Neither side is winning, but the dogs have won me over.
I didn't have pets growing up. Not even a fish. My mother hates all things alive except – but sometimes including – humans. My father sees no difference between animals and kids. He adores them. But clearly not enough to bring one home. I, on the other hand, didn't just love the idea of having a pet, I wanted one. Badly. A real pet, a dog maybe? Which is why I thought, maybe one day, when I'm older, I'll get one.
That's when it happened.
I was attacked by my neighbor’s dog. Okay, ‘attacked’ is a strong word, but he (was it a he?) scared the hell out of me. I was simply walking through our backyard, you know, a usual kid thing to do, minding my own business, when, out of nowhere, he jumped at me. He was barking furiously at me. Up until that moment, I was not scared of dogs. Not even a little bit. But right then, I knew I had to run for my life. So I ran and he chased. I jumped inside the house and closed the door, screaming and crying like a fucking child, because I was one.
The days, weeks, months and years that followed that traumatizing day weren’t easy. I lived my life trying to avoid dogs. I spent most of my childhood inside the house because I was too scared to even walk across the street because who knows where these “vicious beasts” could be hiding! Obviously, people started making fun of me. My folks were worried because their son did not have a social life at all and might die alone because of one dog. I needed therapy. But what did I get instead?
A bracelet. My aunt thought a bracelet she got from a temple would “cure” my fear of dogs (it didn’t).
Then I left home, moved to Bangalore and years later, Mr. Bolt came into my life. He’s a labrador who is always – and I do mean ALWAYS – excited about anything and everything. His human, who is one of my closest friends, brought him into our lives 7 months ago as the cutest little puppy in the entire world. I’m not exaggerating.
Mr. Bolt aka vicious beast plotting the end of the world while puppy-facing the human race into submission
So right now, I’m where I hoped I would be as an adult – not scared of dogs! So maybe one day I could have one of my own, which is the closest I’ll ever get to raising a kid.
If you are an urban adult, you might be wondering why all of this is such a big deal. People have dogs. Dogs are the best. People grow up with their dogs. Well, it’s a pretty fucking big deal to me because I grew up in Kerala and Kerala, right now, is at war. An embarrassing, inhumane war with stray dogs.
Dogs are mainly used as a security device in the state. They spend their lives in a cage or chained outside a house. Their purpose in life is to bark at strangers and scare them off and keep their humans safe. In return, they get food. Not love. Just food. And these are only the imported breeds. What happens to the local ones? They roam around the streets doing everything they can to survive.
On the one hand, we have the neglected, often abused, stray dogs fully in touch with their basic animalistic need to survive. Which is why, on the other hand, we have children whose faces are bitten off by dogs and elders are attacked and killed by dogs in gangs. Although it made national news only recently, this war goes way back.
If you are, say, in the US, and you yell “Look, a dog!”, chances are, the people around will go “Awww, where!” You do the same in Kerala and everyone around you will either run for their lives or pick the biggest stone and get ready to defend themselves.
Political activists ‘send a message' to the animal rights activists. Image source: dnaindia
One could argue it’s because a lot of these dogs do attack humans, sometimes in gangs. One could also argue that it’s because whenever these dogs come near a human, they get hit by a stone. It’s hard to pick a side.
All I know is, the dogs aren’t holding secret meetings and planning their next attack and discussing their war strategies to destroy the human race and take over the world (cats do this). We are the ones with the brains. We are the ones with a civilized society. We are the ones with a government. We can easily decide how this is going to end, in a humane and civilized way.
It’s such a shame that a state that’s so progressive and could easily be the model state for the country in terms of education, healthcare, HDI, women empowerment, can’t figure out how to live peacefully with dogs. Instead we brutalize them.
Seriously, if we can’t live peacefully with dogs, we really, really can’t handle much in life.
Okay, I have to stop writing. The vicious beast has entered my room. His mortal enemy has always been my laptop. Or maybe he just wants some love.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101india.com
By Arjun Raj
Photographs by Arjun Raj / Mandira Kapur