Laali and Whitey are two female strays who live outside our apartment complex. They have been there for a very long time. When we came to live here, they took an instant dislike to my lab Patch. And why not? He's male, he's three times their size and his stark white, large, pointy canines inside a pitch black face are horrifying enough to scare even the strongest heart that crosses my threshold. Of course, at the time, they did not know even a tiny kitten can scare my Patch and make him tremble.
On that day, the day Laali and Whitey became friends with us, Patch was trying to say hello to a baby kitten under a car. Of course, misreading his intentions, the kitten slapped Patch squarely in the face...and instead of fighting back, Patch hid between my knees. All 35 kilos of him. And the next thing I knew is that suddenly, after two years of growling and gnarling, Laali and Whitey, became friends with us.
They are the first creatures who come hopping to greet Patch and me when we set out for our morning ritual. We pet them, give them a scratch behind their ears, pat them on the back, we play for a bit...every morning. It's the same routine.
I don't give them food. I tried to...couple of times. But they just ignored it and chose to walk along with me, curling, rubbing against my leg, nuzzling, running, jumping between my knees, sniffing and kissing Patch, gently, never once showing the initial aggression. No matter how late in the night, or how early in the morning, Laali and Whitey are there, wagging their tails, smiling, running and jumping around to welcome us.
Like clockwork, at the same time, two elderly gentlemen walk out of my apartment complex with some milk, and a packet of biscuits for them. Sometimes they come before me and sometimes they have already been around as is evident from the biscuit crumbs dotting the dogs' muzzles. They drop the biscuits and look from afar as the dogs eat them. But as soon as I reach there, no matter how hungry, Laali and Whitey will leave their food and come to us, walk, play, run and jump around us while I pat them and play with them. As soon as I enter my complex, they go back to their food.
The point I am trying to make here is that dogs, people, plants...any living creature needs food to survive. We all learnt that in school, didn't we? It's not rocket science. But while food is a necessary building block of life, there is also something else, that makes us thrive. And that is love.
A lot of people feed the strays. They place the food near the dogs and walk away. Or they fling biscuits at them. It's an exemplary thing to do, there is absolutely no doubt. How many of us have a heart large enough to feed anything outside the food walls of our house? But I've seen a very few people actually interact with them in any manner. They keep the food and walk away.
All living beings also need a diet of love and touch. A single touch to the head or a tiny scratch behind the ears can make this stray a friend for life. Occasionally, play with it. Throw it a stick...don't beat it with the stick. But yes, once in a while, do give it this precious gift of affection. They need it as much as people in your family.
I can understand that some people are scared of catching some infection or the dog biting them. But it happens very very rarely and we all can sense a crazy dog. In fact, there are higher chances of you being harmed by someone you know. I've petted strays all my life and never have I had this experience of aggression on their part. In fact, both the times I've been bitten, it's been by a home dog. So leave behind that fear. Don't touch it proactively. take out your hand. Allow the dog to sniff you slowly, and then very gently, you can begin by touching it with a finger. In fact, since I am no expert on the subject and if you are interested, you can click here and read more about how to pet a dog. http://www.doggonesafe.com/
So to sum up this post, what I want to say is that food can buy you undying loyalty and respect...but love, laughter, affection and a single touch of affection, well, it can give you a friend for life. Dogs, people...all animals included.