Three hours’ drive from Kochin, in southern India is a beautiful village called Palakad. In Palakad there is a very small hotel where my husband and I spent a few days not so long ago, the guest of Mr Suvenda.
Mr Suvenda’s hotel had been his family’s house. It was constructed mainly of mud and unbaked bricks and was over 200 years old. The roof was originally made out of thatched coconut leaves. It had been turned into a welcoming, peaceful oasis where guests could relax, do yoga, pottery-making and meditation. Life in Palakad was unremarkable and slow.
Mr Suvenda loves dogs and mentioned to me that he had three labradors. I was surprised because I hadn’t noticed any dogs in the hotel or the surrounding grounds. I asked him if he would mind showing them to me as I really missed my pets, especially my white poodle, Lucy.
I asked Mr Suvenda why the dogs weren’t roaming round the hotel.
“They like to jump up a bit,” he replied, evasively.
“Oh, no problem!” I told him. “I’m good with dogs.”
Mr Suvenda showed me the way through the private family dining room at the back of the hotel and we arrived at an immense garden overlooking lush rolling fields of rice and fruit trees.
At the bottom of the garden the dogs were housed in large kennels. Mr Suvenda liberated the first one, a dark golden-coloured female which jumped for joy on seeing him. She tore round the huge plot, jumped on Mr Suvenda and then jumped on me, before haring up and down the grass.
Mr Suvenda liberated a second labrador, another (black) female which jumped for joy, jumped on Mr Suvenda, then bounded over to jump on me. The two of them jumped on each other, then made a two-pronged approach and ran rings around me as I sat on a stone wall bordering a shrub-bed. It was hard not to feel dizzy.
It was beginning to dawn on me that these beautiful dogs might be a bit of a handful for nice Mr Suvenda. In fact, as they jumped on to the wall and nearly flattened me in their game of chase, I was about to ask him whether they had had any training when I noticed him letting the third Labrador out of his kennel.
This last animal had four outstanding features: at nine months old he was pale gold like the rising sun, strong, perfectly proportioned and exceptionally handsome.
He was also barking mad, and utterly thrilled to have been let out of his cage.
He went berserk. He jumped on Mr Suvenda; he jumped on the other dogs; he played Tag; he played ‘Jumping Over You’. He nipped his doggy friends on the tail, the legs, the throat. He nipped Mr Suvenda. He flew up and down the garden as if his gorgeous tail was on fire. I made myself very, very small.
The other two dogs were still playing Musical Chairs with me being the chair and Mr Suvenda singing: “Down” and “Go Away” and “Don’t Bite Her” and “Off.”
It was at this moment that the mad, overgrown puppy noticed the human piggy -in-the-middle (me). Like a mad bull halfway through a bullfight he had me in his sights from the other end of Mr Suvenda’s long garden. Unlike a bullring matador, I had no handy javelin or swishy red cape with which to fend off this crazy canine. He started his charge and I knew it was game over.
As he leapt joyously into the air to land on me, the other dogs both decided they wanted to be the last one sitting on the chair.
Mr Suvenda’s words came back to me in the split second before the crash.
“They like to jump a bit.”
“AAAAAGH,” the impact was like being sat on by the bull.
My left arm was in the puppy’s mouth, the other dogs were flying through the air over my head and we were all in a heap on the flower bed.
“Get off. Get down. Don’t do that. Bad boy. Go away. Oh dear,” sang Mr Suvenda.
My husband was having a peaceful rest on the bed in our room when I staggered through the door. My jeans were covered in mud, as were my feet, face, arms and hands.
“I just met the dogs,” I wheezed.
“Ah,” said my husband, diplomatically. “I thought so.”