With all due respect to Desmond Morris, I’m a peoplewatcher. And a dogwatcher and a catwatcher and an everythingwatcher. I guess I’m like most other people. Anyway, the variety of dogs I come across and their bewilderingly wide variety of expressions, antics and attitudes is truly amazing.
There is this little puppy in the hutment down the road from where I live. It is tied to the door to keep it from wandering away, but its expression indicates anything but that. It sits self-importantly and all puffed up, and its entire attitude suggests that the house was tied to it to stop it (the hut, not the puppy) from running away, rather than the other way around!
Then there is a group of five dogs that lives three doors away from this little tyke. The hut itself is tiny, and I’m sure there will not be any space for anyone if all the dogs take it upon themselves to go indoors. The five are almost identical – light brown, short, squat and wearing identical collars. They usually sit or lie around the door of the hut – that is when they are not proudly strutting around their territory or harassing some poor cur who dared to stray in. Their master, a dilapidated old man with a sharp tongue and a swift hand, usually hangs out with them at the door. And of course, the six of them eat together.
The black Labrador that lives a couple of streets away is another interesting creature. It lives in a house which has a shop selling hardware and odds and ends at the front, and can be seen lying either at the door of the house or in front of the shop. There is a benign presence about it that is quite awesome. As you look at it, it’s easy to picture a monarch benevolently looking at all his subjects, ready to give out a rich dole should anyone ask for it. The benevolence on his face is unmistakable, and his look of contentment bids you to step softly, lest you disturb a royal rest.
And then there is our very own Red Dog. He is a little pitiful wretch who hangs out in front of our group of flats. Though he is predominantly white with a large black patch, he routinely goes somewhere and rolls in mud that gives him a red hue. And he responds joyously when we call him Red Dog. He is tiny and scrawny, and this despite being quite well-fed by various kindly souls who will feed him scraps but will take a stick to him should he try to venture within their walls. One peculiarity of the Red Dog is that till now he hasn’t understood that the middle of the street is no place for him to nap – the place where he usually sleeps (or tries to, at any rate) is a corner. Many an unwary motorist has come to a screeching halt inches from the startled form of the Red Dog, and yet he remains unmoved. He is back in his position immediately after the motorist passes. And he returns with a rather hurt expression on his face, more self-pity than indignation. The Red Dog has claimed his corner, and the regular motorists are now quite aware of his spot and avoid him rather neatly. But there are novices and newcomers aplenty, and they keep the Red Dog on his toes.
These are but a few of the myriad dogs I encounter everyday, and from every dog I meet, I derive that much of pleasure. There are big dogs, small dogs, tall dogs, short dogs, hairy dogs, smooth dogs, dogs of different colours, quiet dogs, barking dogs, the occasional biting dog, intelligent dogs, stupid dogs, proud dogs, dogs with low self-esteem The list is endless. Give me a street-corner with a dog, I say, and you can keep all your televisions and cinemas to yourself.