My name is Cooper and I am not a human. Yes, I am what you humans call, a dog. Yes, your most faithful friend. My mother, Sweety, used to stay with an Indian family in USA right from her puppyhood, each member of that family showering love on her. In turn, my mother too, being very docile, loved them back in equal measure. Of course, this docile nature was reserved for her human family since she was quite ferocious when required, especially when she smelled particularly hostile humans or others of her own species. Her days with the Swaminathan family, consisting of Papa Swaminathan, Mama Swaminathan, and Apurva, were the happiest days of her life. By the time she was 1 years of age, she started showing signs of being anxious, agitated, became unusually aggressive towards the human family too and before long the family guessed rightly that she was in heat.

The Swaminathan family started looking out for a suitable partner for her across the city. Finally, a suitable boy was found in Rocky, who took great pride in his grooming. He was a real character who strutted in front of her, with his nose in the air. Initially, she ignored this snooty character, whose paws never touched the ground. However, the alpha male in him finally causing a surge of passion in her and before long, she was pregnant with…me and my 2 sisters. Her food intake reduced drastically & she was always seeking more attention from her human family. Her energy levels went down and she lost interest in her favourite “fetch the ball” game quite early. Finally, the pregnancy started showing and she put on weight. Then, almost after 60 days, I and my sisters were welcomed with open arms into the loving Swaminathan family. How I and my sisters were showered with attention! Right from the time I opened my eyes, I was passing from one arm to the other. Sometimes friends of Apurva were at home, who played with my sisters and me, and I loved all the attention of so many of my human friends.

But as it happens in so many of your Bollywood films, the happiest days of a loving family are cut short by some twist of fate. And so it happened with us too. Once, we were out in the big car; the entire Swaminathan family, my mother and my sisters. We were driving along the highway to reach our holiday destination. As always I occupied the window seat, with my face out of the car window, feeling the rushing air course through my fur. I could hear the family singing happy Bollywood songs with my sisters providing the chorus with their melodious howls and squeals.

Suddenly, there was a great screeching sound, I felt a sudden violent jerk and the next moment I was flying through the air and landed in the grass, growing alongside the road. Where’s mommy, where are my two sisters, where is Apurva, where’s…I had blacked out. When I came to, I was in a room which was totally white. A human in light blue clothes was hovering inside the room and all I could hear was…beep…beep…beep…the beeping noise lulled me into sleep once again. With time, I recovered well but I had still not seen anyone else from my family. One day, I don’t know how many days later, one of Apurva’s cousin, Sumaira came to meet me. She patted my head and as I licked her finger lovingly, I felt a drop of water fall on my snout. I looked up to find tears in her eyes. I was taken by Sumaira to our house, where I saw all the humans in white, sitting forlorn, and grief writ large on their faces. As I bounded inside, expecting the usual enthusiastic welcome from my mother and sister, I saw only their photos adorning the wall in front of me. Above their photo, was one garlanded photo of the Swaminathan family. Suddenly I felt a pat on my head and was enveloped in a warm hug by Sumaira. That day of my life was the last in the house of the Swaminathan’s…

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I started staying with Sumaira’s family since I was a pup and she was a small child. She was and still is my best friend. After Apurva, that is. Over a period of time, only the memories remained. I sometimes sat alone watching the photos of my mother and sisters and the Swaminathan family, which now adorned the wall of Sumaira’s house. But I was made of sterner stuff; after sitting like this for some time, I always left the room, with a resolve to live my new life with the new family, and especially Sumaira, since I owed it to her. After all, she is the one who made a genuine effort to bring happiness into my life again.

I loved playing with her and licking her face. In fact, I loved lathering the faces of all the humans in my house, with my saliva. Her parents took good care of me and they too loved me a lot. I was served the choicest food; it was a tradition for me to sit below the dining table, eagerly looking for food morsels, which the family was kind enough to share with me. Of course, once their dinner was done, I was served my own bowl of healthy food. I was bathed every day by Sumaira’s father and this involved heavy foam on my body. Oh! How I loved to play with the foam. And the walks on the campus were bliss. I loved to watch the falling leaves and being surrounded and petted by Sumaira’s friends. On the lawns, Sumaira’s father threw a ball, and I was off in a jiffy to fetch it for him. But surprisingly he didn’t like the ball and just threw it again. But I did not like to lose it, so I used to fetch it for him again. I could do anything for this family to whom I was so indebted. Fetching a ball was nothing.

However, this went on for a while, which made me lose my patience as well as my interest. So I just sat with my tongue hanging out of my mouth. My days were very well spent in all such leisurely activities. Then two things happened, Sumaira started going to school and her father changed his job; now he had to go to further off places for work purposes. This made him tired in the evening, and he no longer took Sumaira and me to the playground. I started spending more time lazing around the house and disturbing Sumaira’s mother with my crazy antics. In the evening, I heard her complaining to Sumaira’s father that I am one dumb dog, how I just stretch myself on the family sofa, so on and so forth. Once there was a big get together at the house and Sumaira’s father’s friends along with their families had come over, and there was a great racket around the house and I really enjoyed playing with all the little human pups who had come along. It was a great evening spent after a long time.

