Friday, 6 May 2016

Letting sleeping dogs lie.


A very satisfying Nepal ritual for me has been my early morning (5:00am) walks around Patan, followed by about 30 mintues of yoga looking out on the lovely garden at my apartment.  For anyone who has not been in Kathmandu, street dogs are ubiquitous.  They begin to wake up and bark and roam the streets just at dusk and bark and fight throughout the night.  Just around the time I am out walking (at dawn) they are mostly settling back down for their day time napping.  I have no fear of dogs and so throughout my 17 years visiting in Nepal I have never had any issue with the street dogs.  I just ignore them and they ignore me. 

Weirdly, early yesterday morning on my walk I came around the corner to see a pack of street dogs who looked like they were play fighting with each other;  didn’t seem serious, just a lot of hopping around and barking.  Next thing I knew one of the dogs circled directly over to me and started barking and jumping up on me.  He was biting my wrists through my light jacket (gently biting - seemed more playful than angry) but all the same I did not want him pawing at me and jumping on my legs and back.  So I started yelling at him, which was hilarious since I was saying “dog” and “no” in Nepali over and over again.  That amounts to my yelling out  “kukur” and “china” and the more I yelled the more aggressive he became.  Again I didn’t feel like he would attack me, but he was VERY persistent.  There was no other person in sight and so in desperation I grabbed a rock off the street and turned and flung it on the ground.  That put an end to that, and he reluctantly skulked off to rejoin the other dogs.  I kept walking, but the weirdest thing was that I felt I lost my sense of street safety.  I started noticing the dogs all around the streets and I could feel a sense of anxiety that hadn’t been there before.  I have always maintained that street dogs know if you fear them and they gravitate towards people who are frightened of them.  For that reason having a sense of mounting anxiety was exactly what I did not want to be experiencing.   Eventually I picked up a 3 foot long piece of dried bamboo and carried it with me for the rest of my walk.  I purposefully walked back the way I had come (with my new stick) and when the same dog headed towards me I held up the stick in the universal “I will smack you” pose and he left me alone.  I had a new semi aggressive attitude that while it may keep the dogs at bay, left me feeling like I lost a little bit of my innocence on yesterday’s walk.

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