I first met him strolling down the forest path leading to the camp. He stopped and licked my hand as I bent down to pat him. Derrick followed me to the camp and appointed himself as my personal bodyguard.
Who was Derrick and where did he come from? No one really knows, except that he wandered into the camp one day with part of his jaw torn away by the village dogs. People at the camp saved his life and for this he took to guarding the area, and accompanying the horses whenever they were left out for a few hours. I was always greeted by this funny face. I could never figure whether he was grinning or growling.
Whenever I dropped in to spend a week or so Derrick would leave what he was doing (usually hanging out with the horses) to keep me company.
Many a night when I could not sleep and would sit outside the tent looking at the stars, he would quietly sit down at me feet, one paw always touching my foot as if to console my troubled spirit.
Derrick was like a vacuum cleaner. He ate everything I gave him; Peanuts, horse gram, jaggery, dried fruits, rice, dal, chappatis and even a slice of cake. And always thanked me by licking my hand.
But he never spoke to me; it was probably because I was doing all the talking.
Then one night a leopard took him away. His life snuffed out on a moonless night.
How does one remember a four legged critter whose short existence was filled with gratitude and humbleness even though life had been harsh to him?
Thank you Derrick for the time you spent guarding me on those nights when demons came calling.