But through the corner of my eyes, I had noticed that Sumaira’s mother, surrounded by other ladies, looking at me and discussing something. But I did not take much notice and continued enjoying myself with the kids. Next day I was to discover! Next day started early. Once Sumaira and her father left, her mother showered extra attention on me. In a sing-song voice, she said, “Common Cooper. Today we are going to rock”.

And then she took me in her car to a far off place, with a big lawn outside. It was a great imposing building with, what humans call, the Greco-Roman architecture. Upon entering inside, my paws were sliding on the smooth as silk floor. I just loved the feeling, and tried to run but was, of course, restrained by the mother. We then entered a room, where I was given some simple tasks to try out, by a very stout human. For example, he extended his palm towards me while saying, “shake” and I extended my paw to touch his palm. A big smile on his face was a dead giveaway; I knew he was impressed. Next, he threw a ball and asked me to “fetch”. This was so elementary for me. I was off in a jiffy and back again, with the ball in my mouth.

“Good boy, Cooper”, he said and patted my head.

And after every task, to my delight, I was given mouth-watering treats. I started looking forward to more tasks. After a gruelling session of 2 hours, the stout man told Sumaira’s mother that I was being admitted to the institution. Oh! How happy she was. On the way back home, I was showered with much attention by her mother. In fact, she stopped by a Bakery shop to buy my favourite treat, the chocolate cake.

When we reached home, Sumaira was already home. Her mother excitedly told her that she had very good news to share once her father was home. Sumaira was so excited; she kissed me on my snout and eagerly waited for father to come. When father came, Sumaira’s mother announced, “Cooper has cracked the entrance exam to the most elite Dog University in the USA. His course starts tomorrow!” and then she went on to describe in great detail, all that had transpired within the huge premises of the University. That night, everyone had an extra big bite from the Chocolate cake and went to their respective bedrooms, contentedly. From the next day, my course started. Upon entering the premises, I was taken to a well-lit room, where my photograph was taken. Within half an hour, the photo was laminated, an additional new leash was put around my neck, and my laminated photograph was attached to the leash. I was now the elite member of one of the most prestigious centres of dog learning in the entire world. Every day I and my fellow dogents (dog students) were taught new tricks which were invariably followed by mouth-watering treats.The next few weeks, this became a routine. I was learning many tricks and my treats were getting better and better. One of the tricks required me to “roll over” and all I had to do was to put my legs in the air and roll over to the other side to stand up on my legs once again. Another trick was to stand on my hind legs, while at the same time jump. Now, this took a while. While standing on the hind legs was the easier part, jumping took some time to master. However, out of all the dogents, I excelled in this exercise. Then one exercise was to spin while standing in one place. Now, this was more difficult since initially, it caused my head to spin, making me lose my balance. Another trick was to “sit pretty” and this was almost like the human Yoga and required great control over my breathing and muscle coordination. But I cracked it as well. And as the tasks became more and more difficult, the treats too increased drastically. How I loved this lifestyle. And every day after coming home, I was given extra love and attention from the entire household, especially Sumaira.

The D-day had arrived. The entire household was now with me in the Greco-Roman building. But there was a difference. Here was I, sitting separately on a pedestal along with many of my own ilk, with a bow on my leash. Whereas the humans were there, including Sumaira and family, making up the audience. Oh, how proud my dear departed mother and my sisters would be, to see me in this smart attire. I really missed them on this day. My head was held high, avoiding eye contact with the ordinary humans. Yes, ordinary. After all, we the blue-eyed denizens of the doggy world were today sitting on a pedestal in front of the human race. I was so proud when my name was announced, “The next winner is Cooper”.

And what was then said changed my life forever. I was “Doctor Cooper!”

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Nowadays I get impatient very fast. After many days, Sumaira’s father took me to the grounds again. He started that same old stupid game of throwing the ball. Once or twice I fetched it for him, but then I thought if he doesn’t want the ball, why should I bring it back to him and waste my energy. No, I wasn’t going to repeat such silly acts now. After all, I am smart now. A “Doctor”; not Cooper the happy go lucky dog. I no longer sit below the table when the family has lunch or dinner. Now I try to grab a chair for myself after all a Doctorate deserves a higher ground. The family did not like it at first, but now they accept me as their equal. Previously, when Sumaira was back from school, I used to dance around her and make her pet me. But now, I have realised my foolishness and don’t make a scene of myself. I try to maintain my dignity.

But when Sumaira or her mother or father, take out the box of puzzles , the IQ Treat box of puzzles, I love to solve those puzzles which are then followed by awesome treats. The family is now getting slowly trained to my new requirements, and I like to be given my space. Today my late mother would be so proud of her son, Cooper who has risen from his humble background as just another dog. After all, Cooper is now Doctor Cooper.