It was about midnight, and Meeka, the Norwegian traveler I had been touring with that day, and I were parting ways. That day we had toured the famous City Palace and Hindu temples of Udaipur. Then we finished the evening off with hookah and drinks at legendary backpacker hangout Pushkar’s Cafe. The streets were empty, but Meeka insisted on walking home alone. She had been traveling for four months, and I felt confident she knew what she was doing.
“Goodnight” she said as she rounded the corner.
I walked about 30 steps when I heard a shriek, “Jesseee! Help meee!”
I ran around the corner and Meeka was cornered against the wall by a muscular, fierce-looking stray dog. At about 50 pounds it’s one of the largest strays I’ve seen in India.
Meeka was frozen stiff as the canine inched forward growling fiercely.
I sprinted over, positioning myself between Meeka and the dog. The dog was startled for a minute. It backed up a step, and then continued inching forward, growling even more fiercely this time.
Now the rule with dogs is to never show fear. Dogs can sense fear, and for that reason, if you show fear they will consider you as prey chase after you. If you are dealing with an aggressive dog you cannot show that you fear it, you must instead make it fear you. You have to show it that you are the alpha male and will hurt it if you have to.
If Plan A, scare the dog off, didn’t work it’s good to have a Plan B. Plan B was to fight the dog. This dog was about 50 pounds, and if it came down to a scrap a solid kick to the head would most likely send it scampering off. If the kick did not land on target the dog would continue charging, jump up, and bite my arm. At that point with my arm in its mouth I would wrap my legs around it body and grapevine its legs. Given enough pressure this would break the inflexible hips of the canine. At the same time I would apply a rear naked choke on its neck with my free arm. This was the plan. I learned it all from play fighting my German shepherd back home. But just remember my dog was only play-fighting.
That said, I was confident I would win the scrap, but I definitely did not want to get bit by this mangy dog. I should have gotten those damn rabies shots before I left. Hopefully Plan A was going to work.
As the dog came closer I felt my chest tense up and my heart pound rapidly. “It’s time to act,” I told myself. “You must put fear out of the equation. You must become a machine that responds automatically with the correct output to any given input. If you respond with the incorrect output (running away) you and Meeka will get attacked.”
The dog started to run forward.
I jumped back. “I need to run.” The flight instinct was kicking in. “I’m a harmless vegetarian creature with no natural defenses. A dog has teeth and is designed to kill. YOU NEED TO RUN!” the voice in my head resounded.
“GEETTT!” I yelled. I had suppressed my panicked emotional impulse and instead made the logical decision to fire up my emotional aggression.
The dog stopped in its tracks and looked at me sideways. It was confused. It stared at me, studying my new demeanor. The set back was not enough for this alpha dog. It took another step forward and started barking.
I delivered my deepest, raspiest voice, “GET GOING!!”.
The dog stopped again and took a step back.
“GEETTT” I yelled and charged forward three steps.
It worked. The dog ran back about 20 feet. It turned around and continued barking from a distance. I could see up on the ledge there was a female dog that he was protecting. This was causing this territorial display of ferocity. We were ok for the moment, but we need to get out there.
I looked over to my side. Meeka was terrified and standing motionless against the wall.
“Meeka come here. Back up slowly. Whatever you do, don’t run.”
Meeka made a petrifying squeak and started to hurry away.
This was just enough to engage the dog. It charged forward again and stopped about ten feet in front of us. It matched our paces as we backed away.
“Meeka it’s ok, just don’t run.”
Meeka panicked and started running.
The dog attempted to go to my right to get to Meeka. I side stepped to block its path. “GEETTT!!!”
I was eye to eye to with the dog and it was now barking more fiercely. This time it sensed that my charge was fake and was not ready to be fooled again.
It was time to let it know that I wasn’t messing around. I raised my voice and flailed my arms wildly. I took several mechanical and aggressive steps forward. The dog backed up in pace, but continued eyeing me. This move hadn’t won me challenge. I needed to do more. Time for Plan B. Fight the dog. I am going to sprint forward, and if the dog does not run I am going to kick it straight in its lower jaw. Once I commit there’s no turning back. I can fly to Mumbai and get rabies shots tomorrow.
“GEETTT OUUTTT OF HERREE!!!!”
And with that I charged forward. I met eye to eye with dog for the last time. It turned around and ran. This time it did not stop until it was a safe distance away from us.
I turned to see Meeka. She was now wielding a brick. She was about as dangerous as statue.
We backed up slowly. Meeka was petrified. She grabbed my arm tightly, and began babbling some craziness in Norwegian. I grabbed a brick of my own and walked her home.
From that experience I learned that when you walk around at night in India you are supposed to carry a big stick. If you can’t find one find a broken slab of cement from the side walk. If you come across a fierce stray dog all you need to do is raise the stick or brick and yell. Even if you are unarmed raise your arm as if you are going to throw something. These dogs know what the gesture means from being around people on the harsh streets of India. If the dog does not run give it a whack and it’ll get running. Whatever you do, do not run, do not show fear, and demonstrate that you are the alpha on the block. If it comes down to it, let it know that your bite is worse than your bark.