I have been shamed by my kids into reconsidering my relationship with street dogs.
Sadly, they had understood that dogs are for being stoned. Now you all know that I don’t actually stone the street dogs. I do throw a few stones in their direction when their barking and yelping becomes completely unbearable, but it’s mostly with the intention of driving them away, rather than with the intention of actually hurting them. But then again – when I wake up at 3 a.m. and am unable to go back to sleep for 45 minutes because they are barking themselves hoarse right outside my window, I have to admit that I do wish them dead.
And that’s a terrible thing. It’s not something I can keep from the kids either. They know what that little collection of stones in my room is for. Stones are for throwing at dogs; dogs are for being stoned.
That’s not what I want to teach them. I want them to know and love dogs, the way I do. Did.
I started damage control by just talking to them, telling them that dogs are basically nice and I don’t really stone them, I just want them to stop barking. Then a couple of weeks ago, Mrini declared that she wanted to make friends with one of the many street dogs that hang around outside our house. One particular dog has always been extra friendly towards us, despite getting absolutely nothing in return. So when Mrini said she wanted to pat the dog, I thought I’d let her. Of course that I meant I’d have to pat the dog as well. And since Mrini wanted to pat the dog on his rump, I had to show her the proper way of doing it. Offer a hand for the dog to sniff, then pat him on the head.
Mrini and the dog – whom we now call Socks, on account of the white on the tips of his feet – have since become friends. Socks knows that if Mrini is around he should come over for a chat. I think Socks knows that of the two kids, only one is his friend and that he also knows that the kid is more of a friend than the adults. Anyway, he comes fairly promptly for his petting. It is really quite heartwarming to see – Mrini delightedly talking to the dog, reaching her hand out and letting him sniff it (which she does every time, rather like shaking hands with him) and then leaning forward to pat him on the head while he squints his eyes, smiles, and wags his tail.
Tara is happy to watch. She has said several times that she would like to pat Socks too, but when the time comes, she hangs back. Both of them keep an eye on Socks from upstairs, though, and shout out if they can spot him anytime during the day.
Socks has three particularly bosom buddies – Spotty (because he has spots, which could be mange); Patchy (because he has patches); and Tallboy (because he’s tall, of course – though he also has spots and patches). Patchy is a particularly suspicious-looking creature. He looks a bit like a pirate because of a black patch over one eye, and his small, bright, beady eyes don’t look as friendly as Socks’ melting brown eyes. Plus, Patchy has a patch on his rump which is hairless – either mange, or the result of an injury, possibly in a fight. Altogether a rakish and unprepossessing looking fellow. Tallboy is a little intimidating just because he’s so tall and rangy.
The other day, I was leaving for work when all four of them came up to me. The kids had already left with Amit, so I was on my own. The four canines came and stood in front of me, tails wagging, eyes shining, teeth bared in friendly grins. Socks stood waiting to be patted, but Patchy went a step further and tried to put his paws up on me. Of course I didn’t let him do that (it would probably ruin my nice formal light-grey trousers – I know where all those grimy paws have been!) but I did spend a few minutes chatting with all of them. For a few minutes, they felt like old friends.
I still get boiling mad when they spend all night barking under my window, though.
Sigh. If Facebook had a status for “relationship with dogs” mine would now be set to “it’s complicated”.