No doubt it’s because I tossed them food, people food that is, but I usually had a pack of dogs following me around Tashiding Monastery during the week I spent there. One used to grab my hand in his mouth while I walked. Another climbed in my lap whenever I sat down on the ground. Since I didn’t share a language with anyone else there, the dogs became my constant companions.
Like many adults who were nerdy and unpopular as children, I’ve always related well to animals. Cats have been my favorite. I love their nonchalant attitude. But India has rekindled my love of dogs as well.
I’m not really a dog person. Purebreds don’t interest me and any dog small enough to fit into a cup just creeps me out. People who treat their dogs like children strike me as off, but that’s not really the animal’s fault. There have been dogs I’ve liked and dogs I’ve been ambivalent about. I can’t recall any animal that I’ve ever seriously disliked.
But dogs that still have a little of their original, wild nature are undeniably attractive. And that’s what I love about these dogs here. They haven’t been thoroughly domesticated. Since I’ve spent a lot of time alone these past few months, I’ve passed a lot of time observing the interactions of dogs and humans. India’s desi dogs are tough and they’re smart. Usually, they’re fairly friendly, but more than one has bared its teeth at me when I’ve gotten too close to its territory. I can respect that. They don’t belong to anyone but themselves.
Even the dogs at the Gompa, where the story goes that monks who can’t reincarnate into a human body will choose to come back as a monastery dog, are independent. They still have a strong wild streak although they are also well fed and treated kindly unlike the street dogs.
So as I move into 2012, rather than the usual New Year’s resolutions, I’ve decided to take my cue from the dogs I shared the week with at the Gompa and live life a little more spontaneously. Don’t worry so much. Things will take care of themselves. Follow my instincts. Enjoy the sunshine. Relish naps. Play with my whole heart. Don’t get too domesticated and belong to the universe.