He has the indiscernible breed of free-range canines that populate Indian streets. Unlike in the US, where dogs are pampered companions who attend regular vet appointments and scheduled play dates in the dog park, India’s dogs live fast and hard. With unleashed freedom, they happily trot through traffic, nap under the shade of parked cars, and survive by the laws of natural selection and luck. Their fur contains ecosystems within ecosystems of fleas, ticks, scabbies, and God knows what. Petting one may be something you soon regret.
With my Kingfisher somehow already empty, my waiter stops by and asks if I’d like another. I shake my head ‘no thanks.’ (Wouldn’t want to over-indulge). Moments later another bottle shows up. Oops. Not having mastered the nuance of the Indian headshake (a subtle, side-to-side head wobble that, to Americans, looks like a combination of “no” and “whatev”) still gets me into trouble.
I graciously accept it. (Wouldn’t want to be rude).
Another dog pops out of the dumpster, followed by seven more of his friends. A spotted guy with pointy ears and a long tail notices my grimace and decides to taunt me. Coming close to my table, he sniffs my feet. I brace myself as the pungent aroma of rotting vegetables radiates off of him.
While his buddies swagger off down the sidewalk in search of new exploits, he lays down under my table and contorts himself to scratch some hard to reach places. Ugh.
I finish my beer and decide to head back to my guesthouse before I accidentally order another. The dog follows me out onto the sidewalk. Don’t follow me! Ick— gross!
By block two, he still trots by my side, wagging his tail.
By block three, he glances up at me with a loving gaze.
By block four his sweet disposition grows on me. I can feel we are bonding.
By block five, Piper and I decide we are soul mates. We get each other. I hatch a plan to sneak him into my room and give him a long, sudsy bath.
At the intersection, I wait on the curb for a lull in the traffic, but Piper darts right through it. “PIPER! Be careful!”
Piper waits for me patiently on the other side, and I scold him gently when I get there. Naughty doggie.
We reach my guesthouse and I tell Piper to wait in the courtyard while I run upstairs to find a makeshift leash. He obediently sits and waits.
Upstairs I rummage through my backpack and dig out a belt to use as a temporary leash, and fluff up a little blanket for him as a makeshift dog-bed.
Coming back outside into the courtyard, another one of Piper’s canine comrades trots toward him excitedly. He is carrying something in his mouth. It looks like a diaper. Yep. A steaming, dripping, oozing, dirty diaper.
Piper jumps in and the two of them engage in a friendly tug of war until it rips apart and liquid poop splatters all across the pavement.
I press my hands over my face and stifle a scream while Piper merrily scampers off down the sidewalk with his buddy, in search of adventure in a world filled with endless possibilities.