From a nutty watchdog, a social bee, an enthusiastic foodie, a travel buddy to a constant companion, dogs have been such an inseparable part of our lives that we often end up taking the little joys and surprises they bring us, for granted.
With an editor, Dhiraj Nayyar, who is crazy about dogs and shares his varied experiences with three of them, the book becomes a sensitive portrayal of the love-hate-love relationship between humans and their canine friends!
While 'pet' talks are a conversation starter for many, there are those who find therapeutic value in writing about their beloved dogs. Your degree of involvement with a dog notwithstanding, you'll find the confessional quality in 'How Cheeka Became a Star and other Dog Stories' stirring. Bound in bright colours, the 218-pager is a crispy collection of anecdotes, confessions, tributes and observations by noted authors, media personalities, filmmakers, actors and entrepreneurs on the bond they share with their dogs.
The attractive and very colourful cover takes you back to happier times of childhood, but that is just the beginning. Settle back for hours of reading that is a veritable rollercoaster ride of emotions. The dog tales narrated by Ruskin Bond, Muzaffar Ali, Maneka Gandhi, Riyaaz Amlani, Nafisa Ali Sodhi and Chandan Mitra are heartwarming and open up a different side to their personalities. And not to mention, Cheeka's tale by Sneha Iype Varma, the brain behind the hit Vodafone commercial featuring a young boy and a pug, brings in star value. The book gets its character from the quirky illustrations and doodles by Tina Rajan that flow seamlessly with every plot and become an incomprehensible part of the read. Add to it the dog trivia bit at the end of each story.
Being a pet-lover is no pre-requisite to pick up the copy; only if you've ever had anything to do with dogs, you'll find much in common here. The satirical view of the constant fight for survival by an ex-street dog is finely brought about in first person by Jug Suraiya, first as the dog, and then as its adopted father. Actor Gul Panag's take on how her pet Beagle 'Milo' became her travel companion and changed her life for the better, is beautifully recounted in her travels with him to the Valley of Flowers and Srinagar. Restaurateur Riyaaz Amlani's tale of how Benjamin, whom he rechristened 'Sergeant Pepper', became 'his' dog, and not his brother's, is both funny and thoughtful. The dog-subject is broached differently by novelist Ruskin Bond as he narrates a moving tale of an attractive young widow Elsie Roberts, an Anglo-Indian in Mussoorie, and how she takes to breeding dogs. Curiously enough, the dogs in question are a nameless lot, always in the background, and yet control the events of the story. A fine blend of graphics with photographs gives the book an old photo album-like quality, making it a nice keepsake for the readers
But what makes the book truly special are the contributions by eminent personalities from different walks of life who are not necessarily professional writers. Each one, however, is a dog lover. And thankfully the publishers did not attempt to straightjacket the contributors by giving them specific themes, and allowed a free reign. The stories would not have been so heart-felt otherwise.
Quite apart from books that rant on pet-bravery, 'How Cheeka Became a Star and other Dog Stories' is an ode to the silliness and sensitivity we've grown up to associate with dogs, the sincerity and love they offer us so readily, and the gratitude we often fail to express.