From Beenu to Kashew

Today, as Raj and I walked on the beach, a couple of dogs were “fishing” in a little pool of water, and one of them started running out, towards my direction. And I barely reacted.

So what, you say? Dogs are everywhere in this country. What’s the big deal?

To me this was a landmark moment. It marked, with no fanfare, no racing heart, no freeze, the end of a lifelong fear of dogs.

It all started when I was maybe 8 or 9. With Beenu. He was a mean one. Actually I have no idea if it was a he or a she. Every time I walked home alone, I would take the long route and nearby streets to avoid going past his house. He was always outside, not tied up, and watching the street like a hawk. My heart would pound if I had to go past his house, even with company.

So one fine day, high noon time, found me with a loaf of bread my mom had asked me to get.

As I walked home, the sun high above, I threw caution to the winds and chose our own street instead of the usual next street to circumvent the Satan known as Beenu. When I think about it, I’m reminded of the scene in To Kill A Mockingbird, when Atticus shoots and kills a rabid dog. Not a soul in sight. Except of course the one I prayed wouldn’t be there. It was me, Beenu, and the silent street.

As I neared the house where HE was pacing, I threw furtive looks at him, already regretting my rashness. He probably smelled the fear more than the bread in my hands. Before I knew it, he was charging across the street.

I had the loaf of bread, and I had some change. My brain told me he was after the bread. There was nothing personal here, he didn’t care about me. But did I listen? Nooooo….

Next thing I know, I, for inexplicable reasons, threw the change at him, and ran with the bread. Beenu scoffed at the change, enraged. I have never run so fast in my life!

This being the naptime for all of Pondicherry, not a single door was open. And I was running on the opposite side of the street from where our house was. I ran until I reached our neighbors house across the street, where I could walk in and out any time, no questions asked, stormed thru their door – ironically, to quote a Tamil phrase, like a dog into an open house. Beenu barked outside for a few minutes and left in a huff.

And thus began a lifelong anxiety of dogs.

A visit to a friend’s place with dogs was preceded by a phone call and a request to please put the dog out of sight. I avoided taking walks on streets where I knew dogs lived and ruled. It was like living in Mafia country – always watching for dogs not on leash, listening for the quick feet and looking over my shoulder.

For all my fear, dogs loved me. The more I avoided looking at them, the more they wanted to party with me. My book club host had 2, one of whom wasn’t happy unless he had thoroughly licked my face – he would ignore all the other actual dog lovers in the group, but come to me, directly. Her husband took pity on me, and would take the two out every time we met for book club – on cold, snowy days in Indiana. I don’t think Dashle ever forgave me for that.

But all that started to change when my daughter adoped this little guy. She called him Kashew. A mini weiner, with soft brown puppy eyes and fur so soft. He let me hold him the first time I saw him, almost choking him. I don’t know if it had anything to do with him being my daughter’s – anything and anyone she loves, I love unconditionally. He tugs at my heartstrings. When I went to visit her for a week at her apartment, I not only slept on the same bed with her, but with him as well. I first balked at the idea. But ended up loving every morning, when he woke me up with his face on my face, or slept next to me with his paws around my neck like a little child.

He’s a bundle of energy, sweet, bratty, loving, and with a huge personality for such a little dog. Stubborn (try taking a sock he’s stolen from his jaws), funny (how he hides under a couch in plain view of everyone, but thinks he’s invisible), loving. Did I mention how loving he is?

Jacksonville being a beach town, Raj and I go on the weekends in the mornings for long walks. And there are dogs. I usually have Raj as the buffer between me and any unleashed dog. But today, a dog came running towards me, and I didn’t flinch, freeze or hide.

I believe Kashew did that. Only love can do that and I love this little guy!

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