Dog squads on a run

Two of them, black and hairy, growled in unison. My speed lowered to a shaky 3 km/hr.

With the vague aim of running a half- marathon in some distant future, I started my running practice along a beautiful, arrow straight road by the beach in the coastal town I lived. Within one month, I was running nearly one km at a trot without gasping for breath or collapsing and my fellow runners on the beach road applauded, declaring my progress as ‘impressive’.

Then one day, I got transferred to another town and took up residence in a suburb with no beach roads nearby, no running tracks, only twisty lanes running through private properties. In the end, I chose a route passing between houses set in their own compounds, a stretch of cultivated paddy fields and smallish woods, culminating at the gates of a famous Kali temple.

Trouble started on the very first day. My android app was showing a speed of 14 km/hr when I ran into the first of them, a low-slung Daschund-like half-breed outside a tiled house, who let out a throaty growl as I neared him. Taken by surprise, I slowed down to a walk, a speed of 5 km/hr. That seemed to quiet him down. But I was in no mood to give up so easily. Turning the corner and out of his sight, I picked up speed and went back to 14 km/hr, my feet doggedly thumping the uneven road. But not for long. Howls of protests arose from all the houses I passed, and fearing that any moment one of them would come bounding out of the gate, I went down to a reluctant 10 km/hr.

At the edge of the paddy fields, I ran into the ambush party. Two of them, black and hairy, teeth bared, growling in unison, stepped out from the bushes. My shoes squealed as the speed went down to a shaky 3 km/hr. The duo watched me, still growling, but it seemed to me that they would let me go only if I walked; it was the running that they couldn’t stand.

Putting 100 metres between us, and trusting my old biology teacher’s wisdom that dogs are myopic, I started running again, now at a very modest 8km/hr. At the rate my speed was nose-diving, I would soon be standing still.

Near the woods was a large mansion with high walls and a gate. Outside the gate stood a trampy white dog barking at the house. Answering barks came from inside. I slowed down to a crawl of 2km/hr and approached cautiously. Inside the gate was a well-fed brown dog which was barking back at the tramp outside. But what was this? Their tails were wagging! It was not an argument, but a conversation; an exchange of dog gossip? Relieved to get past unnoticed, I broke into a tentative trot. Instantly the conversation broke off behind me, and an angry high pitched duet ensued in the now all too familiar tone, freezing me in my tracks.

That was when I called it off. I walked to the Kali temple and returned, never exceeding 4 km/hr at any point of time. All my canine critics nodded their satisfaction by wagging their tails when I met them on the way back. I checked my average speed — 4.2 km/hr. I might as well have walked. But I did not give up. The next day, I decided to take the highway, and hoped there were no such things as highway dogs.

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