The Tail with a Tail

I picked up this stray dog on my way home from dropping off our son at school the other day. I was wearing our daughter in a kid carrier on my back and this pooch kept sniffing at her leg. She would kick him and then he would go around to the other leg, sniff and get kicked. Our daughter thought this was a great game and laughed and kicked. I was not so pleased, and shouted, shooed and kicked at the dog myself.

Dogs in Nepal are not the cute, fuzzy, pampered pets from home. Some people keep them as pets, but usually for guard dog purposes, not lap dog purposes. Generally the dogs are ignored and allowed to live in the streets and propagate the doggie population of Kathmandu. There is actually a time of year that dogs are worshipped in Nepal. Dogs are believed to be messengers of the gods and goddesses and that they guard the doors of heaven. There is a special day to bless dogs during the Tihar festival. The rest of the year, dogs are left well enough alone.

It soon became apparent that this dog was not getting the message that we didn’t really want him around. He continued to play ‘sniff the baby, get your nose kicked’ until we were way out of the neighborhood where we picked him up. Kathmandu dogs are very territorial. You start to recognize the dogs that hang out in each neighborhood. Since there are no street signs you give directions like ‘turn right past the sleeping dog outside the butcher shop and left at intersection with the back and white dog’. Anyway this dog did not seem to play by the rules of turf and continued to follow us.

I was getting a little frustrated we couldn’t seem to shake the dog. The dogs are not exactly the cleanest and I wasn’t too keen on him licking our baby. Also we had been warned about dog bites and had a series of painful rabies shots specifically for that purpose. I started calling the dog ‘Choke’ which is the Nepali word for ‘intersection’ where we first picked him and up, and because that is what I wanted to do to the dog as he continued to follow us.

Choke, tailed us all the way home. Since there is a guard dog in our complex, Choke didn’t follow us in the gate. “Bye, bye, woof” said our daughter, who had obviously made friends with the dog and didn’t want to strangle him like I did. I didn’t give it much of a second thought until I walked out our gate later in the afternoon and there was Choke, sitting and waiting. Again I shooed, shouted and kicked at him but he just trotted along beside me.

Choke was not a bad looking dog, as Kathmandu dogs go. He had the use of all four legs which is something unusual and he was relatively clean. He had cute little floppy ears and a black shiny coat. I began to wonder if he had been someone’s pet at one point and had been well taken care of. I wondered if he had met some other bedeshis (foreigners) before and that was why he had attached to me.

I walked to an entirely different section of town to go to a meeting, through neighborhoods with many other dogs. Choke walked in front of me growling at the other dogs. I wasn’t sure what this was. Did he think he was leading me through the rough parts of town? Was he letting the other dogs know this was his bedeshi? I was kind of impressed with him actually, we had never met before and yet he was willingly following me through neighborhoods that I’m sure he had never been, with hazardous pot holed streets and snarling, barking dogs.

When I got to the meeting Choke had to sit outside the gate again. I thought about him during my meeting. What would Dave say if I told him I wanted to adopt a Nepali dog? Would Choke be ok with our kids? How would he behave with the guard dog in our complex? Could we just keep him inside? Could we get him fixed, de-fleaed and all that? When the meeting ended I was half-wishing Choke had just left and half-wishing he was waiting outside the gate. Choke had left. ‘Well good,’ I thought ‘We don’t need a dirty, diseased dog hanging around anyway’.

I walked home as the sun was setting and the city had the dusty, twilight purple look to it. I half expected Choke to be waiting outside our gate when I got there but he wasn’t, which is too bad, because he was the only friend I had in Kathmandu.