When August went missing just a day before my 28th birthday from a friend’s place, I could not understand why this was happening to me. I would sink, take turns to howl, sob, stop and repeat. But each time I would stop I would remember I could not give up as easily.
August is my two-and-a-half-year-old Desi boy with whom I fell in love with when I saw his tiny, droopy eyes on a Facebook post by Friendicoes. Unemployed and broke, but full of love, I got him to my barsaati, much to the dislike of my parents and former flatmates. A few houses, many housemates, a couple of odd jobs and other variables later, he continued to be my only constant.
So when he went missing on a weekend that I had simple but important plans for, I didn’t know what to do. It had not happened before and it was not something that I had imagined ever.
It started with a phone call that August had run away. The immediate thought in my head was ‘he’s gone’ and maybe I won’t be able to find him anymore. Immediately the guard and a friend rushed to the spot to look for him and soon I joined in.
They couldn’t find him and I couldn’t either. Having walked around the area for a few hours, calling out his name and rattling a box of cookies, from lane to lane, plot to farms, there was no sign of his upright ears and wagging tail.
It was then in my desperation and depression when I updated a status on Facebook with various pictures of August, seeking help in finding him, join me in the search, connect me to locals. I was surprised at the outpour of support and the number of volunteers who decided to help August get home from day one.
Here, the most stressful, sleepless and tiring 12 days of ‘Finding August’ commenced.
I began getting leads from areas nearby. But the search ended with no result and it was the first time I realised August won’t make it easy for me to find him.
Then I met Sita Garg, an Indo-German living in Sainik Farms with eight dogs. She was the first volunteer who didn’t know me or August and became my first pillar of strength as she went on her own, calling his name out hoping to find the brat.
At least 20 people told me to speak to an animal communicator – a term that was unknown to me. However, the next morning at 6, I found myself dialling the number of one communicator in Pune and sobbing like a child.
Towards the second half of the day, we had a team of 20 people looking out for him, combing each nook and corner.
This hunt continued for three days more, August almost started seeming like Big Foot — spotted by many but never found. I relied heavily on the dog whisperers who claimed to be talking to him to tell me his whereabouts. I ran from pillar to post going crazy and cranky that I would find him sitting in a corner of a park as the dog communicator thought.
More posters were put up, local kids engaged, countless food joints visited but not much happened.
A lot of people claimed to have spotted him. But none of us ever did. At 1 a.m. on the fourth night, I received a call that August was found. With a friend, I rushed to Neb Sarai from Malviya Nagar.
But I was quite unprepared for what was to come. It was not August, but a look-alike and a distressed one. The dog was in tears at being fed, hugged and touched. He must have been domesticated once but was now abandoned or lost.
On Sunday morning, day five, I almost convinced myself that maybe this was it. I was exhausted, emotionally and physically. I was haunted by thoughts of where and how August was, but I realised my body needed a break. I needed to get to work on Monday and go about solving a hundred other issues. But something stopped me from writing a status about ending physical search. I didn’t know how to do it.
Next morning, I was the first person in the office with instructions to everyone that I didn’t want to talk about Augs at all.
Just before lunch, I got a call from someone who had seen and fed August at the PVR Anupam Saket market. She confirmed it was him for sure. The coat was dirty but with the same words, he looked gaunt and was being chased away by other dogs. Trembling but excited I exited work for the day to get my baby back.
Up went another status about him being in Saket. More posters printed, more people called in. And by the evening, almost everyone in Saket knew that Augs was around. A few visits to the Dog Ashram rebuilt my faith in finding him.
I was told that dogs had the natural instinct of going back home and the spotting in Saket made me feel that maybe he was trying to get to the Malviya Nagar apartment. The next day, we began combing Malviya Nagar, and what lay in between and around.
On Wednesday (day 8), I got called by Poroma Rebello, from the Animal Welfare Board who said they would help in the search and I should be out and about too. On day 9, while talking to a dog feeder friend Amrita Arora in Malviya Nagar, Karan called and screamed that he found August and was getting him along.
I couldn’t stop yay-ing that he was found! But it was not him. The look-alike jumped out of the car and ran to left and right, and soon vanished. I didn’t know what to say or do. I was forced to wonder if anyone else would be able to recognise August.
I couldn’t sleep that night.
On Saturday, the second last day of the search, we got two leads: a doctor from Sainik Farms had the CCTV footage of August and another call of him being seen by the Dog Ashram folks.
I wanted to see it to believe it. The video reached my inbox and it was him. His thin frame, upright ears and a sprightly walk around the house and an attempt to open the doors gave me tears of joy. To see him do the usual, I was exhilarated. If nothing, this was a much-needed reassurance that he was around and was trying to get home.
That night we announced a cash prize of 10,000 on him. I felt better, worked on new posters to set out the next day and took a good night’s sleep.
The 12th day, after the cash prize was announced, we got a lot of hoax calls. By the time I got home, my phone battery had died. As soon as I put it on charge I got another call from Divya, she said, they had August.
I was convinced it won’t be him so I asked for pictures. But it was him!
The 10-minute auto ride to Saket was probably the longest of my life but the joy of seeing him was unparalleled. I had gone numb at seeing him. He was sitting on Divya’s bed, all bones, and I was scared to touch him. I cried and laughed, together.
After two minutes of pleasantries, the adorable baby of mine went under the blanket and passed out in no-time.
Sita Garg, an Indo-German dog lover who was there from the start and kept looking for him even when I was dead and hopeless.
Prerna Sodhi, Divyank Chaudhary and Saurav Das: My seniors from college who got their scooties out and were stationed constantly for the first five days.
Second Chance School, Ritinjali: Eight boys from this NGO who came about to help put posters every day after school.
Nandita Mehta and Aruna Bose: For following social media leads when I was on-ground and to pull me up every time I gave up.
Sudeep Chakraborty, Karan Mehta. Deviya Kumar, Rachit Jain, Aman Thapa, Shiv Sharma, Raj Singh, Mayank Juneja, Prachi Johri, Gunjan Ramani, Richa Khurana, Vikas Khurana, Shama Ansari, Johanna Ritz, Mansi, Krishna Yadav, Sanya Sagar, Tohid and Ened Dsouza: For coming by every time they could.
Haqdarshak: For being a great place to work at and being the most instrumental part of this journey.
Husein Harniswala, Priyanka Hosangadi, Amrita Potdar: My dog whisperers.
Divya Parthasarthy and Rohini Ram Mohan and Amrita Arora: For finally finding him!
Poroma from AWBI: For everything.
Maa and Mihir: For believing that he will be found and for letting me go find him.