A dog’s life

‘A dog’s life,’ written by Ms Lynn de Souza, is about a friendship between three pariah dogs, Moti, Tiger and Rani and their human benefactor, the Pinto girl. It is narrated by Moti from his home in heaven, describing the moments of happiness and sadness, mixed with gut-wrenching episodes that will act as eye-openers to animal lovers everywhere. Ms Lynn de Souza is Director, Media Services, Lowe Lintas and is also the Founder and Chairperson of Goa SPCA (Society for Prevention of Cruelty of Animals). Ms De Souza is very fond of dogs and she had over nineteen dogs in her family over the years, and at one time she had nine dogs together. Presented below is the first chapter of the book, which describes how Moti met his friends Tiger and the Pinto girl.

Iam, or was, a mixed breed dog, often called a mongrel or pariah or just stray dog. In some countries, they refer to our kind as feral. In Mumbai, where I lived, we are also called gauti kutra which loosely translates to “village” or “local” dog. Whatever the term, it implies that we have no pedigree or lineage, and by implication no home and no owners and are therefore not a good idea to have around. Actually I did have an owner, and a proper home, though I roamed the streets whenever I could, and sometimes foraged in garbage bins. No, it wasn’t due to hunger. It’s just that the food and smells there are so much more interesting. I am no longer alive, in the way that being alive usually means, and I am now writing this to you from a faraway place that is actually a lot closer than you think, because you are a human and you need to know the truth. You don’t have to be scared of me or my kind. I am actually a pretty cool guy, and we could be great pals. I can say this now, because once I was very scared of you and your kind. Till I learned to trust and love someone like you. Read my story. Then may be you will learn to trust and love someone like me too! Golu gave me my name. He was a ten year old boy, who picked me up and took me away from my littermates when I was about eight weeks old. As a pup, I looked very cute with my mixed breed terrier type face, and Golu thought that I would make a good companion to Tiger, the two year old resident “society” dog, who lived in his building, “Brindavan”. Tiger was a pariah dog too, very smart and brave, and rather handsome with his pert black muzzle and natty black ticked brown coat. He always walked with a little swagger, his chest out, tail high, and ears cocked, as if he knew he looked good. Before I met Tiger, I had no idea what a real grown up dog was like. The only interaction I had with an adult dog was with my mother, and I think you have a pretty good idea what I liked best about her. So quite naturally when Golu put me down next to Tiger, I went straight for his stomach looking for something to suckle at. What I encountered there was not what I expected. It smelled quite different too. Not the warm sweet scent of milk, but rather the sour pungent odour of pee! Tiger’s reaction was far from the mild indulgent semi-satisfied tummy rumble that I got from my mom. “Excuse me, please,” he growled, and showed me his mouth full of teeth, some small, some wide and a few very long and pointed. “If you want to live around here, we need to get a few things sorted out. I don’t feed you, and I don’t lick you clean. I am the alpha dog, and the first thing you do when you see me is roll over and show me your stomach, got that?” I lowered my head respectfully. He was tough, but he also had a humourous glint in his eye, and once his lips had closed over his teeth, he looked like he was actually smiling. I rolled over in submission and presented him with my stomach to sniff at. He didn’t stop there though, but snuffled me all over, his wet nose and warm breath tickling me so much that I wanted to giggle but dare not. Once finished he appeared satisfied like I had passed some test. He ran off playfully calling out to me to run after him. I scampered after him joyfully. My first lesson in dog etiquette had been learnt. Tiger belonged to Harichander, the handyman of the Shivdasanis who lived as a joint family on the second floor of “Brindavan”. Harichander didn’t stay with them but camped out in two of the car bays at the rear end of the building. He was a wizened old man, with sunken cheeks and several teeth missing from his mouth. He coughed all the time, perhaps because he chewed some brown stuff the whole day, and drank some brown stuff the whole night. He wasn’t really Tiger’s pal. He just kept him as a watchdog to guard him and the other Brindavan servants who stayed in the car bays, since they slept in an area that had no walls enclosing it, and therefore was not very safe. Naming me was about the only thing Golu ever did for me. He loved animals in his own way, but was never allowed to keep a pet, so I guess he thought that he could keep me downstairs as a “society” dog, and pretend I was his pet. Perhaps he was too young then to know what it meant to take responsibility for another life. Besides, I can’t honestly say that I would have had a better existence out on the streets among my littermates. My first month at Brindavan was thoroughly enjoyable. You probably know that play and sleep are a healthy puppy’s only occupation, and I was no different. Tiger and I would roll about in the mud, chase each other around the building, bark and yap, then fall asleep in exhaustion, quite satisfied. Golu would carry me around in his little ten year old arms, tickling my tummy all the time – oh, how I enjoyed that! I loved to nose around all the flower pots, sniffing out the strange smells of bird droppings, cat sprays, left over food, fruit peels, even rat poison. Tiger was always around to warn me about what was safe and what wasn’t, because I usually popped anything that smelled good straight into my mouth. Harichander fed me every day, and off and on the Pintos from the first floor would send me some milk. They had six small dogs of their own, and I would watch the father, the daughter and sometimes the son of the house take them for their daily walks, often two or three at a time. They were very good looking furry but rather yappy fellows, and I longed to be friends with them. But I got into the habit of standing aside and cocking my ears every time they passed, because once when I playfully scampered about their feet, one of them turned around and gave me a sharp snap. Moody snoots! One evening, one of the building cars bumped hard into me while reversing, knocking me down. I yelped and howled in pain, but no one came to check on me immediately, not Golu not Harichander because they weren’t around, and the watchman on duty at that time didn’t particularly care. The Pinto girl may not have been at home, or she would certainly have come, since she was always running around looking after the neighbourhood dogs and cats that were injured, and calling the SPCA van to attend to them. She wasn’t actually a girl, more of a young lady in her early twenties, tall, thin and quiet, and rather aloof from everyone else in the building. Since I was still quite young, the pain went away pretty quickly, and I was able to limp around without much difficulty. My left hip had been injured and twisted out of shape, so I must no longer have looked “cute”, because almost everyone lost interest in me. Golu stopped playing with me, and Harichander stopped feeding me. I grew thin, and gangly. My left hind leg dangled uselessly behind me, and the ribs on my chest stood out. They say that many pups are given to little people as presents, but are often given away or put to sleep if they grow up looking ugly or get sick or deformed. Would I now be sent away too since I was a little of all three – ugly, underfed, and deformed? To be continued in the next issue…