A Set of Four
Radha stretched as much as was possible in the confined quarters under the concrete gridding. It had been a wonderful find, this storm drain down by the new building. Had she not been following a rat scent in the anticipation of a meaty meal, she would never have found the opening. It was well disguised, over by the tool shed.
She could have stayed close to the entrance, but that may have still been dangerous. She could have stayed by the first major junction, far enough in to prevent the larger dogs of the B-pack getting in, but not so far for her to wriggle when she needed respite.
However, she had decided on the middle of the long straight because it afforded more light and air but also was right under the feet of passing humans. She had learned enough to know that they would not be able to resist reaching through to her but at the same time they would not be able to interfere with the puppies. She'd watched how both Blackie and Winkie (B1 & B2) had lost their puppies to passing traffic, snakes and eating the wrong things. This was Radha's first whelping. She intended to make the best of it.
After the first week, she had to start leaving the pups and go in search of food and drink for herself. The kids were voracious milk drinkers and she needed to keep up production. Her weight naturally started to drop away, but she felt good and strong and youth was on her side.
The uncle who found her, and other humans, started bringing all manner of things from the kitchen and fed her by hand through the grating. For now, she tolerated his being this close as the food was welcome beyond barks . At only four weeks old, her brood discovered the joy of a fresh chapatti and they began to welcome the uncle's visits too. By this time also, many other humans had come to gaze at them through the concrete grille. Radha just stared back, a little pensive.
She understood now how the balance between dog and man could be both for the good and for the worse. Instinctively she knew that at some point these humans would want to interact with the brood. She would do all she could to delay that. The little ones needed to learn about survival as INDogs. Apart from food, there should be minimal contact with their two-leg compatriots.
It was this strong will that had protected Radha herself and kept her in tip-top condition whilst remaining free and uncompromised by attachment to humans.
She saw how the K-dogs were. They had become pets and could no longer justifiably be referred to as true Pariah. Radha thought, 'I will be nobody's pet.'
The days passed happily as she watched the four strong survivors blossom. But, Dog! Could they nibble with those milk teeth!! By week five she was starting to get a bit over the whole breastfeeding thing. Whenever she left they squealed, but at least didn't try to follow her. As soon as she returned, they launched themselves at her like it had been 87 years since the last drink.
"Hey you lot, steady on, let me lie down at least!"
By this time, the family had shifted slowly along the drain until they were very nearly at the end of the straight. There was a natural block there due to piping so Radha wasn't worried about the little ones running off and right into the main drainage system. They were, though, beginning to show signs of wanting to come outside the confines of the safe den she had made. They would play chase up and down, up and down, up and down. Never a moments peace. Until they would stop suddenly and drop where they were into an instant sleep.
Oh how she loved these, her first off-spring.
© Yamini Ali MacLean