Sally & the street walker

on bonding

Sally & the street walker

A  part of Bengaluru that would ever remain a part of my life not only because I have lived there, but because it has changed less than the other parts of the city — call it Langford Gardens or Langford Town, or whatever — is the area that lies to the immediate north and south of the upper part of Langford Road, after the hockey stadium.

Admittedly, the main road itself is mad with traffic, like most roads in Bengaluru. But when one goes away from the main road as far as possible and delves into the criss-crossing roads with old English names like Myrtle Lane, Bride Street, Moyenville, Rhenius Street, Rose Lane, one feels the tingle of the old relative calm. And that is where one realises that our canine friends have that uncanny feel for places where traffic diminishes and people surface as human beings.

While I set out to work early mornings, and when I saunter back at the end of the day, these very human friends walk along with me with their tongues hanging out and the tails wagging with unmistakable glee. Well, I probably am wrong in terming them ‘very human’. I should have said ‘very unhuman friends’.

There is no way one can be partial to any one of them. The pressure, however, is strong, the small over-powered one almost always gaining sympathy, but I can never abide the crestfallen look of the others when I play favourites. But then, what do you do with someone who owns you? With an uncanny sense of timing, she knows your body clock and is there at the exact time you emerge out of your gate, and with soulful eyes and brisk swish of the tail, she leaps at you and you almost discern tears of joy.

What do you do when you also realise she is not like the others? She has a bad leg and is not as mobile as her mates, which is of no consequence to the others. After all, they are mere dogs from whom it seems, stretching Darwin’s theory, humans have evolved, those who have no compunction while  standing and staring when a highly embarrassed girl is forced to remove her prosthetic hand at airports in the name of security!

Well, as I have already said, dogs are superior. I remembered the time a long ago, when someone smaller had come calling with the same impediment. I had pondered and ultimately decided to take her to a vet. Fortunately, the unbelievable happened. The operation was successful, and needing post-operative care, I had to dare all the objecting fellow complex-dwellers to tend her at home. But that could not continue. I was debating about her future — on the street or dog orphanage or... till a friend offered to tend her. Years later, she thrives and the friend who owns her terms himself a proud owner!

Well, would I go through the same routine and stand up to the ire of my fellow flat-dwellers? She was loved by the neighbourhood and many passersby would stop a moment to pat her. She also had the ability to isolate friends from strangers. I was one of her favourites, for I had gotten into the habit of giving her a treat every time I exited or entered the gate, seeking her out if she wasn’t there. All I needed to do was call. And from nowhere I could see her hobble across with great felicity on three legs to reach me.

I had to decide sooner or later as I could not get that ‘hobble’ out of my mind. I imagined it was me hobbling. I had finally made up my mind. I would take her, no matter what.

A week intervened that I had to be out of town. I’ll never forget that morning of my return. The watchman let me in and pointed a finger at her. Nothing unusual, for she often slept in our backyard. I stroked her head as usual and felt the cold body. Sally — that is what I used to call her — was gone. The street somehow wasn’t the same now. Had I waited too long? Or was this going to happen anyway? I don’t know, but even now, after months, my eyes involuntarily seek Sally at her usual haunt.

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