The Fearful Friend
Due to the continuing situation of the broken boundary, the K-dogs had ongoing issues with incomers. Most of them they managed to keep at least to the very periphery, if not completely off ashram grounds.
One young fellow turned up one day, though, who somehow kept sliding under their radars. Little more than a few months old at the time of his arrival, he was already long of leg and gangling of gait. A tawny, smooth-haired, doe-eyed male. Despite his timidity and total submission if challenged, there was a determination about him.
Kaneya was put in mind of himself as a pup. Krishna said as much. "That kid's as keen as you when you got here!"
"He's respectful, I'll give him that," harrumphed Kaneya in a gruff undertone.
The youngster had settled in shortly before the new batch of students, and had become a bit brazen about sleeping on the steps of the hall - even venturing in to snooze on the carpet. He knew a good thing when he found it. This was not to last though. Several of the students were very rough on him in the beginning, to get him used to the idea that dogs must stay on the outside of buildings. This was no place for pets.
When Kaneya observed this, he took up post as policeman of the hall verandahs and would chase off the cheeky pup before more human anger come at him.
"Understand, I am doing this for your own good. Some of those young two-legs could hurt you - I'm only shouting."
The kid never answered back. He would just indicate with his eyes, ears and tail that he knew the lesson - but he still kept trespassing! He liked the big, hairy, red dog, and Krishna-ji was truly wise. He loved to listen to his stories of different experiences he'd had on the ashram. Most of the students were okay too. Yes, Kaneya was right about a few of the lads, but mostly they were either indifferent, or actively caring towards all the animals. No way was he going to let any of them near him though.
One lady, however, had a lot of patience and seemed to understand Unidog. He never saw her feeding either of the K-dogs, but she did keep some roti for the black and white bitch , Radha, and then started to offer him some too.
He never let her get near: but if she left it at the side he'd wait till she was several yards away then take the food. She always watched to make sure he ate. He'd never met a human like her till now. Outside the wall had been an intensely painful experience and when he had accidentally arrived through that gap he knew he'd found heaven.
The strange amma started calling to him and using the same word over and over. He came to understand that she was naming him. "Sakhi, … Sakhi…, Sakhi." **
He grew to like it. Over several months, he began to let her get closer. Never to touch, the way she did with Kaneya and Krishna-ji. Sakhi had only ever known human hands to hurt. No matter how soft her presence, he could never cross that level of trust.
Gradually, Sakhi found himself part of the quadrangle pack. The K-dogs, Radha and himself. He knew he was 'in' when Kaneya finally allowed him to accompany in the boundary protection patrol, often ahead of the aging Krishna. Sakhi was permitted to stay in this position by the ashramites because he, like Radha, was quiet and well mannered - despite his propensity for entering the hall.
Sakhi never really lost his fear though. He was an extremely anxious dog - which made him anxious to please, yes, but also flighty and prone to attack from outsiders. For the time being he had found some peace and, for a while, life was as good as it would ever be for the voiceless underdog. His was not a well written script, however, and things were to change.
©Yamini Ali MacLean
**Sakhi is Sanskrit for 'friend'.