The soulful baying coming from the far side of the Kwai Noi was enough to make the Baskerville hound’s fur stand on end. In the moonless night the floodlit Chedi of Wat Tha Kha Nun, perched high on it’s limestone cliff, hung like a celestial flame above the town. I looked down at the narrow footbridge suspended across the river that separated me from the dogs. Tomorrow, I thought, tomorrow I’ll go.
The following morning, as I crossed, the only sound was the creaking of the bridge and the rush of water below. But the moment I stepped onto the far bank a howl of protest went up and within moments there were perhaps a dozen dogs in my path all expressing displeasure at the intrusion. I did the only thing I could think of. I barked back. I should have known better. It just encouraged more of them to join in, yelling from beneath stone benches and the cool shade of trees.
At least they didn’t seem to have the stomach for a fight, They formed a semi-circle in front of me which only one of them seemed willing to break. A disreputable looking black and tan fellow with clumps of fur missing from his hind quarters. He stepped cautiously forward. I stretched out the palm of my hand, he came closer still, close enough for a sniff. “See, not so bad after all,” I told him. He looked away, disappointed at the lack of a tasty morsel. He sniffed again, came forward a little more, sniffed my left leg and looked up at me with furrowed brow. “Mosquito repellent” I told him and bent down a little to tickle him behind his ear. He seemed to approve of this.
Diplomatic relations established he yawned, shook his fur and sauntered back to his shady spot. The other dogs gradually fell silent and did the same allowing me to continue my climb to the Chedi.