Kaneya the conqueror.
Stretching full length from nose to tail, Kaneya rose and wandered slowly over to Krishna-ji, sniffing at him and muttering something about 'doing the rounds'. That was fine. Today he'd leave Kaneya to the task of boundary checking. The more senior dog had made way for Kaneya, seeing promise in the younger, more robust animal.
Kaneya had arrived through the ashram wall some five years earlier. He was very thin, but in otherwise good condition. Clear, deep, hazel-brown eyes and a springing step, bushy, red tail, curled up and cocky... this street dog clearly knew how to get by. He would not have been more than eighteen months when he arrived. There was not a mark on him though. Krishna thought this quite amazing. Most of the strays who wandered over the rubble of that back wall bore scars from the battle of survival.
Until that day, Krishna had been Lord of the Ashram. He it was who saw off intruders and sorted out the peripheral 'campers'. He well remembered Kaneya's appearance. It was late monsoon, so Krishna had taken himself up the back of the ladies hostel to see what further damage might have been done by the previous month's downpours.
What had been a tumble of bricks was being whittled and washed into a lump of clay, and gradually all semblance of individual bricks in the hillock caused by the collapse was disappearing. This made it all the easier for inquisitive and foolhardy canines to stick their snouts over the boundary.
Krishna soon sorted them out. "Off you go! This is my yard!! These are my people!!! SCRAM!!!!"
Kaneya, though, had other ideas. He looked Krishna straight in the eye with a surprising defiance - yet he made all the body language of submission. "Pranaams, Sir-ji. I am Kaneya. They call me conqueror out there." He tossed his head to the left, indicating the hillside behind. With that he sat. Just like that. No challenge: but neither was there withdrawal.
"This is no place for conquerors. It is a place of peace and love."
Kaneya pondered this for a few moments then asked, "Does God's land not need defenders then?"
Krishna couldn't help himself. He liked this newcomer. He was both strong yet patient and gentle. He knew how to behave. It dawned on Krishna that perhaps he was not a street dog at all. "Do you have humans?"
"I did. One day they brought me to this hillside, then left without me. I didn't understand at first. I thought they would be back. I stayed where I was as they had taught me. They didn't return. Then I had to make friends with other humans down there and show the locals that I was not after their territory. It was starting to get a bit risky though. That's why I came wandering up here. Followed my nose, I suppose you can say."
Krishna was a bit sad. He knew how humans could be sometimes. 'Fine as long as we are puppies,' he thought, 'but then we get grown up and hungry. Or too big for the space'. Impulsively he said, "So you think you can live where there are rules and disciplines?"
"Of course. That is what I was used to. I can work for my keep. I know how to chase off the unwanted."
"You'll have to learn who's who round here. Can't go shouting at all and sundry. No going into buildings either. They'll still use a stick on you if you misbehave, even here." Krishna eyed up the young fellow.
"That's fine sir-ji. I can learn from you, if you will allow."
Thinking this over, the elder blinked and turned. Over his shoulder he said, "I'm Krishna. Keep yourself in order and you will be welcome."
Kaneya knew about keeping order. He remembered his boy and the fun they had and the sorting out of who was good and who was not. He was bright. He'd learn this new place. The old dog was obviously ancient and there could be a leadership place here if he played his tail properly.
Over the next two years, he kept close on the heels of the senior. He found out that Guru-ji was the main man of the ashram and to be bowed to and no barking allowed. Other men and women in orange and yellow were of high status and were to be approached with caution. Some of them were super loving and wanted to pat and cuddle. Others would avoid the dogs.
Kitchen staff ensured food was put out at the end of the day for them. It wasn't long before Kaneya put on weight and turned into a very handsome boy indeed.
All the ground staff were to be treated with care, as they were the ones who would hit out. Once it was clear that the established Krishna had taken this one under his paw, they left off trying to chase Kaneya out. Office staff came and went but pretty much all of them cared for the dogs. There was a bit of a shock after his first six months on the ashram, when some men came and snatched him into a van. He was pricked with something and the next thing he knew he was waking up again in the same spot, but very sore at his back end. Krishna grinned at him. "No kiddies for Kaneya!" he quipped.
Life was good. Kaneya felt he had come to heaven. Then one day a challenge came over the boundary. For the first time he took the lead. Krishna just couldn't keep up. It was a turning point.
From that day, Krishna followed the younger dog. Kaneya had conquered.
© Yamini Ali MacLean