By Dr. Elizabeth V. Koshy
We had just settled on the playground of the Amravati University in a huge circle for lunch that day, when we noticed a few dogs, standing a few feet away from us, all looking towards us. A fawn coloured dog stood a little distance away from the other dogs and a lot closer to our group, also looking at us. What struck me immediately was the silence of the dogs.
We were a mixed group. Young Asst.Professors just a few years into the teaching field completing their mandatory first three week Refresher Course, a few for whom this was their second Refresher and a lot of older teachers for whom this course was their third and last Refresher Course to be completed, to be eligible for their next promotion. The local participants used to bring packed lunches from home which they shared with us outstation participants. We bought some snack items from the canteen to share with the locals.
One of the teachers from our group noticed that the fawn coloured dog had some long needles sticking to its throat and that it was in pain. The news caused quite a turbulence among us. A few of us even got up from where we were sitting to inspect the dog. The Amravati University Campus was a large campus with wild boars, wild dogs, porcupines, skinks, mongoose, snakes, gekkos, calotes, varanus and even peacocks. This pack of dogs had probably chased and caught a porcupine. There were six quills sticking to its throat with blood dotting the fawn coloured coat around the edges of the quills.
The dog evidently wanted help. Everyone knew what had to be done — someone had to be bold enough to pull out the quills. No one knew how the wild dog would react. We stood around for a while talking about its plight and the consequences of any action we were to take.
Soon it was time to leave for the next lecture. The break was almost over. The teachers closed their tiffin boxes and folded the pieces of cloth and newspapers they had brought from home to sit on. A few groups of friends had already left by then. I wondered whether I was bold enough to help the dog. It was now or never.
The only dogs I had come into contact with were the dogs at my grandparents’ house, Caesar, Kaiser and Brownie. But they weren’t petted. A family friend did have a dog, but I had never petted it.I was actually very scared of dogs! But looking at the dog in pain, and thinking it might lose its life because of my fears, I was not able to walk away.
I gingerly went up to the dog. I told it to sit in Hindi, “baith” thinking it might know Hindi but the dog didn’t respond. I then tried Marathi, “khali bas”. No response again. I told myself that it was a wild dog and that it wouldn’t have come into contact with humans. I then motioned it to sit. It again did not respond. Very slowly, with my pounding heart in my mouth, I bent forward and tried to reach the quill, keeping a safe distance from the dog, so that I could bolt if necessary. The dog stood patiently watching my every move. All at once I held the quill between my fingers and gave it a sharp pull. The quill was in my hand, red blood at its tip. The dog yelped in pain and I screamed in fright! It scampered away to come back and stand before me once again.
I was more confident this time as I was certain that the dog would not harm me and certain that it knew that I was there to help. I pulled out one more quill and the dog gave another cry, moved away and then came back to have another quill pulled out. A friend picked up courage and pulled out one while I pulled out another. There were two more quills dangling from its throat. Twice more the dog came back– yelping, moving away and then coming back again. The wounds were bleeding but the dog came back till all the quills were removed.
And then, the tension evaporated and joyful cries broke out. People thumped my back, shook my hand and congratulated me saying I was brave. Some people wanted to post the clip they had recorded, on online groups. A teacher from the Zoology Department said he wanted the quills as specimens for his College Laboratory. I gave him five and kept one as a memory in my pencil box. A beautiful thick black quill with a needle like white tip. When we were back in the classroom, the ones who had gone earlier surrounded me! I had become a hero over lunch!
The next day, we once again went back to the same playground for our lunch. A friend pointed out the dogs standing at a considerable distance from us this time. I looked back to see whether I could recognise the dog I had helped. To my utter surprise one of the dogs wagged its tail at me. It was the fawn coloured dog that I had saved!
Dr. Elizabeth V. Koshy is an Associate Professor in English Literature at Dr. A.B. Telang Senior College, Pune, India. Her areas of interest include relationships, environment and women’s issues. Her poems have been published by Sweetycat Press, Clarendon House Press, Gertrude’s Writing Room, Caesurae.org, The Writers Club (Grey Thoughts) etc.