From a very young age, I was terrified of dogs. This continued till I was in my mid- thirties. It would annoy my husband when refused to walk further if a dog was spotted at the end of the street. One day I noticed my neighbour struggling to feed her new dog. I discovered that he had been brought to Gujarat from distant Bangalore the previous day and had not eaten even a single treat since then. He was called Max. I gave him some biscuits and spoke to him lovingly in Kannada and within no time he gobbled up everything! This became a routine for the next few meals. Please note, this exchange took place across a protective compound wall!
I had to travel for a couple of days and when I returned, wall or no, Max just ran up to me and before I could close the gate, he was all over me.. jumping, licking my feet, wagging his tail in excitement. I closed my eyes and screamed inwardly in horror and thought I was going to die. Once a little composure returned, I realized that he was only showing his affection. And then there was no looking back. We were buddies and it was sheer bliss to experience the love he offered me unconditionally.
It has been two decades since then and as I pen this, Cody is looking at me lovingly and wagging his tail occasionally. Cody, my son’s dog who was adopted from a shelter, old, starving and deprived of a loving home. Right now I’m visiting my son in Vienna and we’ve become friends.
Yesterday, my son called from work and requested if I could take Cody out for his walk, as he was getting delayed in office. Just as the big job was done and we were returning, there was thunder and it started raining. We were passing by a shop selling beads and trinkets and poor Cody, frightened witless by the din, just leapt inside and froze. He just was not listening to any of my pleas, would not budge from what he perceived was a safer place.
The shopkeeper, a stern German lady, got very angry now and threatened to call the police. If Cody was a pup or a smaller dog, I could have just carried him out forcefully. He is a Pitbull, and so heavy that it was impossible to just pick him and walk away.
I tried dragging him but he would only yield an inch while all the while the lady kept shouting and threatening me. By now the poor boy was shivering ( so was I ) and his tongue was dry with anxiety and fear. I heard the shop lady calling the police and cowered as some passersby laughed. Just then I saw a young handsome couple smiling at me as they walked by. Their warm smiles emboldened me to ask, “Excuse me! Could you please call my dog out? He’s not listening to me, and the shopkeeper is calling the police!” They stopped. Tried every trick they knew , giving a stick, talking to him lovingly. But with no result.
They tried to placate me by saying that even if the police come, they would show compassion towards the dog. That gave me a lot of confidence. By that time, Cody had been dragged out enough so that the shop door could be shut. Still the shop lady would open the door a little and say, “I have called the police!” The rain stopped in a while and thankfully, my son came and as if on cue, Cody got up and walked back home as if nothing had happened!
In an hour’s time, I had experienced so many emotions. The joy of walking Cody, the shock of witnessing his fear, my own humiliation in a foreign land, a random act of kindness and compassion to a fellow human being and the sheer relief that the situation had been resolved on a happy note.
The language of friendship, I have learnt is neither Kannada, nor German…it is just a flow of energy between humans and animals, reaffirming our faith in the invisible threads of love that bind this universe.
Mukta Srinivas is a trained architect, mother, teacher and a keen observer of life and the human mind.