It’s all about making a choice

It’s all about making a choice

Man’s best friend had chosen company over privilege, writes Sharmila Kamat


At first there was a solitary soul. A scraggly brown mongrel whose bony frame pointed to infrequent trips to the feeding bowl. When curled up as a ball in the driveway the likeness to a splash of muddy water was marked. Hence the name — Mudpack.

Basic biology alerted us to the fact that he was a she. Though resembling a doggie version of an anorexic celebrity with little recall of her last meal, Mudpack packed in a super boost of decibel power for one ostensibly short of energy. Her self-assigned job description was to station herself by the roadside and bark at whomsoever, and whatsoever, passed by. The morning walker was greeted with a short, staccato bark, as if asking, “Hey, how’s it going?” Exchanging civilities with two-wheeler drivers took longer, a few deep-throated growls followed by a couple higher in pitch and agitation. For cars, the disturbance level went up several notches followed by the patter of running paws as she sought to keep pace with the vehicle.
Nothing, however, matched the hullabaloo triggered by cattle straying in the locality.

Initially cautious woofs would give way to shrill demands to cease and desist from trespassing on her stomping grounds. The bovines would respond to the hysterics with their trademark vacant stare, occasionally switching their tails as if to emphasise the pointlessness of it all.

Mudpack’s virtuoso performance came through the day the Rabies Prevention Unit came calling. Agonised howls, exponentially scaling in intensity alerted me that something was amiss. On stepping out, I realised that I was not alone. Almost the entire neighbourhood had answered the canine SOS. Our single-member K9 squad had pooled
in reinforcements. 

Trapped in a large butterfly net, our drama queen watched horror-struck as a lab-coat clad vet approached her. Now was the time for all good humans to come to the aid of their best friend. This is no stray, I pleaded, but a bonafide home protection officer. The morning jogger maintained that she was a good-natured soul who never bared her teeth at anyone. (Actually, she had done precisely this the previous day drawing a surprised,
“Forgotten me already?” look from him. Still, what was a little white lie to help a pal.) The building guard swore she was his pet. Her collar, he explained, had been removed for cleaning. (This sense of ownership was missing last week when he was heard loudly cursing the dog for sleeping in the daytime only to raise hell in the night.) 

Amused at the meltdown on display, canine and human, the vet assured us that the dog would suffer a mere prick of the needle. A touch of paint on the forehead to mark her as vaccinated and she was good to go.
Scarred by the encounter, Mudpack disappeared for a few days. Blissful nights followed with only the occasional car horn shattering the sound of silence. No growls, no yelps, and no incessant barking at recurring intervals.

Then one morning, she showed up to reclaim her usual spot — bang in front of our garage. Only this time, she was not alone. With her was another stray who combined her scruffiness with a general air of melancholy. She seemed to have stumbled onto this charity case in her downtime and let him tag along out of pity.

It took the new kid on the block two days to identify the best handouts in the area and one more to corner them for himself, brushing aside the claims of his erstwhile sponsor. Watching the Johnny-come-lately wolf down leftovers even as Mudpack watched forlornly from a distance became the new normal. If offered scraps, he ate them with relish. If she got a treat, he guilt-tripped her into forgoing it for him. If both were served, he ignored what was his to grab what was hers.

As before, we rallied in support of the daughter of the soil. Nice old ladies tried teaching the bully to share — in vain. The chowhound nixed every effort to sneak food past him. Finally, the watchman’s services were enlisted to drive the interloper off the locality. The rights of the indigenous inhabitant were restored.

It was celebration time — till our resident do-gooder came tagging yet another canine derelict behind her.

As good deeds rarely go unpunished, the sequel, in this case, was true to the original. Only this time, we chose a hands-off approach. Man’s best friend had chosen company over privilege. It was time to cut her loose and let her handle the fallout of her decision.


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