Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Village dogs

Village dogs are a curious feature of village life.

Every house has one dog, and often it will have several. The dogs hang around aimlessly on the street outside the house, often with the cats with whom they live in peace. Or you see them loitering at street corners. Or running lightly together down the road, like packs of hungry wolves with a secret agenda.

To a city person, used to trained and tame pedigreed dogs, these mongrels –lean and mean, tough and well-fed - can be quite alarming.

But there’re so many of them that you cannot go anywhere without having several dogs run up to sniff you or run circles round you, barking loudly. On the beach, when the tourist season is over, the dogs lying in the sand will get to their feet one after the other and go on barking till you turn away in disgust or fear. On a bad day you can be accosted by a dozen such dogs in turn. And if you are foolish enough to have a dog with you who is not a village dog, be prepared for violence. There is nothing these snarling creatures hate more than a pedigreed dog.

Unlike the pigs and hens and cats, who simply ignore you, village dogs are unable to pass a human being without reacting to his presence in some way. Mostly they do this by barking very loudly.

Dogs curled up and asleep in the middle of the road will get up slowly and bark loudly as soon as they see you. Dogs in someone’s compound will suddenly dart out on to the road and stand about barking. If you’re driving or cycling past they’ll chase you at top speed, barking all the while. And all you need is one barking dog to have dozens appear from nowhere to join in the fun. Sometimes they lose interest, sometimes the whole pack of them will trail after you, barking. If you’re lucky they’ll be distracted by a squawking hen and go tearing after the poor thing.

At night it’s unsafe to go out, not because you know you can get mugged, but because you know you can get bitten by a dog. Late at night gangs of dogs roam around, getting into fights with each other. You can hear the snarling and barking, followed by the shrieking and squealing of the poor victim. And then yet more frenzied barking. On full-moon nights the howling and shrieking and barking is insane.

This barking is what villagers love about dogs and the reason they keep dogs and feed them fish and rice and scraps of leftover chapattis. Without the dogs how will they know if someone is passing by? Or if the cow is eating up the papaya tree? Or if the monkeys have landed on the coconut palms? How will they know if thieves are trying to break in (never mind if burglars are nonexistent)?

Funnily enough the villagers are eternally complaining about the dogs: how they bite, how they eat the chickens, how they bark all night and disturb their sleep. But it’s always the other person’s dog who’s a menace. Never their own.


jayram said...

Dogs cam smell fear- the human body releases some chemicals when scared and dogs pick this up and tend to attack- if you are absolutely fearless and calm (don’t make eye contact) they generally will stop barking- but have there been cases there when they have attacked humans as a pack?

Varuna said...

Not that i know of.