George N Netto
In the 1970s, I often accompanied my British planter-boss during his inspection of Munnar’s sprawling tea estates. His driver would take me to his bungalow, from where we would set out together. While waiting for him, I invariably faced a problem quite literally — his big and ferocious Alsatian.
Winston was seldom leashed. The apple of the Brit’s eye, he had a free run of the bungalow and I was never comfortable with him snooping around. He regarded every visitor with suspicion, usually greeting them with a low, menacing growl that gave one the creeps.
I earnestly wished the boss wouldn’t leave me alone with Winston, who I often felt would love nothing better than to annex a part of my fundament without further ado. When I mentioned my fears, my boss brushed them aside. Winston had never been known to be vicious, he reassured me. Yet, my unease persisted.
Strangely enough, though I was a fairly regular visitor, familiarity didn’t seem to breed any trust in Winston as far as I could see. Rather, it appeared to generate animosity in him, quite inexplicably. I decided I had to earn the dog’s trust and goodwill somehow.
Usually the Brit’s butler would serve me biscuits and tea while I waited for him in the sitting room with Winston lurking around. I had noticed that the dog always eyed the biscuits wistfully but never came anywhere near them, thanks to its strict upbringing.
One day on an impulse, I quietly tossed Winston a biscuit. He lunged forward and gulped it. I flipped him another and he snapped it up in midair. Lo and behold, several biscuits later, Winston’s tail was wagging furiously in the friendliest manner for the first time ever, his smouldering eyes expressively asking for more. What a dramatic change in his behaviour!
Thereafter, we got along famously. Gone were the nasty growls. Instead, I was greeted with exuberant tail-wagging whenever I visited the bungalow. The butler, however, was quite baffled by my sudden preference for Britannia cream crackers. The plateful placed before me was now invariably empty when he came to remove it, whereas earlier I used to leave the biscuits untouched, drinking only the tea.
It was a well-guarded secret known only to Winston and me. As with humans, the way to a dog’s heart is through his stomach.
Thank God for it.