By Dushyant Shekhawat Aug. 13, 2018
Dog is a man’s best friend, and a biker’s worst enemy. Stories about being chased by dogs is to motorcyclists what having famous parents is to Bollywood debutantes – Can you even call yourself the genuine article if you don’t have any?
Here’s how to ruin a good thing. You take the internet, and add YouTube commenters. You take Sholay, and add Ram Gopal Varma. Or if you’re like me, you become friends with all the stray dogs in your neighbourhood – and then get yourself a bike. It’s true, dogs are man’s best friends, and a biker’s worst enemies. No number of treats, cuddles, and friendly greetings will save you from a barking, snapping fury if you commit the sin of riding past a bored dog with nothing better to do. I’ve started taking a roundabout route home, rather than face the nakabandi my four-legged former friends have set up on my street.
It wasn’t always this bad. Among the strays of Churchgate, I used to be more popular than Pedigree. Rani, Tiger, Kali, Pirate, Bhalu, and other strays of every stripe and colour recognised me from a distance, and once upon a time they greeted me with wagging tails instead of snarling mouths. I’d feed them Marie biscuits during the day and chicken bones at night. Our equation remained hunky-dory until the day they saw me riding my bike, after which I became the Rahul Gandhi to their BJP supporters. Our first clash was the scariest, because the traitors Kali and Pirate were the ringleaders of the pack that swarmed out from behind parked cars and chased me down the street like I wasn’t their old buddy, but a strange cat.
Ask any biker if they’ve faced a similar situation, and you’ll probably get an affirmative reply before you finish your question. When it comes to vicious, multigenerational gang wars, even Josh’s Bicchoos vs Eagles don’t have a thing on Dogs vs Bikers. Stories about being chased by dogs is to motorcyclists what having famous parents is to Bollywood debutantes – Can you even call yourself the genuine article if you don’t have any?
My worst one takes place in Goa, when I was unaware my guest house lay in the territory of a feral boxer who led a pack of three strays. I was riding back from a full moon party when he decided my girlfriend and I had not had an exciting enough night, and his gang chased our scooter up and down the street past my guest house gate several times. I was nearly ready to offer them a bite of my leg as cover charge to enter, but thankfully a guy rode past on a Bullet at just the right time, providing a noisier, more appealing distraction. That night, I learned that the Goan people might not care if you ride your rentals drunk or without a helmet, but the dogs have a huge problem with loud engine sounds after dark.
My uncle has tried to scare me off my modus operandi with the story of a German Shepherd in Lucknow that promptly chomped on his calf once he stopped and engaged with it in a staredown.
I’ve learned not to take it personally of course. This is a global conflict. It affects anybody who rides a bike through dog-infested territories. The epidemic has reached such proportions that a quick Google search yields dozens of articles on why dogs chase vehicles, and how to deal with them. Like with anything else on the internet, the advice ranges from impractical (prepare a pressurised can of diluted ammonia to spray on their noses), to naive (ride around with treats in your pocket), to downright disturbing (a baseball bat).
However, I’ve found dogs to be good sports, in that they go hard, but don’t hold grudges outside of play. Which is why my method for dealing with pursuing canines, is to slow down and let them know I’m not interested in their games. Often, they’re excited by the prospect of a chase, and you hitting the brakes is the equivalent of a cricket match ending by D/L method for them. With nothing to run after, they revert back to being friendly puppers, most of the time. My uncle has tried to scare me off my modus operandi with the story of a German Shepherd in Lucknow that promptly chomped on his calf once he stopped and engaged with it in a staredown. Clearly, no approach is foolproof, so it’s going to be the long way home for me.
As long as I’m on two legs, I have nothing to fear. It’s the two-wheeler I need to be concerned about.