Mmini’s house was in turmoil.

Everyone in the house including her half-deaf grandfather, her father, mother, and brothers and sisters, and her extended family, which included two cats, a rabbit and a cur, was agitated. Even her parrot, which had a vocabulary as colorful as the feathers on its back, was merely prattling today. The goldfish, which would otherwise have concentrated on the feed that Mini’s sister had dropped a few minutes ago, were conferring excitedly among themselves, on this sudden and unexpected tragedy.

Julios, Mini’s pet Pomeranian was missing.

Julios was no ordinary dog. I don’t mean that the dog had six legs and two tails like the biological freaks that grace your local newspaper on and off. She was a beauty. With white fur, a tail that curved gracefully and eyes that looked soulfully into your eyes, she was the closest that the canine world could ever come to an angel and this angel in canine form was missing, leaving her mistress in distress. The family, not including the animal farm, was in conference to finalize a ‘find and rescue’ strategy.

“We should call the police”, started Vicky, the youngest brother. “That is what they do in all the TV serials when someone goes missing.”

“That is only for human beings you bird-brained fool”, chirped in his elder brother Sam, who prided himself on being the learned one.

“May be we should inform the SPCA.”

“Mummy, what is the SPCA?” Inquired the younger one, plagued by a sudden thirst for knowledge.

“Will you both keep quiet and allow us to do some work?” admonished Sheela, Mini’s mummy and turning her attention to her husband, who was trying hard to hide behind the newspaper, shot off the first missile. “How do you propose to find Julios?”
The head of the family seemed quite confused by this sudden turn of events. ” What if Julios had just got tired of us and gone away?” he suggested hopefully.

“I wouldn’t blame anyone for getting tired of you, and it is quite possible she is sick of you but you are forgetting that she loves us all. And do something without sitting there like a frozen moth-eater” she thundered like a wounded tigress.

“Maybe we should call in a private detective” suggested Sam, who had recently graduated from comics to Sherlock Holmes.
So after debating the issue back and forth for over an hour, it was decided to enlist the help of a private eye. The man who presented himself at the Mini residence on the next day had the look of a slithery eel. In his eyes there was the look of eager anticipation that you would have normally seen on the face of a snake which had just chanced upon a well-fed frog. If you had ever seen such a snake that is! After presenting himself as a partner of the Hawk-eye Detective Services, the man settled himself on the sofa and started the proceedings. Pulling out a short pencil and a worn-out pad, he said, ” When was the dog last seen?”

“Friday the 11th”, came the reply in a chorus. Obviously, they have rehearsed this reply, thought the man. It was always a bad sign when everybody in the house gave the same reply, and invariably pointed to a deep-rooted conspiracy. His detective’s mind thought it picked up the notes of well-oiled machinery here. Unruffled, he proceeded, “What time?”

“7.00 a.m.”

“No it was 9.30 a.m.”

“It was after 10.00 a.m.”

“I remember when it was. Grandpa had finished his morning yoga, when we noticed that Julios was missing”, said Sam who was training himself to be like Sherlock Holmes.

‘Aha’, thought the detective, ‘Not so co-ordinated, are we?’

Maybe they were not so well-trained and maybe he would be able to close his case after all. In all these cases it was usually an insider who had committed the crime, and he had a good idea who it might be in this case. Mini’s father, he noticed, always shifted his eyes when talking about the dog. However, a true detective does not give his hand away. Masking his feelings, he demanded to see Mini, who had gone into mourning ever since her canine friend had left her, without prior intimation. Despite his best attempts to insinuate himself with Mini, she had steadfastly refused to co-operate, breaking into tears at the mere mention of the dog’s name. So he had descended the stairs and continued the investigations. Settling himself in a comfortable chair, he closed his eyes and, bringing the tips of his fingers close together, he started the next phase. Like Sam, he had also read a lot of Sherlock Holmes and it gave him an air of seriousness.
“Tell me”, he said, “was Julios ever moody?”

“I am not sure, but she has definitely made everyone here moody” replied Mini’s father, in a rare display of wit.
First off the block, noted the detective’s trained mind but was the response a little too quick? Was there a diabolical, scheming mind here, which was breaking bread with the family before the canine blood was washed off its hands? Let the man talk and he will, sooner or later, give his hand away. This was what Mr.Vaz had learnt in his professional life as a detective and he was not going to let an old man fool him.

“I am sure Mr.George”, he said, “but I repeat the question. Was Julios a moody dog?”

“No, she was an angel, always smiling and wagging her tail in a dainty fashion. Never have I seen a better dog in all my life”, opined the matriarch of the family.

“I think she has been a little temperamental of late,” added Mini’s mother.

