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The Rabbit and The Dogs

When I was in college, ragging was pretty prevalent. I had heard some sadistic stories, and I was terrified going in, but luckily I only have good stories to tell. If you set aside the sadists and focussed on the seniors who did it in the right spirit, it worked like this: as a freshman, you were put in ridiculous situations until your dorkiness and your parents' sheltering were stripped off. You were then welcomed with a fraternal spirit.

The ragging happened mostly in the college hostel, which is what we called the dorms. About half the students were in the hostel and the other half commuted. The commuters, called "day scholars", were from neighboring cities. So they lived with their parents, weren't ragged, and stayed dorky.

This was also when I developed a skill which can be best described as a "Hostage Negotiation Lite", which has come in handy in my consulting work.

If you were a freshman when ragging was still a thing, you tried your best to not run into any seniors. You travelled in packs, for the same reasons that fish swim in schools. You were less likely to be singled out.

One of my friends, who was already nicknamed "Rabbit", for his big innocent eyes and skittish manners, got momentarily separated from the herd tying his shoelaces. He realized the situation, swallowed hard, and tried to catch up and disappear into the crowd, while trying not to look too terrified and making himself a juicy target. Just as he almost caught up, a senior stepped between him and the rest of us and cut him off. We saw the Rabbit's slowly walking away with the senior, shoulders slumped and throwing panicked looks over his shoulder at the rest of us. "Well, he's dead", I heard someone mutter.

The Rabbit joined us later, high on life and grinning. We had never seem him so pumped. He said that he had to face one of his worst fears, dogs. How the senior zeroed in on his particular phobia in minutes remains a mystery to this day, but it's logical to think that the giveaway was probably the fact that there were dogs all around the hostel and the Rabbit always put 30 feet between himself and any dog.

The Rabbit told us the story in the tones of a man who knew that he shouldn't be alive and had probably used up all the luck reserves. Here goes it.

The senior brought him to a dog that was sunning himself in the veranda. He then asked the Rabbit to pull on the dog's tail. In that moment, the Rabbit knew that he was dead man either way. He was filled with vivid flashes of the dog erupting in anger and biting down hard on his balls, not letting go even when his jaw was pried with a crowbar. Refusing the senior wasn't an option either.

He hesitantly bent down, blood thundering in his temples, and touched the tail with his pinkie finger. No reaction. The senior then said in a menacing low growl to grab the fucking dog's fucking tail with both his fucking hands, and PULL. The Rabbit complied as gently as he could and slowly firmed his grip on a tail under the senior's glower. The dog seemed to completely ignore this. The senior then reminded him that he wasn't pulling. At this point the Rabbit was getting tunnel vision and he was hoping he wasn't going to throw up all over the dog, waking him up. In total disbelief that he was actually doing this, he pulled. He kept pulling the tail gently but firmly that the dog was sliding on the floor. At this point the dog opened one of his eyes a little, took in what was going on, understood, closed the eye back, and went back to sleep. The Rabbit couldn't believe how zen the dog was. He stood up, delirious with a heady mix of joy and terror, and looked the senior in the eye. The senior then gave him a curt nod and walked away.

No one really knew how those dogs came to take up residence in the hostel buildings. The nearest town was a good half hour walk. I bet an enterprising dog scouted out the place and told his bros that there was plenty of food from the mess halls, several tress they could chill by or dig a hole at, and vast grounds where they could pursue whatever interests and hobbies their hearts desired. They could free themselves of the daily grind and live like the gentlemen scholars of the Renaissance. His dog bros probably replied that while that was a great idea, they could also use this piece of information to drown in bitches. The first dog then probably pointed out that it was a sexist term they should avoid, and the dog bros probably reminded him that it was okay to say bitches in polite dog society, the sexist connotations of the word being more of a human construct. They moved in, ate more than they could, got fat, and led a life of leisure. It's reasonable to assume that they pondered the meaning of life from time to time, wondering if the lack of the daily grind left a hole in their lives. In all likelihood they bloviated that their puppies had it too easy, and that the struggle was a good thing, knowing fully well that they'd never go back to their old life, despite the nostalgic romanticizations.

The dogs were the epitome of sloth to us, and we were pretty lazy ourselves. It all changed the day the Rabbit took up jogging. In the enthusiasm that fills the new joggers only on the first day, he had jogged a little too far. When his situational awareness, which was jogging 20 paces behind him, finally caught up with him, he realized that he was not alone. A few snarling dogs emerged from the bushes. They were the mean strays from the village. After a few tentative steps, they seemed to look at each other, reached a quick consensus, and started charging towards him. He turned tail and bolted back towards the hostel, but knew in his heart that he was going to be overtaken in minutes and torn to shreds. That's when he saw that all our fat hostel dogs were running full tilt towards him from the other direction. He knew that he was doomed. Just when he thought they were going to pounce on him, they ran right past him and towards the village dogs, and chased them away.

We viewed the hostel dogs in a much different light after that. Yes, they were the laziest beings that ever roamed the earth, and that itself was worthy of insipiration, but they even brought the cavalry when needed. Much respect.