The small street dog that showed unmistakeable devotion to Papaji
Among the hundreds of devotees who made their way to Papaji’s Satsang Bhavan in the 1990s, one was a common brown and black street dog. It was as a small pup that she appeared at the Satsang house where she made herself at home, and she was given the name “Little.” Devotees often found her among themselves as they lined the lane to greet Papaji when he arrived from his home, a mile away, for Satsang in the morning.
One of Papaji’s devotees, who came early to set up the cameras for filming Satsangs, recalled the morning ritual. “Often Little would be right there at the car park waiting with the rest of us to greet Papaji as he arrived. She would also be inside the ante hall after Satsang, as Papaji made his way to the small room where he met with arriving and departing devotees.”
One morning Papaji noticed Little asleep in a corner and he commented with a chuckle, “She is always in Samadhi.”
Satsang Bhavan was a two-story house in Lucknow’s Indiranagar neighborhood that had been converted to a good-sized hall with several anterooms, a book store, and a roof restaurant. The hall accommodated 300 or more devotees who came each day to absorb Papaji’s words. Little used to sleep under the stairs that lead up to the roof, right inside the main entrance. She must have been born close by and wandered in as a pup.
One devotee often brought bread and milk for Little’s breakfast and thus they formed a personal connection. “Since Satsang Bhavan only offered her chapatis, vegetables, rice, and dal, Little would also frequent nearby restaurants on the lookout for some chicken or mutton,” the devotee said.
Life for street dogs in India is territorial. Little had her territory and there seemed to be no contenders. Like other street dogs, Little roamed freely — no leash, no muzzle, and certainly, no chain. She was loving and peaceful but she behaved like all the other dogs in the neighborhood, playing around, barking, and like other female dogs, she had many litters. Her puppies would live with her under the stairs until they were adopted. Eventually devotees took her to a vet clinic where she was spayed and that’s when she retired from rearing puppies.
From then on Little became even more peaceful and she spent more time hanging around Satsang Bhavan, on the roof, or sleeping on the porch. Still, on Satsang days, she was always nearby for Papaji’s comings and goings.
In August 1997 Papaji’s health began deteriorating rapidly. His last Satsang took place on August 25th, Krishna’s birthday. After that he stayed at home and did not come to Satsang Bhavan again.
By the end of August Papaji had become quite ill. On September 2nd, it was decided that he should be hospitalized. Just a few of the devotees who lived in his house were allowed in his bedroom now. They were gathered quietly at his bedside when, seemingly from out of nowhere, Little appeared in their midst.
The devotees there were stunned. How did Little come through the closed gates and the closed doors? How did she even know where Papaji’s house was? Her appearance was unexplainable. His house was not near Satsang Bhavan and was not in range of her regular rounds or her territory. And did she know that he was leaving for the hospital that day, never to return home? Little had come to say her last goodbye.
Papaji left his body on September 6th. His body was brought to Satsang Bhavan on a gurney that was placed in Satsang Hall so that all the devotees could come and pay their respects. Many circumambulated his body and then sat quietly in meditation. And so did Little. She came, circumambulated his body, and then sat with the meditating devotees.
Papaji’s body was cremated the next day and his ashes were taken to Haridwar to be immersed in the Ganga. The following nights, Little could be found at Satsang Bhavan, sleeping on the cushion that was placed at the foot of Papaji’s chair, where his feet had rested during Satsang.
Little passed away two years later.
It seemed she knew she was leaving. The evening before Little left her body, she approached each of the people who were close to her and in a sudden outpouring of love and joy, she began jumping and kissing each one. That was so out of character for her because in her last years, she was mostly sleeping and she seemed removed and aloof. But with that rush of energy — that’s how she said her goodbyes.
That night was her last. Little was buried in the back garden of Satsang Bhavan where a plate with her name and picture was placed in her memory.