I love dogs. Mine and others' and strays too. T, our Lab, has many canine neighbours who'd like to be friends with her. But since being friends with her requires also being friends with me, Madam will have none of it! Possessive to the core where I'm concerned, she chases away most dogs who come around wagging their tails when we go for our walks.
For starters there's Brownie and Tommy, two dogs who guard our apartment gate and who were already established when we moved in. One of the security guards gave Tommy its name, and the other one is a brown dog, hence Brownie. These two used to be friendly initially, but after T started growling and rushing at them aggressively, they got miffed, and decided to give tit for tat. As a result, the whole apartment used to get roused whenever we took T out for a walk. Brownie and Tommy's favourite haunt was by the gates, in proximity to the security guards. We'd have to pass the gate, which is when the rousing barks and snarls would begin. T, normally a most good natured and friendly dog, would metamorphose into her Hyde personality. Incensed at seeing the dogs in what she considered her territory, she would bark ferociously and strain at the leash, trying to get at them. The dogs returned the sentiment wholeheartedly, grinning and snarling ill temperedly at T.
There was another reason for this, which we found out much later. When our maid used to take T out for her walk, she was allowed to sniff around the dogs' water bowl and food that used to be lying around (something that was a strict no-no with us). Naturally, the strays did not take this kind of intrusive behaviour lying down. Hence the mutual antipathy.
After a time, it grew to be such a scene, that I was forced to ask the guards to shoo away the dogs when we came for our walk. I hated doing this, but there was no alternative. But even so, we'd still have an encounter on the roads, and Marley like scenes with either the Acha or I running where T led, were quite common. Which is when I decided to make friends with the dogs without T noticing.
Accordingly, the Acha would go ahead with T, while I would lag behind. Initially, I tried with some biscuits or snacks, but later just affection was enough for the dogs. They sensed that I liked them. They'd grin at T, and then once she was at a safe distance, wag their tails at me. Gradually, the relationship grew to an extent where I'd shush the dogs instead of shooing them away, telling them that it was only us! Of course, this was also over a course of time, by when both T and the dogs had marked their boundaries and liberties, and had settled down into a wary tolerance that could snap at the least provocation.
Also by this time, lots of stray pups entered the scene- probably sired or borne by either Tommy or Brownie. And T got entirely distracted away from her old rivals. There were newer ones on the scene! But somehow, T's motherly instincts came to the fore with the pups, and though enormously curious about them, she was never aggressive, the way she was with the adult dogs. Also the pups used to scamper away in fright whenever we drew near. Over a period, the pups grew up, but they accepted the suzerainty of T over her domain, and would slink away whenever we came close.
Until, Blackie and Ghost. These were a black dog, and a pale brown shadow of a dog respectively, both quite young, that would materialise out of nowhere when we turned onto a particular bylane. The Ghost would stare at us unnervingly and keep its distance. No wag of the tail here to a snap of the fingers or a whistle, just a quiet watchfulness. As we approached it would disappear into the shrubs by the side of the road, coming out again to stare, once we'd passed.
Not so, Blackie. He was black as the night, and in the beginning, T would almost be on top of him, nosing around for a suitable shrub to pee on, before either of them realised the other's presence. A startled T would bark and make a rush for him, more out of jumpiness than any aggression, and Blackie would yelp and make a run for it, in panic. After a couple of such bark-and-run incidents, both of them grew used to the other's presence. Blackie started to follow T on her route in his area. But his initial scare remained and he maintained a healthy distance from us. He however was responsive to gestures of affection made by me, though very warily in the beginning. The Acha would scold me for that, saying 'you'll make T jealous of her now, and soon we'll have rousing barks here too'. And the very practical Acha would shoo him off if he came too close.
But something about Blackie was very cute and I couldn't help talking affectionately to him whenever he was close. Blackie would prick his ears in attention, and twitch his tail, but keep a watchful eye on T and the Acha. He'd never come and rub himself against me, and lick my fingers like Tommy would. But Tommy was used to affection from the Security guards whereas Blackie was a total stray. Gradually, he came to wag his scrawny tail at my talk, and follow, but he didn't come come close enough for a sniff..
For the last 2 weeks, I'd been traveling and unwell, and had not been accompanying T on her walks. It had been the Acha and T on their own.
Yesterday, having successfully transferred my germs to the Acha, it was he who stayed back at home, while I took T for her walk. In the distance I saw Blackie's silhouette. He came trotting forward. His tail wagged nineteen to the dozen. Clearly he was delighted to have me back. Not so T, who didn't appreciate the sudden closeness. I was torn between saying a warm hello to Blackie and keeping him at a distance from T. If only the Acha had been there! Another day, Blackie, soon. Lets just wait for the Acha to get better, so I can hand over T to him and devote some attention to you. . .