Short Fiction ~ Aneeta Sundararaj
Third Prize, Strands International Flash Fiction Competition - 18
In the opinion of Dr. Andrew Mohanraj, adviser and consultant psychiatrist at Happy Therapy, [animal-assisted therapy], “will further contribute towards improving the motivation of patients and indeed inspire those who require therapy via the bond that will be formed between the dog and the client, be it a special child or an adult.”
Professor Dato’ Dr. Andrew Mohanraj
It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of Laddoo, our obsessively possessive dachshund. She lies in what my father once referred to, rather ungraciously I may add, as ‘the dog cemetery’. In other words, Laddoo was buried in our garden.
Named after an Indian sweetmeat, Laddoo was the shortest living of our family’s numerous, neurotic, nomadic, four-legged babies. The average life span of our cohort was approximately twelve years. Ladddo was seven.
The notable exception was, of course, Gorby, who survived no more than a day after being dragged in from the cold by the cat. Within the week, he was joined by Lenin and Stalin, also dragged in more dead than alive by the cat. The lawyer in the family, I defended our half blind Pinocchio by stating that, at seventeen, the cat must have lost her sense of smell; she mistook these severely and terminally ill puppies for rats.
My wife, Anjana, together with our sons, Adi and Akash, were predictably horrified. Nonetheless, we decided never to reprimanded the poor old dame for complimenting us with the prey she caught.
Another standout was Mandela, the giant of a Great Dane. He was so named because of the extremely long walks on which Adi had to take the dog to expend its energies. This imposed exercise helped our son, who was on the autism spectrum, come out of his shell, lose weight and socialise with others. Tears fill my eyes at the mere memory of the inviolable bond formed between them. The most peculiar thing about this dog was that of all the things he was scared of, it was geckos. He would not enter a room if he sensed the presence of even one of these reptiles a thousand sizes smaller than him. It’s quite something to see a Great Dane quivering having climbed onto the sofa to avoid a gecko, much like Anjana when there was cockroach in the house.
With such politically-inclined names our sons gave to all our dogs, it made sense, I suppose, that one was a career diplomat and the other, an aide to an MP.
I sort-of bonded with Mandela. You see, ten years after Mandela’s death (he was also seven), I still have what can only be described as a dent in my foot. It’s where Mandela placed his paw while I drafted legalese in the study. Oh, I do miss Mandela’s meaning of ‘keeping in touch’.
“Now that your children have gone to university, why don’t you get a smaller dog?” A thought planted in our heads by the vet, no less. “A dachshund is good. Small, family friendly. And,” he wagged his forefinger, “it’s not a dog that sheds.”
All of it was true, of course. But no one warned us that a dachshund had to be walked every single day. Granted, Anjana and I lost 10kg between us within three months of this bundle of sunshine entering our lives. Honestly, though, if we skipped ‘walkies’ for a mere three days, the deterioration in Laddoo’s mental health was palpable.
The whining. The pacing. The sad eyes. They were incessant.
Laddoo was, by far, the most privileged of our dogs. She had a stainless-steel bowl (others had plastic ones) and a custom-made bed to suit her extra-long body. For parties, she dressed up in a collar decorated with Swarovski crystals.
When she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, she was referred to a vet in Brickfields who specialised in cardiac matters. It was too late, though, for Laddoo was already in terminal stages of the disease. I did wonder though, what would the treatment have entailed? An open bypass surgery? A cardiac stent? Would she have to be on beta blockers? Being the glutton that she was, I wouldn’t have been surprised if the vet had said that she had hyperlipidaemia.
The routine after Laddoo’s demise was bound to be the same morose one. A square plot (rectangular in the case of Mandela and Laddoo) would be picked out within the hour of death. If death had occurred during the day, the funeral was over by nightfall. Likewise, if death occurred at night, by eight in the morning, the dog would be resting in peace. I dug the graves as my sons – the snowflakes – found it back-breaking work. Anjana cried uncontrollably during the solemn moments when I – again, not the snowflakes – carried the dead dogs to their final resting place.
I doubt anyone realised that the graves were becoming shallower. Surely the six-foot under rule applied only to humans, no?
I did have a recurring nightmare, though. On a dark and stormy night, I was in the middle of my garden with the carcasses of dead dogs floating all around me.
I have yet to break this sad news about Laddoo to the snowflakes. One’s in Turkmenistan and the other is busy campaigning for his own seat in Sungai Kolok.
My back aches too much to type a personalised, comforting and fatherly WhatsApp message to them. This bulletin will have to do.
Rest thee well, sweet Laddoo.
Parvan, L. 17 August 2017. Malaysia: Animal assisted therapy stands up for physical and emotional support of patients. Bodyreviewers.com Retrieved in March 2023 from
Aneeta Sundararaj is an award-winning writer. She trained and practised as a lawyer before deciding to pursue her dream of writing. Her writing has appeared in many magazines, ezines and journals and, to date, she’s worked on some 13 book projects. Aneeta has contributed more than 250 feature articles to a national newspaper. Her most recent and bestselling novel, The Age of Smiling Secrets was shortlisted for the Anugerah Buku 2020 organised by the National Library of Malaysia. In the past, stories about the real-life Ladoo, Aneeta’s much-loved dachshund, were compiled into a collection called ‘Ladoo Dog: Tales of a Sweet Dachshund’. Throughout, Aneeta continued to pursue her academic interests and, in 2021, successfully completed a doctoral thesis entitled ‘Management of Prosperity Among Artistes in Malaysia’.