Better to keep out
This canine might well bite
Cave canem I say
Better to keep out
This canine might well bite
Cave canem I say
You cannot tell
With whom you will be travelling
On a London bus
About 20 years ago, we drove to Loket, a small town in the western part of the Czech Republic, a part of the country that was once known as ‘Sudetenland’. It was home to a large German speaking minority, which was expelled from Czechoslovakia at the end of WW2.
We stayed in a small but cosy hotel with a fine restaurant. One evening, there was a couple of German tourists sitting at the table next to ours. Their pet Alsatian dog, Harry, was sitting under the table at their feet. We greeted them as they seemed quite jolly. We struck up conversation with them and soon we were clinking each other’s wine glasses.
They told us that they hardly ever travelled out of Europe because they did not want to leave Harry on his own. However, they said to us:
“Once, we visited Kenya”
“To see wild animals?” we asked.
They laughed, and then replied:
“The only wild animals we saw were Africans.”
This unsettled us a bit as did Harry who was, by now, licking our ankles with great interest. Somehow, the conversation drifted around to the Jews of Germany. At that time, the German Jewish community, such as it was, was under the leadership of Ignatz Bubis (1927-1999). One of the couple said:
“Whenever Bubis sneezes, Germany must pay the Jews one million Deutschmarks.”
Detecting a move towards further anti-semitic remarks, my wife said:
“By the way, we are Jewish.”
This brought the conversation to a swift end and also led to the couple failing to meet us for coffee and cakes on the next day, as we had planned earlier in the evening.
In a way, it was good that my wife had stemmed the possible flow of anti-semitism, but I was a bit disappointed. I would have been fascinated to discover how deeply they felt about the Jewish people in Germany so long after the end of WW2.
We never discovered the names of this German couple, but privately we christened them ‘Adolf’ and ‘Eva’.
A couple of years later, we revisited Loket and stayed at the same hotel. As we parked outside the hotel, we saw a couple packing suitcases into the back of thier vehicle. Accompanying them, there was an Alsation dog. Yes, you have guessed right. It was Adolf and (und?) Eva packing up to return to Germany. We greeted each other politely, but not warmly.
IT IS NOT SO OFTEN that I am invited to a dog’s birthday party in Bombay, let alone anywhere else. Yet, early one Sunday morning this February we were picked up by a friend and driven to Marine Drive with its elegant curving seafront lined with apartment blocks, many of which are designed in the Art Deco style.
We joined a group of our host’s congenial friends, all of whom had brought their dogs to the party. Everyone had arrived with snacks for breakfast. The group meets every Sunday and their dogs greet each other like old friends.
While we humans filled ourselves with sandwiches, patties, samosas, cakes (some eggless for strict vegetarians), biscuits, and hot tea, the dogs lapped up icecream. A few stray dogs joined the party whilst crows looked on enviously. Some of the stray dogs had thin string collars with small labels. These dogs are being considered for adoption by dog lovers. Stray dogs, often intelligent and very ‘street wise’, make good pets once they have had appropriate vaccinations.
We had attended our friend’s dog’s birthday two years ago. It was a relatively quiet occasion because the seashore promenade on Marine Drive had been fairly empty apart from occasional joggers and cyclists. This year it was different.
The promenade was chock full of children out for an early morning charity fun(?) run. Swarms of children of school age were moving along the wide pavement, some bearing banners with the names of their schools. There was much shouting and maasti (fooling around). Most of the children were wearing black tee-shirts with the name of the charity for which they were raising money (Terry Fox Cancer fund). At first glance, this seemingly endless procession of kids with banners looked like a political rally.
Some of the children seemed not to know or care about the direction they were supposed to be running. Many of them stopped to pet the dogs and to take photos of each other with the creatures. We asked some children why they were out running. They answered that they had no idea but their teachers had told them to do it.
While the kids were running or walking past us, they made a great noise as already mentioned but every few minutes this was drowned out by powerful motorcycles racing at high speed along Marine Drive. We were told that this also happens late at night and each year this reckless, careless driving (‘rash driving’ in Indian English) results in many fatalities on Marine Drive.
When we arrived at the party there was a thick mist or haze that almost hid the buildings around and far across the bay. By the time we left, having enjoyed the party and all that was going on around us, visibility had improved and we could see across the bay much more clearly, but not perfectly.
I am looking forward to another doggy birthday party in Bombay next year! Take a lead from me: canine celebrations can be great fun.
Mother is vigilant:
A fine family portrait
An obese hound
Lies lazily on a soft mat,
Waiting for morning
Asleep on warm ground
Dog beside a man,
Enjoying a siesta
‘D’ had terrible teeth. Not only were they broken, but they were also worn down in such a way that they looked like an aged rodent’s teeth.
He had worked for many years in a place where there were high levels of atomic radiation. Naturally, he was concerned about how much radiation he had been exposed to over the years. On one of his many visits, he asked me somewhat irritably: “How many more x-ray pictures do you need to take?”
I replied: “I have enough pictures to take out your bad teeth, but not enough to save them.”
D seemed reasonably satisfied with my answer. At least, he never raised the subject again.
Some weeks later, D’s wife, who was also one of my patients, asked me why her husband had to make such an enormous number of visits to my surgery. I explained that the repair work was extensive and complicated, each tooth requiring several appointments. She replied quickly:
“If he were a dog with so many problems, I’d have had him put down ages ago.”