I jumped out of my bed and ran to the window; well done Reuben, I said to myself. I was right all along, it was Raju. I took my air gun out and popped in a pellet and waited for the scoundrel to settle on the bonnet of my new car. Raju was standing proudly on the bonnet and staring into the distance, like one does, when they finally scale a peak or even a hill depending on their ambition. He then seated himself comfortably on the warm bonnet. I was almost about to cry with joy. How long had I waited for this moment! This mongrel, overfed mostly by my crazy neighbour, had been scratching the sides of my brand new car on his daily ascent onto its roof. He would then scan the terrain and eventually proceed to settle on the bonnet, still warm, because of the recently used engine underneath. Nervous with excitement, I propped my gun on the horizontal section of the iron grill that protected the window, then took aim, choosing a nice spot on the little fucker’s hind quarters. Boy, would he regret warming his butt on my car. I squeezed the trigger.
Raju sprang off the bonnet and was gone in no time. But something held me back from clenching my fist and punching the air. Instead of the nice dull sound you would expect from a pellet hitting a warm-blooded mammal, I heard the sound of metal hitting metal. It was late and the sound of the air gun was pretty loud. I didn’t want some neighbour who had woken to the sound of the gun, to discover me on the street; so I went to bed, uneasy and with Raju on my mind.
My neighbour, was an interesting character, if not crazy. She lived in the house to my left, accompanied by a few dogs. Strictly speaking, they weren’t her pets on account of them being ‘street’ dogs, who throughout the day, roamed in the neighbourhood. Of course, to her, they were her life. She had names for them, she spoke to them in different tones and even allowed them to wander all around the house.
I could reconcile with all of this, save one thing that went beyond my reasoning: I just couldn’t understand how she was okay with these street dogs bringing in their friends. More strays, without proper introduction. If I had to get a new friend home, I would have to give a background or some kind of backstory about our friendship. But these street dogs, their new friends and sometimes even a complete stranger could just nonchalantly plonk themselves in her sofa if they wished to and she wouldn’t even bat an eyelid. She’d christen the new vagabond right away and affectionately begin addressing them with their new names. This was probably her way of gently easing them into her ever-growing family of fleas and canines; She had quite recently welcomed Raju to this family.
So when I decided to accost her the next morning about Raju’s misdemeanour, I didn’t go into the discussion with much expectation. She was quite polite and even apologised to me when I explained what played out every evening. Of course I left out the part where I had attempted to discourage Raju with the help of my pellet gun.
Her apology was followed with a promise. That ‘promise’ almost killed me, quite literally. She said she would ‘talk’ to Raju about the incident. Now the way I see it, if I was in Raju’s place and I had taken to the habit of perching myself on your car and should you complain to my Dad – him being a gentle fellow – he might choose the option of talking to me as a first measure. But I could swear he was a small, tiny winy step away from slapping me silly, for not using the living room sofa instead. Soon as she said that she would talk to Raju, I politely excused myself. I had begun alternating between fits of choking laughter and the realisation that my car would continue to be scratched as a result of her merely having a chat with the dog! Now, my only hope, was if Raju laughed himself to death upon hearing that his only punishment was an admonishing talk from her.
Anyway what did I expect from her in the first place. To stop feeding the strays? Rap Raju on the knuckles of his rat-swatting paws? The truth is I hadn’t thought that far. I had rushed to her after seeing the dent on my car where the pellet had entirely missed Raju’s butt and lodged itself into the bonnet.
I would have to do something myself. I began thinking and plotting ways in which to permanently rid the neighbourhood of Raju. Some were outright impractical while others were simply cruel. I thought of snares, dog alarms that omitted high-pitched sirens, calling an efficient ‘dog catcher’, hiring a security guard, luring Raju away to another neighbourhood, drugged morsels of meat, a carpet of needles and so on. I would execute my plan over the weekend.
It was late Friday night and my friends had offered to drop me home. It had been a rather loud evening and the journey back home, even louder. We had been laughing and screaming in the car as all people do at 2 am when they don’t know when to quit. So when I got off at one end of my street, the silence and eeriness of the neighbourhood took me by surprise. I began walking up the street and soon some stray dogs, who had curiously watched me alight from the car, began growling at me. In moments such as this, you become aware of how many hairs you have on your back and neck. My heart began throbbing wildly and every dog had turned into a bloodthirsty fiend. If I ran, they would bite the softer parts of my legs so I chose to stand still. I ventured a threatening shout but it was met by a volley of growls from the dogs. Not only had they called my bluff, my shout had enraged them further. My heart had stopped now; it had probably frozen just like the rest of my body. Was I going into a coma?
Suddenly there was a frenzy of barking and another dog had entered the fray. They had a long argument of sorts and all of a sudden, the dogs just went about their business like nothing had happened. My saviour turned out to be Raju and he literally walked me home. For those not used to observing canines, this may appear strange. But dogs are known to follow and sometimes guard people that are familiar to them. As I reached my gate, I had this urge to pet him or even hug him, but then I was scared we’d both have a breakdown, so I just left it at that. Once inside my house, I peered through the window, and was not surprised to see Raju making his way to his favourite resting spot. I couldn’t be sure, but he did seem to have an entitled look on his face.
Well, if it’s between my skin and the car’s…