“Down, Stu! Sit!” I say, as I walk out the gate and carefully close it behind me. Stu pretends to obey, but his eyes twinkle with disobedience and he cocks his head as if to say, wait, you can’t leave me behind so easily, you’ll see! Sure enough, just as I reach the corner of the street, I see a familiar golden brown figure, following, tongue hanging out, laughing, thumbing his nose. Since technically, I don’t encourage him to follow me, he’s never on a leash, so is free to roam, following up interesting scents, sniffing at pretty girls, nosing interesting bags dangling from people’s arms, just glaring at people and trying to be friendly. This last often fails because of his sheer size. He’s a street breed, but somewhere in his make-up is a Labradorfor he’s barrel chested and well muscled.
The other day, he followed me to our local roadside temple. The priest taking pity on me, for Stu, will not budge and will simply pretend to be deaf, when faced with a direct command to go home, let him stay. So there he sat, next to the flower vendor, grinning and frightening the life out of all her customers and even , facing the deity and the arathi at the right time. Guess who followed me round the temple on parikrama? He must be slated to sleep at God’s feet when his life’s work is done.
Stu is the leader of our pack of dogs and he assembled the pack himself. Obama, a beautiful, sleek black dog was his partner in crime and they used to have a fine time barking at other dogs, sliding down the sand piles at a local construction site. Soon, Obama followed him into our colony. Next came Alli [ Alice] a poor, starved little Alsatian cross breed, thin as a skeleton and starved in many ways. She followed my husband home, was kidnapped by rag pickers, found by a neighbour and adopted by Stu who taught her to be street smart. He missed her terribly when she was sent away to Blue Cross to be spayed and welcomed her back enthusiastically. The last is Valli. She’s a nick-eared dog, black and white, loves rats and went running away, nearly four kilometers at Diwali time, to escape the crackers. They are individuals, but are content to follow Stu’s lead, when they see intruders. They seem to have a lot of fun.
On the walk, Stu usually sprays all vehicles and barks at all dogs. He has a girlfriend each, on two different streets, rubs noses with his sister and mother, who were driven out by Pyramid Saimira, but still inhabit the street outside and has a rowdy welcome for some of his cronies, who usually come rushing up to greet him. He has a running feud with some dogs, however and rather than face them, he will trade some insults, bark furiously and run off, tail down, but not yet between the legs.
DON’T FORGET TODAY IS EARTH HOUR DAY- 8:30-9:30 PM- SWITCH OFF ALL LIGHTS AND ELECTRIC APPLIANCES AND PRETEND IT’S THE GOOD OLD DAYS WITH CANDLES.