The Dog We Stole is the definitive biography of Her Majesty Begum Pathumma. Read earlier episodes of the series on the TDWS page.
In the world outside our balcony, beyond the tree, nonchalant Mr. P. Rao and the quiet street flowing north towards a deadend, lies a bungalow from the 1900s. There, in the bungalow where the past hides, live many kinds of tails attached to dogs. I’ve counted nine when the house owner, a man in his sixties, takes one of them along on his daily morning walks.
There is Little Lily, the white one with faint cream patches and the classic upturned tail. Look at her wade up the street in elegant, easy strokes all the way to the main road. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the Tuxedo Parade, a quartet of black dogs with insignificant splashes of white on their tails. They are practicing their tightrope stunt along the low compound wall that’s given up on life, and sways like a drunkard under their weight. The Brown Sugar Siblings, Jaggery, Molasses and Demerara are what your mother warned you about. They behave like junkies, dangerously impulsive and yet enviably carefree. Their tails tell tales of fights lost and won. Finally, there is Pirate, the three-legged tailless German Shepherd who has retired from a lifetime of adventure.
Our balcony and the bungalow stand facing each other, desperate like lovers on either banks of this peaceful street. The sharp silence of the tarred street breaks each time someone veers off the main road into this cul-de-sac. Little Lily is at her station by the lamp post where the street joins the main road. With the incoming movement detected, she runs back to the house to alert the pack. At this point, Pathu is busy making notes on her Mr. P. Rao beat. Before Little Lily can reach her peeps, from the vantage point on our balcony, Pathu is the first to sound the alarm. But Echo is curled up under the human’s work table, dreaming of dehydrated neck discs of beef. And he is not keen to be the first to react. He waits for the momentum to build before moving a muscle.
Meanwhile, Little Lily has gone up and over the compound wall though most of the crew is already out on the street. The Tuxedo Parade has lined up on the precarious compound wall. The Brown Sugar Siblings are charging up the street, unmindful of the nature of the problem. Pirate opens the gate and walks out peacefully, to be present when the problem presents itself. Little Lily, having informed everyone concerned, unable to contain her thrill, pole vaults over the wall and lets out a final call. That’s when Echo switches on. From his spot under the human’s table where he is warming his bum, he leaps out, sending the human’s laptop, table lamp and work screen into a giggling fit. He picks up pace running towards Little Lily’s voice, fur raised like a porcupine and a bark gurgling up his snout, ready to be released.
When he hears Echo and Pathu deliver their duet, he looks up at our balcony to see the new entrants in the sky.
The scooter is fitted with a steel trunk painted green. The driver wears a green plaid flat cap. The bread and baked goods seller who turned the corner is in the least affected by their cacophony. He goes about his business as usual. The slow rhythmic whir of his two-wheeler suggests that he knows that these are just dogs protecting their territory. When he hears Echo and Pathu deliver their duet, he looks up at our balcony to see the new entrants in the sky. He stops to wave at them before offering up baked treats to the ninepins. The sky siblings go berserk with anticipation.
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