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In Goa, India, Mother Nature rules.
The road crumbled under my feet as I ran up the incline. There is no road surface strong enough to resist the return to dirt in this climate.
Blue touched my thigh with his nose, a gentle tap to remind me he was there. Thick jungle lined our path. This hill had the fewest homes on our route. No neighbors to wave a hello to or children to smile at as they raced by on bikes either too large or too small for them. There was just me, Blue, the burst of vegetation, and this road of rocks. I reached the top of the hill, my thighs and calves burned. Panting, I struggled to keep my pace.
A low growl narrowed my attention onto a black and white street dog in the brush. Ears flat to her head, she curled her lips and showed teeth. Noting the swollen teats hanging low and exposed, I kept moving. "I'm not going to bother you, mama," I said in a steady voice. "We are just passing by."
Blue slowed, and when I patted my thigh for him to catch up he stopped. I turned to look back at him, my senses on high alert. Blue was a mutt the height of a Great Dane with the coat of a wolf and the long snout of a Collie, with one blue eye and one brown. Blue has saved my life more than once so when he stopped, so did I.
I recognized a twitch on his lip and saw the hackles raise off his shoulders and back making him appear even larger. A deep and rumbling growl left his chest. It was answered behind me. There were suddenly three dogs in our path. None as big or strong as Blue but together they looked dangerous.
I'd been warned about this pack. Growing larger by the day, it was led by an aggressive alpha male the color of dirty water. This must be him, I thought, as the largest of the three, his head wide, fur the silt brown of an engorged river, growled at Blue. The compactness of his body spoke of strength and survival. When he barked, the saliva that shot from his mouth caught a ray of sunlight streaming through the thick foliage around us.
The alpha stepped forward, revving his growl like a teenager on a motorbike. The bitch in the brush flanked our left side and when I turned right, two young dogs, their ears still soft from puppyhood, glowered at me.
The owner of the guest house where I lived warned me to take a stick if I planned on running. "Just in case," she'd said with a dip of her head and a flip of her hand. Because of her advice I carried a light but solid piece of bamboo about twice the thickness of my thumb. I tapped it on the ground in front of me as I backed toward Blue, keeping my eyes forward, focused on the alpha but paying close attention to my peripheral vision, watching the dogs to my sides.
When I reached Blue he moved backwards with me, slowly and deliberately. But the dogs followed. We stopped, and raising the stick over my head, I brought it down hard onto a rock. The loud sound and sudden movement spooked the pups to my right, but the alpha male just growled louder.
The two dogs flanking him went crazy barking, the force of their calls lifting their front paws off the ground. The mother and the young ones joined in raising a ruckus that certainly beat mine. Blue, his front paws planted on the road, exposed his teeth and growled, his pitch wavering up and down. He wanted me to tell him it was okay to attack. I could feel his energy bundling up inside him, roiling around.
Soon I'd have no control.
P.S. The dog does not die.
**Beware: If you can’t handle a few f-bombs, you can’t handle this series.**
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