long-n-short of how I found myself sharing a roof with a feline.
But this isn’t about me Titan had taken the previous whole year to adjust and slowly allow his stub to heal. But here he was, forced to reckon with having to share his humans with another specie; the arch-nemesis to his own specie!
I had witnessed Titan brave his way into life without a limb but in the months that followed Mr. Cat’s arrival, I saw Titan helplessly and at times furiously claim his turf. It was nightmarish balancing out Titan’s curiosity and perceived insecurity with Mr. Cat’s frailty and perceived aggression. They were each other’s threat. That the sapien household split themselves into two factions did not aid anybody’s cause
The art of coexistence
A little over four months into this forced marriage, I watched my jaw thud to the floor as canine and feline established their grounds and terms for shared camaraderie. Titan got used to not being the only centre of attention and Mr. Cat made peace with not being the only curious soul around. The two have moments when they huddle close together (especially when drums and fireworks wreak havoc) and maintain cordial distance (snack times).
The sapiens as a specie could definitely merit by taking notes.
If you’ve missed the part in this post where I say I’ve hated cats …there, I’ve mentioned it a third time now. Why have I hated cats you ask? Well, they’re indifferent, selfish and can be a nagging annoyance. The ones I’d interacted with fit in with the narrative I’ve had about cats. That Mr. Cat’s entrance into the house turned many things on their head – including Titan’s – wasn’t a helpful note to begin our relationship. My period of avoiding Mr. Cat coincides with the duel between him and Titan the mutt. Their truce opened up windows I didn’t know existed until then!
The rites of a cat
Mr. Cat is a live lesson on consent and having healthy boundaries. He does not appreciate being approached, let alone be squished. He makes his displeasures known by voicing them and when that isn’t honoured he takes matters into his own claws and jaws!
Mr. Cat needs and commands his own space. The only being he approached of his own volition is Titan and then my father. On rarest of rare occasions, he chooses to snuggle beside any of the other sapiens. From him, the introvert in me is learning self-validation.
With and around these two, I keep finding myself anew The playful child-like goof that had gotten buried deep beneath the layers from years of socialization have begun to come undone. Being around them is akin to my own in-house session in therapy – and I don’t mean this in jest.
With Titan the mutt and Mr. Cat, I’ve begun learning the difference between resilience and spreading myself thin Between honouring the need for healthy boundaries and being a pushover And between coexistence and compromise
They don’t only help me explore my patient, nurturing side but also remind me that I owe at least that much – if not more – to myself. Living with them has taught me as much about myself as it has about a life with pets. Because being left to figure my devices out with & around humans had hardened me in ways that I never realised. I see how wrong I’ve been about the things I’d normalised before. And that’s not even scratching the surface just yet Know how we consider animals as savages while we’re the civilised, evolved ones? Know how we’ve been told that dogs and cats don’t ever get along but humans are ‘social’ beings? Guess what? The joke’s on us!
The journey has been one of many firsts — A first when I’ve received a welcome after I’d returned back from a trip A first NYE with the best company A first where I’ve fought with other dogs *eye roll* A first when I’ve had someone sit right next to me while I’ve cried A first where I’m voluntarily becoming less asocial, thanks to our walks A first where I’m a ghostwriter (because their antics merit chronicles on Instagram)
Lastly, they’re helping me realise yet another childhood fantasy – intercepting minds of animals like Ma-Ti from Captain Planet; which I do by anthropomorphizing them on Instagram!