Dog Days

They are fond of dogs in my neighborhood. Most houses sport at least one, some even more: big ones, small ones, some long and short with belly close to ground, tall great-danes, shepherd-dogs, black and beige labradors, various hounds. Golden retrievers brushed silken and shining. My neighbors are rich, with children in the United States or United Kingdom or Singapore. Dogs give and take love in place of their children. Their masters have also adopted dogs outside their gates—street dogs, a dog per house before some houses, two or three before other houses. Dogs behind the gate eat factory-made dog-food; dogs outside eat leftovers from dining tables. An old lady whose daughter lives in Singapore walks nightly to her street-corner and empties a pot for a pack that has claimed the territory. When I first saw, so many dogs ran at her heels and devoured what she poured. Nowadays they start walking with her, then drop out one by one until a surely starved finalist reaches the street-corner to eat her charity.

In the middle of night they rise up in orchestral chorus, and bark and bay, high and low, for many minutes; when sleep is all but destroyed, they fall silent. Early morning, the labrador pup in the front house yelps continuously and draws out any vestige of sleep. Behind our home, their dog is always chained in their backyard; his constant complaining nags more us than them. Sometimes, from a close distance, a melancholic one wails in such lamentation for God knows what, he submerges the neighborhood in depression. Just now, a man walked his untrained dog without a leash on our street; his dog attacked the labrador; soon other dogs arrived and each attacked each—their bark and snarl tore the silence in my study.

Someone once tried to get the city corporation to take away the street dogs. The neighborhood reacted swiftly and put collars on all of them. The dogs are here to stay. I’d miss them if they go—I think. Up where my street bends left, a thin one with white streaks on a black coat trots up when I approach. He walks close by my heels for some time, always looking up at me, unnerving me with human-like expressions changing from questioning to conversational; when the next one’s territory comes up, he returns to his base back in the middle of the street. On First Main, a black fellow looks nervously, but gains courage and growls showing sharp teeth when the small brown pet behind the gate runs up barking fearfully: fearful because he sounds like he’ll tear his throat, and because he runs full speed slipping and sliding until he is one inch from the bars and it appears he might break his snout. Both of them will not make friends with me. The big pack at First Cross looked downright nasty when I was new and when I walked Duke past them. Duke died last month; now they lie and only lift a brow and register my lone passage.

It Is alright. In this neat place with its two gardens and its lovely houses, I have grown to accept these chaps. I haven’t heard so far that any of them bit a human, however seriously they snap their teeth at each other.

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