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What I Did with the First Dollar I Earned

Murali Bashyam

Most business owners save the first dollar they make.  It’s usually taped or framed somewhere on their business premises.  You’ve probably seen it before.

Most business owners save the first dollar they make.  It’s usually taped or framed somewhere on their business premises.  You’ve probably seen it before.  

I didn’t do that. 

When I started this immigration law firm 15 years ago, I took the very first check I received from a client and bought Meera, our family’s German Shepherd. 

My sister and I were both living with my parents in Raleigh at the time.  I had just graduated from law school, and was starting a law practice.  I had no money, just law school debt.   So living with the folks made sense.

We had always had a dog growing up.  Our first was a black lab named Tina.  My sister and I were little and living in Canada at the time.  Someone had abandoned Tina by the side of a highway.  She was only a small, scared puppy, and I’m sure that experience resulted in her lifelong fear of cars.  My dad saw her and brought her home in a box.  We kept her, and I named her after my sister’s best friend.

After we moved from Canada to the U.S., we got Ranger, an English Setter.  My homeroom teacher at the time said she had these puppies, and if nobody took them they would be put to sleep.  That scare tactic worked.  I took the puppy pictures to my parents that night and sold them on Ranger.   He turned out to be a wonderful dog.

Many years later, I guess it was the nostalgia of being back home that made me decide to buy another one.   When we lived in Canada before moving to the U.S., there was a German Shepherd that lived across the street from us.  A police dog no less!  It saved our lives once.  It killed a wild wolf half-breed that was coming after my sister and me as we walked around the block.

My dad also grew up with one in India.  I’ve seen the old black and white pictures – my dad, who was very small as a child, with this big, beautiful, majestic, guardian German Shepherd.  I felt every family should have one.  We knew the breed well, and I wanted one that we could call our own.

My sister and I saw an ad in the paper and drove to Sanford, North Carolina to look at a litter of German Shepherd puppies.   When we got there, I can still remember getting out of the car and seeing between 5-7 cute little puppies romping around in the owner’s front yard, which had soft, dark green grass.

We made our rounds, as most people do, going from puppy to puppy to see which one ‘feels right.’  After all, it’s a big decision.  If the dog remains healthy, it will likely be with you for the next 15 years, so you want make sure to buy the one with the right personality. 

By the way, when you are 25 years old, which is what I was at the time, 15 years seemed like an eternity.  When you’re 40, which is what I am now, 15 years might as well be 15 days.

Of all the puppies, Meera was the most aloof.  She didn’t play like the rest of them.  She didn’t even come when we called her. 

Meera was doing her own thing. 

What also set Meera apart from the rest of the litter was her ear.  One was bent at the top.  I asked the owner if that was normal.  He said, yes, it was normal for some Shepherd puppies to have bent ears, and that it would straighten up as she got older.  I believed him. That damn ear didn’t straighten out for years , even making the vets wonder whether it ever would. It did give Meera character though.

My sister and I chose this ‘loner’ puppy and brought her home.  Our mother immediately put her in a little basket.  Meera was that small at the time.  Small and fluffy.  She turned into a rambunctious puppy, not the quiet, aloof one we first saw just a few hours earlier.  And like most puppies, she was mischievous.

As the months passed, Meera’s teething began.  She was always chasing everyone around the house, biting at our ankles.  Those teeth were razor sharp, and her jaws were getting stronger.  But Meera didn’t know any better.  She didn’t know that her biting actually hurt us! 

Ever the disciplinarian, I started locking her in the bathroom when she bit me.  After some whining, she figured out that she didn’t like the closet, and the only reason she was in there was her behavior.  Meera learned, and as the smart dog that she was, she stopped coming after me.  The same cannot be said for the rest of the family! 

In hindsight, we have fond memories of those times.  But in reality, the teething period was painful!

Time went by, as it always does, and Meera grew into an adult German Shepherd.  The teething stopped, and she turned into a wonderful and loving dog.  I will never forget how she would always come to me and press herself against my leg.  So many of my suits had German Shepherd hair all over them, but I didn’t care.  It was the ultimate sign of affection.

After a few years, I moved into a small condo in downtown Raleigh.  I couldn’t keep Meera there, so I left her with my parents.  My dad and mom loved her, and I felt she would be a good companion and guardian to them.  That turned out to be right.  Meera took care of them, and my parents also took care of her.

That little loner puppy with the bent ear was special. 

In her life, she harassed enough postmen, chased enough rabbits, and barked enough at night to piss off neighbors.  Oh, and she hated thunderstorms and lightning.  It’s funny to watch such a big, strong dog turn into a coward at times!  And, as I found out last week, she had gained an affinity for ice cream as she got older.

If Tina saw our child years, and Ranger saw our early teen years, Meera witnessed our early adult years. 

She watched me become very busy as a professional, as my law practice grew from one person to ten.  She experienced my sister getting married and move to Dallas.  She lived through my sister’s first child.   Meera met my girlfriend, Cheryl, who later became my wife.  I could go on.  She was there for all the major events of the last 15 years.  She saw my entire family grow older.  We saw her grow older as well, until her body eventually gave out.

We put Meera to sleep on Saturday August 14th, one day after I turned 40. 

It was time, but even after a couple of weeks it’s hard not to think of what an important part of my life Meera was.

It was nice that my sister, Vidhya, and my nephew, Rohan, were in town and could be there.  It was also nice that the vets came to our house.  Meera died peacefully where she belonged – at home.   I’m sure that Meera appreciated that very much. And I’m sure my dad is hurting the most – he had a special bond with that dog.   We all did, in different ways. And as much of a struggle with sadness it has been over the past few few weeks, it’s also changed my view on life, how truly precious every moment is and how every dollar spent can change the course your life forever.

The happiness that Meera brought to all of our lives was invaluable. She reminded me of those little moments in between the important events and all of the people and pets that are there to share each day with us make up a life.

Meera, Thank you for being a silent teacher and a friend. I hope you’re still chasing rabbits somewhere and having fun.  Rest In Peace my dear friend.

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