He is Man’s best friend – not out of choice. They say, the dog instinctively follows Man and where there are human beings, there must be dogs.
There are innumerable people I know who are avowed dog lovers and when their ‘dog’ conversation starts, they can go on and on, even more than doting mothers about their kids. “Ria must have toast with butter and jam, Ruta only toast and salad. I have toast with cheese, but Sultan must have all the toppings. Otherwise, he makes a face and goes ‘gr….gr’”- an ex-Principal of mine would narrate. Her face and expression would be exactly like Sultan, who by now, you have guessed rightly, is the family dog, aptly named Sultan.
Another pet dog would refuse to enter the house or have dinner until her master returned, and woe the evening when the man is out of town. She would keep whining and complaining all night, not touching a morsel of food despite the whole family explaining to her that the master was well and would return in a couple of days.
I have observed that the facial expressions of most dog owners start resembling their dogs’, especially if the pet has been around for a long time – much like old husbands and wives whose love or even lack of it is so mutual that when death takes away either one, the other follows sooner than later. Many dogs follow their masters to death, much like Yudhishtra and his dog. And dog owners never get over the demise of a loving dog. Children, especially, are disconsolate. My brother-in-law has this firm belief about dogs – the master would never go into depression or contemplate suicide, because even if the whole world thinks you are worthless, the dog still places you on a pedestal.
But this blog is not about the pedigreed, tamed and trained pet dog, privileged and pampered. I am talking of the dogs that loiter around in housing colonies, streets, gardens, just about anywhere. In some places they are quite mild-mannered and harmless, just looking for a pat or a bite and then they leave you alone. In one small town I lived, even if someone returned in the middle of the night and dogs were lying asleep here and there, they barely glanced at you and went back to sleep. But not in all places. In my native town, dogs would be aggressive and more so, at night, and chase people returning late from work, causing many two-wheeler riders to lose balance.
The local pedestrian or morning walker finds his or her own way of tackling these strays who frighten and chase them. One friend of mine carries a small stick to ward off hounding canines, another leaves some biscuits in a corner so that they leave her alone.
When we teach active-passive voice, some students only learn the trick of substituting subject with object, so ‘The dog bit the man’ is changed to ‘The man bit the dog’ which we tell them is absurd, but I have heard of bizarre instances where man has bitten dog in frustration or revenge. And there are frightening cases of aggressive strays chasing helpless children into accidents or even deaths.
Strays – whether dogs, cows or pigs – pose a challenge to human beings. That they poop just about anywhere is too much for even Swachh Bharat loyalists. Not everyone is philanthropic or moneyed enough to be able to provide a home to them. Not everyone who advocates protection of animals really acts. Some of us are happy when the dog-van comes and they are taken to the pound. It is another matter that in a few days they are back in their home grounds. In one residential campus where I worked, the guards would catch hold of some monster dogs and escort them in trains to a few stations away. The dogs would miraculously find their way back to the Centre, on foot.
I am sure there are pros and cons to this issue of strays. Culturally, ‘what cannot be cured must be endured’ is ingrained in our genes. Most of us simply resign to the fact that humans and animals have to find a way to co-exist even if it seems far too challenging in an over-populated society where even living with one another is strife and struggle. So, we develop coping mechanisms, turn a blind eye, ‘leave’ and let live or it is survival of the fittest. Indeed, a dog’s life, any which way!