The unforgettable pet: Sindhu Vee reflects on Torchy, ‘the dog who never once nipped at me’.

As a child attending an international school in the Philippines, I experienced profound feelings of isolation. Comfort, however, was provided by my cheerful furry companion.

I have always had a strong affinity for animals, even as a child – to the extent that it was not endearing, but rather detrimental. I constantly approached dogs, and by the age of 10, I had been bitten 13 times. Since rabies was prevalent in the Philippines, I found myself frequently visiting the hospital.

My sister, who was six years older than me, owned a pomeranian cross named Champa, who was responsible for the majority of those bites. However, I did not hold Champa accountable – I was always attempting to gain her affections and engage in games, none of which interested her.

When I was around seven years old, my mother arrived home and instructed me, “There’s something in a box on the front seat; go get it.” Inside was a small white puppy, a samoyed mix. My sister considered it a foolish dog and wanted nothing to do with it, but she did give it the name Torchy. I had no choice but to go along with it. However, I thought to myself, “Great, he is my dog.”

Torchy and I became inseparable. I had no friends, I struggled with a stammer, and I stood out as the “different” kid at an international school. When you’re a child feeling lonely, like an outcast, and with a natural inclination towards animals, a dog can become a true friend. I was extremely fortunate to have Torchy.

Torchy understood me because he, too, had experienced rejection from everyone. Champa rejected him, my sister rejected him – even my mother thought Champa was more elegant. But Torchy and I just had a mutual understanding. We spent countless hours together. We played hide and seek and enjoyed leaping onto the sofa. On one occasion, his pawprints stained the carpet, and my mother asked, “What did you do to the carpet?” Not wanting to betray Torchy, I claimed responsibility, although she could clearly see the pawprints. We were each other’s only ally.

Reflecting back, I realize the immense patience he displayed: he was the only dog I spent time with who never bit me. He was incredibly joyful and always excited. In essence, he was like me – lively, eager for fun, and willing to create games. There was a genuine bond between us that I took for granted.

At the age of nine, my mother went abroad to study. During that time, Torchy fell ill and had to stay overnight at the vet’s. The next day, I went to retrieve him with our babysitter, and we arrived before the vet had opened. Through the wire fence, I could see the kennels and Torchy lying inside with his back turned to me. I called out his name repeatedly, but he didn’t respond. When the vet arrived, I was informed that Torchy had passed away during the night.

In that moment of learning about his death, something significant shifted within me – a shift that still lingers today. As I listened to the vet, I felt an immense sense of maturity. I remember looking up at him and feeling the need to process this news in a formal manner. I didn’t have a breakdown at that time, but later on, I cried to my father – not because I fully comprehended the concept of death, but simply because I missed Torchy.

Shortly after, we received news that we were relocating to India. I recall my sister’s distress because we couldn’t bring Champa along with us. That became the primary focus of everyone’s attention. Everyone except me seemed to have forgotten about Torchy.

I have had many dogs since then, but Torchy was special. I believe it’s because, at that time, he was my only friend. As I’ve grown older, friends have come and gone, but those I’ve managed to hold onto are the ones who possess an inherent happiness and optimism – much like Torchy. He taught me the importance of maintaining a positive outlook, regardless of life’s challenges. Even if you’re considered an outcast in class, there will always be someone who will be your friend.

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