Duck and weave
Since she had arrived, Radha found the ashram to be a comfortable place yet still with its hazards. The black bitch on the other fence was extremely offensive. Then again, she did have puppies to look after.
Radha wondered what that must be like. When their mother had gone, she took care of her other siblings as if she were elder and more wise, even though they were all born of the same litter. Not that it mattered much, because they all took off on their own anyway. Still, she'd done what she could and had been content playing the part. It felt natural to her. She would never admit it to anyone, but it seemed to Radha that she had already been a mother.
One day, when the humans all came for their weekly classes at the ashram, Radha spotted one of the mothers carrying a bundle. Watching closely from the bushes, Radha could see that it was a newborn people. It made the same sort of mewling sounds and twisted it's nose in the same way as dog-pups would. Radha's heart beat faster and her eye became soft.
Having made her peace with Krishna-ji and Kaneya, the two senior dogs, she spent many a meal-time sitting on the quadrangle with them waiting for any chance of kept rotis or idlis or rice from the residents. Kaneya paid her little heed but also didn't bother her. Krishna, though, took an interest. Even though he was an ancient dog and had been docked of reproductive equipment, there was still a light in his eye for the pretty little black and white girl-dog. He would even occasionally nudge her as if to make an offer. As politely as she could, Radha would reject these advances. They would lead to nothing.
At the same time, she did not wish to offend the wise old animal. He would tell her stories of different humans who had been and gone at the ashram and how they had affected his life, or he theirs. As much as one could ever consider a sage as friend, he was that to her and if, once in a while, Kaneya got tetchy, Krishna would defend her.
Radha had come to the ashram at a time when a batch of students were close to finishing their course, so never really had much to do with any of them. She did observe, though, how the K-dogs interacted, almost flirted, with the humans and won favours such as extra food treats, pats, and even massages. Radha was a shy wee thing though and did not feel she could ever allow herself to be touched.
Whenever she found herself on the same path as the black bitch, she would do her best to sink sideways into a crack or behind plants in order not to raise any hackles. Mostly this worked but there were a few altercations. Radha was strong of spirit and decided she would not be bullied. The more she bonded with the K-dogs, the more protection she had and Kaneya even would take her side as long as she was on the quadrangle.
Thus a pattern was set up and a steady pace of the days passed until yet another batch of students arrived. By this time, Radha was about twenty months old.
It was a large group, this study batch, with only a few female participants. Among these few, there were two who were not of Indian origin. The older of these took a keen interest in the dogs. Not in a soppy, potty sort of way. Rather, this woman clearly knew and understood the canine culture. Radha observed her talking with the K-dogs and afterwards, they'd talk about how they felt understood by her. This was not one of those bleeding-heart, try-to-change-the-world types. Rather, this amma accepted the way of things and would only interact on their terms. She even knew their language, Unidog. Radha began to listen to the amma herself. When approached she would stay still for a while… but would still not let herself be touched.
There were others of this group who also loved the dogs and Kaneya in particular found lots of friends among them. Even the Man in Yellow was a canine champion. Radha began to finally feel like she belonged as part of a pack. She could feel herself wanting to settle. To have pups. That was only going to happen one way.
Radha had spotted the black bitch, B2, with a very handsome and healthy fellow whose name she had heard being called as 'Daddy-dog'. That said as much as needed to Radha and she determined that he and he alone would be the father of her first litter of pups. How to catch him though? She would have to duck and weave and act all innocent so that the black one wouldn't get wind of it, else there were sure to be jealousies to deal with.
She knew the stud-dog lived somewhere up the hill so had to venture out of her now established territory. It was nerve-racking but also strangely exciting. As it happened, Radha did not have to travel all that far - the male had caught her scent and he found her.
"So, pretty one," said Daddy-dog, "You'll be number three, eh?"
"I'll be nobody's number," chided Radha, "...how come three anyway - I thought it was just that black bitch for you?"
The brown and white beefcake eyed his new conquest. "Hmm, got a bit of sass about you girl. Blackie's number two as it happens. Winkie's my number one and always will be."
Radha looked him coolly in the eye. Smiling her little knowing smile, she turned her back and returned to her corner. Now, though, she strode boldly. She had become a full bitch and was sure, too, that it was a good pairing. There was a glow in her heart and eye. She was destined for motherhood.
©Yamini Ali MacLean