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Wag the dog

By Nickunj Malik - May 09,2018 - Last updated at May 09,2018

The compound that I live in is infested with domestic pets. In the fifty odd houses around my neighbourhood, it seems like there are an equal number of dogs there. These animals have strong vocal chords and the cacophony they produce when I walk past the villas, is overpowering. 

I do not know how many of you have noticed this, dear readers, but the smaller the dog; the more ferocious its bark is. It is almost as if the canine tries to cover up for its dainty size, by its fierce growl. In fact some of the Chihuahuas — the smallest breed of dogs that are named after the state of Chihuahua in Mexico — are so easily provoked that when they bark, their entire body shakes in fury.

The lane that leads out of my bungalow has dogs only in the houses on the left, so with a little bit of manoeuvring, and following the footpath on the right, I manage to avoid unpleasant encounters. But once I turn the corner, all hell is let loose and this street, in all fairness, should be named “Le Chien” instead of Le Fontaine because whether you understand French or not, this is definitely dog territory.

Mongrels of all shapes and descriptions inhabit this area and a volley of barks accompanies my every step. They run towards the fence and jump on it with their paws, snarling and outshouting each other. My efforts of pacifying them with a “good dog”, “nice dog”, falls on deaf ears and I wonder why these pets have not undergone any training.

Our own Golden Retriever, who was called Zar, followed my instructions perfectly. We lost him a few years ago but whether it was, “stop”, “sit” or ‘stay’ command, he never faltered, not even once.

“It is all to do with the correct tone of your voice,” Zar’s trainer, who was a South African lady, had explained to me. “Used with the right gestures, the animals are bound to obey,” she had emphasised. 

I recall this while walking past the barking dogs. My biggest fear is what might happen if these beasts came bounding out of an open gate. I have left my sprinting days far behind, I am well aware of that. There is not a chance in hell that I can outrun them. “Maybe I should carry a stick with me when I go for a walk,” says the voice in my head. 

My family offers me helpful suggestions like climbing up the nearest tree or asking our driver to follow me in the car, in case I find myself being chased by a dog. I know they are making fun of me so I decline politely. 

But one day my worst horror comes true. Even as I keep to my side of the lane, two extremely angry dogs come storming out of their open enclosure. I get rooted to the spot as they charge towards me. A vision of fourteen injections on my stomach floats in front of my eyes.

“Stop,” I say firmly, holding my palm up.

I imitate the voice of Zar’s South African trainer. 

The dogs cease barking immediately.

“Sit,” I command, willing myself to stop trembling. 

The two dogs sit down. 

“Stay,” I announce authoritatively.

Both of them lie on the ground. 

“Stay,” I repeat, stepping back slowly.

By now the dogs are smiling. 

One of them is even wagging his tail. 

“Good dog,” I murmur, rushing off.

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