This dog is one of many feral dogs on the campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
But this is no ordinary dog.
She is the dog I think of almost everyday.
Even now. Now that I have been away from India for more than 6 months. Now that I am about to travel south to Mexico. I still think of her.
I think of her and stare at these pictures because she touched my heart and life deeper than most. We shared moments of mutual loyalty. But also more. I watched her struggle to survive and live.
We met one steamy afternoon after I had finished teaching. I was on my way back to my flat when she just appeared in front of me. As you can see from the pictures she was desperately thin. I kneeled down and to my surprise she came over to me and lay on her back. We played together for a few minutes while folks walked by just staring in amazement.
My heart could not get over how beautiful she was. I kept thinking that there must be a way to adopt her. To take her to South Africa where she would live alongside those other spoiled brats I love so much.
Just as I was getting comfortable sitting next to her, she looked at me momentarily, and then walked off. My heart broke. But I did not try to stop her or follow her. But from that moment on I yearned to be close to her. To see her and play with her again.
For days after that I looked to see if I could find her among the many many other dogs that roamed the campus. Then weeks later I was close to where we first met when she ran behind me and jumped up against my leg. It was a beautiful moment. She found me. My heart was beating so hard I could hear it in my ears.
We played for a long time. I talked to her. Loudly. And with love.
This time I walked away. I wanted to go to my flat and bring back bread for her to eat. When I returned she was gone.
When she reappeared a week later her leg was injured. She was very thin and she seemed to be on the verge of dying. She recognized me and we played again. But she was too frail. Her body could not expend even joyous energy. She lay down at my feet.
I could not bear to see her like that so I picked her up and carried her to a diner on campus.
I knew that folks would be horrified that I carried a dog into a diner but I did not care. I bought some food and carried it outside where I put in on the floor for her. To my amazement she just hobbled off after looking at me for a moment.
She was probably scared about being outside of her territory. She was hungry but not ready to just eat out of her territory. I was devastated but decided to look for her in the morning before class.
After many mornings of searching I found her. She was laying just off the curb in front of the main administration building. I could tell she was sleeping so I sat quietly next to her. After a few minutes I woke her and offered her pita bread. She was happy to see me and moved closer for me to pet her.
I did not see her again. I went to Nepal, Malaysia, Singapore, and southern and western India before returning to JNU from Goa. There were just a few weeks left before I was to leave for South Africa in late January 2007.
I thought about my beautiful friend and consoled myself that she probably was better off in that playground above. Two nights before I left for SA I was walking out of the same diner where I carried her into when she appeared out of nowhere. She was bounding and healthy. She jumped up and lay on her back. Her eyes were bright and her body full.
I could not contain myself and just broke down and cried. This beautiful dog had found me, again. She came to say goodbye, maybe. Whatever the sequence of events. I chose to believe that she came to say goodbye to me. And I was grateful but sad that I did not have my camera to take a picture of the healthy dog she had become.
We played. And I was more alive than back then and before. She lived bigger than just life. She survived and loved through it all. And she was loyal to more than just me. Even as I write this I still can't contain what that means to me.
I love that dog. Forever.