City Zen – For the love of dog

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As man and best friend clash, no one is sure who's the underdog.

As man and best friend clash, no one is sure who’s the underdog.

The times they are a-changing. No longer do young women dread the toughs who leer at them from the crowded steps of New S K Iyengar Bakery. No longer do kids fear that kidnappers will snip off their fingers and make them beg at traffic lights. No longer do morning walkers step out before sunup – most have bought a treadmill.

Thank dog for that.

As man and best friend clash, no one is sure who’s the underdog. Dog-haters growl genocide, arguing that there are too many mutts for comfort. On the other hand, the overzealous Assisi-tants of St Francis whimper that every dog needs a home, never mind that some of us can’t afford the nutritional equivalent of a pack of bow-wow chow.

Wait, aren’t we wagging the dog here?

We know of the ferocious man-eaters that maul kids to death. We know of the yelping nocturnal concerts that keep Mrs Rao up. We know of ill-tempered mongrels that nip at bikers’ feet and throw their foaming jaws at car windows. And who hasn’t stepped on an unpleasant surprise in the grass?

We also know of local heroes who bludgeon dogs to death in defense of their streets and wards. And of euthanistically-minded ones who feed them poisoned chapatis. And of motorists who don’t feel a twinge of guilt for running over a pup – one less to worry about, eh?

Confession: I’m a dog lover. I’m also the husband of a woman who gets airborne at the sight of an unfamiliar dog, and the father of a little girl who thinks all dogs are adorable. I contend that both misconceptions are dangerous for man and beast alike.

A tail-thumping, happy-drooling furball of boundless affection can become a yapping, snapping, rabid-fanged monster – under certain conditions. Ergo, it’s those conditions that we must be worrying about, and addressing.

Should we follow China’s one-dog-per-family example? Or should our corporators be taken to task for every stray pup born in their wards?

Look at the iniquity of our relationship with our proverbial best friends. It’s impractical to give every dog a home when we struggle to make every human being a voting, tax-paying citizen with a regular income and a permanent shelter. And then, strays must contend with well-heeled but poorly socialised curs that terrify and embarrass us in public places. Can you forget in a hurry the oversexed Labrador who makes amorous advances on your knees? Or the Great Dane who irrigates your doorstep? Should they be let off simply because – like the prodigal progeny of our politicians – they come from “respectable” homes? No wonder pet dogs evoke so much class resentment among strays.

No freedom without license, I say. Let dog owners get a permit for every pet pooch and pay a poo-tax for potentially defacing the sidewalks. And while corporators stuff their coffers, they can use those well-earned funds to initiate birth control among the strays of Bengaluru.

Finally, man and dog can be best friends again.

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