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Never off the leash with this aunt

My young friend Subhash has a spinster aunt, known for being a no-nonsense person, a stickler for the done thing and as-strict-as-can-be, feared as much as she is loved in her family. Her name is Uma, but she is known to her close relatives with the rather Brit nickname of Betty. Her nephews and nieces do not dare use her nickname, and address her as Uma aunty, but without meaning any disrespect, refer to her as Betty aunty when she is not present.

Betty aunty, in her sixties, has a formidable visage and manner and an imperious bearing, though she is all of five feet tall. She lives a couple of streets away from Subhash’s parents’ home, to which she walks over every now and then after telephoning. She always carries a short cane in her hand, as protection against street dogs which do not understand the expression on her face. Though she has pet cats, rabbits and a tortoise in her home, she is, to put it mildly, especially un-fond of dogs, those “noisy beasts” which show affection by jumping on people and trying to lick their faces. Accordingly, whenever Betty aunty announces that she is coming over, it is Subhash’s duty to tie up Judy, their friendly and happy but boisterous Golden Labrador. Judy is a well-trained and obedient dog which responds instantly to Subhash’s voice commands. But notwithstanding Subhash training Judy to respond to his command of “Judy! Sit!”, this command somehow never seems to work where Betty aunty is concerned. Something in Judy’s brain makes her want to jump up on Betty aunty and lick her face to show her affection, and so Judy has to be tied whenever Betty aunty visits.

So it was that one day, upon receiving the call, Subhash’s mother told him Betty aunty was coming over and Judy must be tied up. Subhash, engrossed in his laptop, absently said yes and forgot to tie up Judy. After a while, he heard the sound of the gate being opened, heard Judy barking and Betty aunty calling out, “Subhash!”, in alarm. He realised with horror that he had not tied up Judy, and visions of Judy knocking down Betty aunty, sitting on her and licking her face, and the unpleasant consequences for himself flashed through his mind even as he rushed out. His mother and sister, hearing the commotion, rushed out just after him, and were witness to the about-to-happen catastrophe.

Judy was bounding towards Betty aunty, her tail wagging joyfully, clearly with intentions of showering Betty aunty with canine love. There was Betty aunty standing frozen just inside the gate, now shut behind her. It was time for action, time to use all the force of Subhash’s training of Judy.

But in his haste and confusion, Subhash shouted, “Betty! Sit!”. The effect was electrifying. Judy fell silent and screeched to a halt, and Betty aunty sat where she was standing. Subhash’s mother and sister were hard put to suppress their laughter and rushed indoors to hide their mirth. Betty aunty never really lived that down. And Judy is now a changed dog, keeping a respectful distance from her.

sg9kere@live.com

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 4:33:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/open-page-never-off-the-leash-with-this-aunt/article8179999.ece

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