Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Dogs Life

To put it mildly, Indians don't like dogs. There seems to be a lot of reasons for this. Some view dogs as demons, others view them as unclean (beyond the obvious fact that they've never had a bath in their lives) due to religious reasons. The fact that so many of them are essentially wild and constantly fighting other dogs for territorial rights or food can lead many to feel they may become vicious towards a human who crosses their path. If you hear a dog howling it means you'll face bad luck. The solution to this is to throw rocks at them. Chase them away. Don't let them come near you.
Coming from a dog loving culture and always having canine companions while growing up, I have zero fear of dogs and a massive sympathy towards the scores of stray dogs I see on a daily basis. It was really hard when I first came here, seeing so many strays everywhere I looked. My heart broke. I had to try to thicken my own skin and realize I can't save them all and I can't change an entire population's view towards them. What I could do, however is adopt a few, figuratively speaking.
Let me tell you the story of Steppy.
He was dubbed Steppy by Lakshmi's daughter Leila, because when he first came to our place, he was limping pretty badly. He's since healed up and for a stray, seems to be a relatively robust dog.  I started off feeding Steppy by throwing food off my balcony. I found that even though he may not get regular meals, he certainly has a particular preferences when it comes to food. Steppy's a pure carnivore. He's the least bit interested in crackers, rotis, or sandwiches, and will only eat chicken or mutton thrown down.
When he first started hanging around, our watchman would go to any means necessary to chase him away. After repeated scoldings from my side, that's for the most part stopped, and Steppy has earned his keep by not allowing any other dog to loiter in our lane.
One day I was sitting out on the balcony, and saw the kids hitting the dog. Steppy was just sort of standing there taking it.  So I went down, and started petting the dog saying "Steppy's nice." Although it took some time for them to have the courage to touch him in a gentle way, they reciprocated and started petting Steppy as well. This has since progressed into Steppy being the "safe zone" during a game of tag between the kids. Everyone has to race and try to reach Steppy before being tagged. The dog loves it.
Steppy has also taken to following me every time I leave the house. If I go to the store, he'll tag along and stand outside the entrance waiting for me to come out. He also escorts me to my pick up point daily where I wait for my office cab. Many mornings he's waiting again at the pick up point when I get dropped off and skips along beside me all the way home, bopping his nose against my hand in a plea for attention.
He really is a sweet dog, and while he may be riddled with fleas and filthy beyond belief, I can't help but feel that we are lucky to have him around. He's served as a tool to help teach Leila and Doni that not all dogs should be feared and that we shouldn't go out of our way to hurt them. Steppy's reward is a safe place to lay, food, water, and attention on a regular basis. He's only one dog, but it's a small difference we can make in this Dog Eat Dog world.

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