I was walking home from work. The evening traffic was heavy, vehicles rushing past raising dust, behind the wheels, people in a mad rush to get back home.
That is when I saw her, across the road, a tiny figure, slightly bewildered, trying to weave her way through the traffic, taking a few steps forward, then stepping back hurriedly as the cars rushed forward without slowing.
My heart in my throat, I watched her. I wanted to rush forward and pick her up in my arms, but that was just crazy. I’d have only scared her away. The very last thing I wanted to do.
Life as a street dog in India is not easy. Far from it actually. The dogs on our streets live on leftovers they dig up from garbage dumps. They are shooed away by everyone-street hawkers, pedestrians, policemen… Many are injured in hit-and-run accidents, which, if they survive, leave them disabled and even worse off than before…
She managed to cross the road and instinctively, came over to me, as though she had sensed my eyes on her. I bent down and patted her head. She was small, with droopy ears, the softest fur and warm, chocolate eyes. She must have been just over a year old, but her hanging teats betrayed the fact that she had already had puppies. Luckily, she had been spayed afterwards, something I could make out from the tell-tale notch on her ear.
She stood there quietly, letting me stroke her head and tickle her ears. When I took my hand away for an instant, she looked up at once, and I could tell she was hungry. I searched my bag for biscuits or anything else to eat, but found nothing. There were only a few hardware stores nearby and I would have to walk a little ahead to buy her biscuits.
“Come baby…” I told her, and tried to get her to walk with me. But she didn’t want to. Sensing that I had nothing on hand, she started to walk away.
I didn’t want to send her away without getting her something, anything, to eat. But I could think of nothing. In desperation, just to keep her by my side a little longer, I started petting her again, and she stopped. But I could sense her getting impatient.
“Hey, what are you doing here?”
I turned around. It was one of my colleagues, whom I knew, lived in the area. I heaved a sigh of relief.
“Ankur, I want to feed this girl, but if I leave her here to go get something, she will run away. Can you go and get me some biscuits while I hold her here? I think there’s a store down the street.”
“Sure,” he said and walked off.
To my surprise, he came back just a minute later, a stranger with him. The man walked to me and said “You wanted biscuits, right? Here you go” and handed me a packet of biscuits.
“Thanks!” I tore the packet open and started feeding an excited Boo Boo (as I had mentally named her) She ate the entire packet while I spoke to Ankur about how he could help street dogs just by putting out water, feeding them a few times a week, and by just stopping and helping if he ever saw a dog in distress.
When Boo Boo was done, she licked my hand gratefully and walked away. We watched her go, hoping fervently that she would be alright. Please be okay, I whispered in my head.
Happy. Healthy. Safe.
That’s my mantra. That’s what I wish for, for every street dog I meet.
“Please thank your friend,” I told Ankur as we said goodbye.
“Yes, the guy who got us those biscuits… wait, isn’t he your friend?”
“No! I thought he was someone you knew!” Ankur said, surprised.
We were speechless.
Who was that Good Samaritan who had appeared in the nick of time with a packet of glucose biscuits? Had he bought it to feed her himself? Or had he just sized up the situation and acted? I don’t know.
This happened a few weeks ago. Since then, I see Boo Boo regularly and we have even fed her a couple of times. But to this day, I don’t know that man was. In fact, I don’t even remember his face.
But that day, when I went home, I felt that the world wasn’t so bad after all. Perhaps there were more people like him, people who would lay out an old gunny bag for a street dog to sleep on or put out a bowl of water for the birds or rescue a puppy from a gutter.
May their tribe increase.