My team mate is known for being the resident crazy dog-lady in the office.
Now somewhere out there is a lady with twenty dogs, dog pictures on the wall, doggie slippers, t-shirts with dogs on, crockery with dog pictures, a poster hanging on the wall that says ’15 reasons why a dog is better than a husband’, and a bumper sticker on her car that says “I ❤ dogs“. This lady would look at my team mate and say “Whoa, steady on, I think you might have a problem”.
According to one estimate, there are 170,000 stray dogs in Chennai. So prolific are these dogs that they make rabbits look positively celibate.
My team mate is on a one-lady mission to adopt all of these dogs.
At the Taramani MRTS station, dog packs have adopted the various levels. At the platform level, the dog pack has been growing consistently over the last three years.
We’ve seen puppies grow into dogs and then those dogs have puppies. One particular dog had been named Mini. It was appropriate because when she first arrived on the scene she was a young adult and very small. Mini was joined by a second dog called Friend, so called because he just turned up one day with Mini, as if she was saying “See! I told you there were these automated food dispensers”.
Eventually nature took its course and infront of an entire platform of office workers, Friend and Mini started making babies. Both dogs disappeared for some time but then Mini returned with her new puppy, named Peppy, because she was.
Six months later, Peppy had turned in to a clone of her Mum. Another male dog suddenly appeared. He had a skin condition which caused him to chew out all his black fur so he was named Scratchy and he became the alpha dog of Mini and Peppy, with all the rights that conferred.
One day, Friend made a reappearence, conveniently while Scratchy was not around.
My team mate was cheerfully feeding her pack as normal (minus Scratchy) and as usual a few commuters were giving her puzzled looks. However, Friend wasn’t here for the food and suddenly my team mate found herself front and centre of an x-rated show.
“Nononono! Stop it!” she cried as she flailed her arms around. But it was of no use.
In seconds she was in the middle of a rapidly growing circle of office workers from HSBC, Shell, Ford, Cognizant, Amazon and Verizon who all turned to see what the commotion was. Quite how these dogs managed to time their mating rituals when they had the biggest audience is one of nature’s mysteries.
Friend disappeared once more and Mini was pregnant again. Scratchy was busy protecting his pack from other male dogs that were sniffing around her and Peppy. After the normal gestation period, we reached the station one evening and in another act of nature’s mysteries, arrived just in time for the birthing of Mini’s babies. Scratchy was sitting not far away, licking his lips and looking remarkably proud of himself.
In total, five puppies were born. All were the light coloured clones of Mini and Friend. Not a single puppy had black or even dark fur. It was a little awkward, but Scratchy didn’t seem to notice anything amiss. He was as alert as ever, making sure no other dogs came to bother Mini and ‘his’ puppies.
Now, to say Mini was an ambivalent mother is something of an understatement. Normally female dogs will be very protective of their litter. Mini on the other hand, projected an air of indifference around the puppies, as if they were some how inconveniencing her from meeting all the commuters in the evening.
In the first few weeks, she was quite happy to let people pick them up. Often when we arrived at the station she’d spot us, get up, look down at the puppies and then wander off, apparently relieved that the babysitters had arrived for their evening duty.
As the puppies grew larger, they’d crawl across the station, right into the pathway of the commuters. Mini? She didn’t seem to care.
One by one, the puppies start to disappear. We had to hope that it was to various homes rather than the great farm in the sky. Eventually, after about two months, all the puppies had been taken and Mini showed no sign of distress.
Not long after that, another puppy from the ground floor dog pack ventured upstairs to the station level. It was welcomed to the platform dog pack and brought the strength of the pack upto five.
Their entire life seems to revolve around waiting for my dog-crazy team mate turning up at 6pm every day, loaded up with biscuits from the local shop. She has trained them to the point where they’ll stand around in a semi-circle and on the raising of her index finger, they will sit obediently waiting for the biscuits that she hands out. She has the respect and loyalty of the pack.
Now when my team mate doesn’t travel with us there’s a problem. The rest of us never feed the dogs and we most certainly do not have the respect of the pack. However, the dogs know us as being the groupies of the alpha lady and to their mind, perhaps this time she has sent us to them with the daily food.
“Sit!” We’d cry. “No!” We’d snap. “Bad dog!” We’d shout. They don’t listen to us. It’s all a game and the more agitated we become, the more fun it becomes for the dog pack.