Kukur Puja is one of my favorite Nepali festivals. It is part of the Tihar cluster of events including Kag Puja (crow puja, yesterday), Kukur Puja (dog puja, today), Laxmi Puja and Gai Puja (puja for prosperity and for cow, tomorrow), Thursday is a series of pujas I’m not as familiar with (Goru Puja, Gobhardan Puja, Maha Puja and Nepal Sambat as explained by NepaliAustralian), and lastly Bhai Tikka (brother puja, Friday). In our household we usually only celebrate Kukur and Laxmi puja and Bhai Tikka.
One reason I love Kukur Puja is because I am a big “dog person.” Luckily P is too, or we would probably have a big problem!
My dad had a black lab named Jack when he married my mom and we had him until I was in fourth grade. I always remember him as an older dog, reserved and calm, and he never minded when my sisters and I would bug him, or lay all over him. Even though he was around when I was a kid, he wasn’t really my dog, he was always my dad’s.
When I was seven years old I started begging my parents for a dog of my own. I whined and pleaded in a way only a seven year old could. I remember that Christmas there was an article in the local newspaper where “Santa” was responding to a young girl named “Joleen” who was asking for a pet for Christmas, giving her a checklist of things she had to agree to do before she would be ready to have a pet. My parents told me that Santa was actually writing to me, and had accidently misspelled my name, and I cut that article out of the paper and carried it around with me, showing it to all my relatives that Christmas and explaining—“I can do #1, and #2, and #3…I promise!”
A week or two after Christmas my dad found an advertisement in the newspaper for cocker spaniel puppies, and he took me to the kennel to check them out. There were little black and white puppies scurrying here and there. One of them tried to eat my shoelaces, and I fell in love. I brought him home and named him Blackie (he was all black with a white stripe down his neck).
Blackie was my constant companion until I left home. We used to go trudging through the backwoods together, covered in mud; sledding down the hill in our back yard together, little chunks of snow and ice matting in his curly hair; he even went on jogs with me as a high school cross country runner, although I’m sure mid-summer 6 mile runs were not his favorite. We dressed him up in baby clothes and diapers (my youngest sister was born the same year as Blackie), brought him along on long family trips in the car, and nursed him back to health when he was attacked by a two ferocious dogs that lived down the street.
Having a dog when you are really young probably helps someone to grow up with a soft spot for dogs, and to not be afraid of them. Various people I know tell me that they are scared of dogs, sometimes because they were once bitten or attacked by one. I was also attacked by a dog once—my friend who agreed to take me to the big “eighth grade dance” had two big dogs behind an invisible fence, and my school friend and I rode our bikes over to his house not knowing the dogs were out. As we started walking up the drive way the dogs charged at us, and my friend had the sense to step backwards behind the invisible fence but I didn’t, and instead put my arms up to protect my face. One of the dogs latched on to my left elbow and started biting, leaving a nasty bruise/puncture wound. I had to go to the hospital and get a tetanus shot, but luckily no stiches. And in true 8th grade fashion, I had a dress with no sleeves at the dance so I could show off my battle scars to everyone all night. But luckily I had a lot of positive exposure to dogs as a baby and small kid, which preempted me from developing any major fears.
After Blackie had to be put to sleep while I was studying abroad in France my freshman year of college, I didn’t have a dog for many years—obviously you couldn’t have one in a dorm room, and when P and I graduated our first few apartment buildings wouldn’t allow pets either. Finally P wore out our second to last landlord, and we were given permission for a “small, quiet, well behaved dog.”
I did a petfinder.com search for cocker spaniels (since that is what I had as a kid, and felt confident I could properly take care of one, “I can do #1, and #2, and #3…I promise!”). I was particularly partial to black dogs, since I had two growing up. Sampson came up on the search results at a rescue in New Hampshire (although they said he is “part cocker spaniel, part retriever” people tell us he looks like all sorts of things, but the key word “cocker spaniel” brought him to us). He was cute, and black, with a white stripe on his neck–like Blackie!—and he was a rescued stray from the streets of Puerto Rico—an intercultural dog! Perfect!
So P and I put in the application, begged our landlord some more, and two and a half years ago Sampson joined our household. Now he is a spoiled little mutt, because P and I nearly treat him like he’s our real baby. He gets momo snacks from P when momos are on the menu, and egg yokes when I’m making waffles, and he already tried a piece of yak cheese when I returned from Nepal.
And every year on Kukur Puja he gets a special tikka, a flower garland made just for him, a new toy, a tasty packet of new treats, and special treatment all day.
So if you have a little pup in your life, feel free to give him some extra love today!