Have you ever stolen a dog? Or tried to steal one? If you have, you know exactly where this story is going.
Not all of us are guilty of this “petty” crime. But every time one sees a cute little puppy, the thought is likely to cross one’s mind– even if only briefly. And it seems like an easy think to think. Scoop the little one in our hands and whisk it away! But then it is no longer a petty crime. It becomes real.
Have I ever stolen a dog? I might have. Several times in my life. I am either stealing or borrowing them. Mostly, borrowing.
Last month though, I guess I tried to steal a pup.
It all began one afternoon when I raised my head to look up from the keyboard and turned my gaze towards the window. And there she was on the street below, swiftly burrowing into the sand with tiny but purposeful paws.
Something about the moment felt familiar. Many years ago, I had met another pup who had similar energy. I would eventually call her Goose and she would live over a decade of her life with me, filling it with silliness. Goose, yes. A silly name for a silly dog.
All dogs are silly, by the way. Or they let on, so we may be amused. It is almost as though their sole purpose in life is to amuse humans, who seem to have resigned all forms of tangible amusements in exchange for the gratification sought in holding and watching gadgets.
Anyway, my story is about how I tried to steal this pup, who was apparently found by my next-door neighbour on the street.
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The pup, only weeks old, was a wild one. She would run about and play with the neighbourhood adult dogs. And children. The adult dogs sometimes watched her in delight, sometimes snapped at her, while all the children in the hood wanted ownership of the puppy.
The pup, after all, was a white fluff ball. And as a friend once put it, the sight of tiny white furballs makes people want to steal dogs. Please note how Spitz are one of the most commonly adopted breeds in Nepal.
One might say there is a whiff of the representation of capitalism in the way some of us are loyal to certain breeds and flaunt the way we keep our dogs. And there is the representation of horror in the way others keep their dogs chained all day, treating them like monsters who are supposed to guard homes. And there are street dogs, which would be an entirely different saga of both kindness and horror.
I digress again. To return to the main story, the house next-door turned the puppy out because the little girl who lives as a tenant on the ground floor wasn’t allowed to keep a dog. This is the story for most tenants in Kathmandu– you are not expected to keep a dog.
The pup, however, immediately found new owners. Another little girl who lives in a hut across the street adopted the pup. She had been allowed to keep the pup for a specific reason. Her mother left for the Gulf six months ago to work as domestic help. And two months ago, her grandmother passed away. Letting her keep a puppy was her father’s way of making up for the care she no longer has.
The girl started carrying the puppy around like it was a plushy, dangling it by the limbs. It always looked like the bones would snap, for the pup was so tiny.
If the girl ever put the puppy down, it would run about and sometimes show up at our place by sliding under the gate. At first, I tried to steel myself. But none of it was going to work. The pup started showing up daily. And every day, I felt my defenses start to crumble.
I started plotting theft in my head. But part of me knew it was wrong and I felt conflicted. I decided to offer the owners the option of allowing me to vaccinate the pup.
When I walked up to the little girl to make the offer, she was clutching the pup in her arms. I asked her if I could help her get her pet vaccinated.
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“Hudaina,” she immediately refused. And then added, “Sui layo bhane usko ama runcha.” Her mother will cry if we give her injection.
So, where is the pup’s mother, I asked her.
“Bidhesh gayo.” Her mother has gone abroad, she replied, without looking at me, still holding the pup. I patted her head and left.
The pup continued to show up every afternoon, claiming corners of my home like it was hers, sometimes falling asleep on the doormat, sometimes tearing it up.
I started to obsess over her. I asked myself— what if this is Goose coming back home to me? I was torn between wanting to steal and to be fair. But would stealing and giving it a life like the one Goose had had not be fair?
Then one day, the pup did not come. I went to find the little girl to ask. She only said: “There is no puppy”. Chaina.
Then she insisted I let her braid my hair. She ordered me to lower my head and came up with a braid that only a three-year-old could accomplish. Then she pointed at the salt and pepper and asked what happened to my hair.
I told her I am an old woman. And she asked: “Like my grandmother?”
Yes, I said. I patted her head and I left. I decided, a three-year-old should not have to worry about protecting her puppy from being stolen.
(P.S. Puppy– that was what her name became, eventually– is now in Gaighat, adopted by a relative of the little girl.)
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