“How long before her disappearance was this?” enquired the detective.

“Just before she disappeared “replied Mini’s mother.

After continuing in this vein for another two hours, when he had covered everything except the astrological sign of Julios, the detective left, promising a quick solution to the problem.

Next day, the first of the reports from the Hawk-eye Detective Services arrived in a manila envelope. Marked appropriately with the word ‘Confidential’, the envelope contained a single-page report which stated that at this very moment, as the envelope was being scanned by the family, there were representatives of the firm scrutinizing every Pomeranian in the city with a critical eye. They were spreading out into every street in the city, not to forget the municipal offices, and, the report added ominously, the veterinary hospitals too, just in case. Added to the letter was bill for ‘Rs 5,000/-(Rupees five thousand only)’ to cover the incidental expenses of the troops. The actual charges, the letter concluded would be billed after the mission was completed.

Three weeks into the search, there was still no trace of Julios and the family council was in session once again, to review the progress. While Hawk-eye had maintained a steady stream of reports, and it appeared from their bills that half of the city’s population was now employed by them to look for Julios, there was precious little that had been accomplished. Mr.Vaz, who was making a special appearance at the meeting, assured them that they were closing in on the suspect, and that the cat, or in this case the dog, would soon be out of the bag.

“I think we should consult a psychic, ‘ declared Mini’s mother.

“No, what you need is a Tarot reader. Whenever you have a specific question in mind, Tarot gives you the best results,” added Mini’s grandfather.

Mini’s cousin, who had recently learnt HTML, suggested that they should set up a web site in honor of Julios. Sam, who was a recent convert to the scientific method, argued that they should get a psychologist to uncover hidden motives. It was Mini’s grandmother who suggested the final denouement. Turning to Mr.Vaz, who was seated next to her, she whispered, “Don’t you think you should get a sniffer dog?

Set a thief to catch a thief, like they say,” she added by way of support to her argument.
“Set a thief to catch a thief”, Mr.Vaz, muttered winking at George, as he unleashed the sniffer-dog into the house, the next day. After sniffing around Julios’ effects for some time, and suspiciously circling George a couple of times – which action was duly noted and filed in the detective’s mind – the sniffer-dog set off on a hot chase. The human detective, a little less fit, and by now growing a paunch with all the fees from the Mini household, set off behind the dog.

“I hope they find that rotten dog now,” thought George to himself. His accountant’s mind told him that they could have raised a whole dog farm with the money that was being spent in search of Julios. That dog had cost him a whole lot of money, not to include the torture he had had to undergo.

“It has been a very difficult case”, beamed Mr.Vaz as he sipped the iced tea offered to him by Mini’s mother. Julios was back with her beloved mistress, at last and he was assured of his rightful fees, and honor. His eyes had the same contented look that you might have observed in the eyes of the aforementioned snake after it had feasted on the said well-fed frog. Holding his audience spellbound, he continued, “There was no doubt in my mind that there was a second dog involved somewhere. You will no doubt remember my asking you about the moodiness of Julios. Since there was no lack of human love for Julios, the natural thing to look for was a canine love”
Sam’s eyes widened in wonder, just what Sherlock Holmes would have deduced, no doubt.

“But the difficulty was to trace where Julios had found her love, and that is when the idea of a sniffer-dog came in handy. Like we said, set a thief to catch a thief,” he chuckled. After that, he explained, it was elementary to recreate the events following the disappearance of Julios. The owner of a brown Pomeranian had found Julios hanging around his car when he had gone visiting his relatives. He thought nothing of it when he found the same white Pomeranian outside his house the next day. It was only when he noticed the extreme friendliness between the dogs that he had remembered seeing this particular dog in a distant part of the town.

However, not knowing the address of the dog, he had been forced to give refuge to the dog, under his own roof. Things had been going fine until a couple of days before Mr.Vaz showed up, when Julios, having overcome her passions for the new family, started pining for Mini. Mr.Vaz, showing up at the right time, had presented his credentials and secured the release of the dog. “Needless to say, it was a mission which demanded the best negotiation skills,” he paused significantly looking at Mr. George and finding Mr.George in no mood to compliment him, forged on. “A less experienced agency would have no doubt botched up the issue, delaying the release of Julios, and you can’t put a monetary value on the agony it would have caused you”, he finished looking at Mini’s mother.

“We fully appreciate your effort and it shall not go unrewarded”, said Mrs.George, fixing her eye on the head of the family. George sighed and pulled out the check book, for, when the queen bee commands, who can disobey? Sounds of Mini and Julios gamboling in the garden filtered in through the windows and lightened his misery somewhat.

The End

Doggone by Nag Ramasubramani

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