I’m really not an outdoorsy girl. So when my brother insisted that I join him on an 11km trek up Mount Kranteshwar in Champawat, Uttarakhand, I was terrified. I made every excuse I could think of – I’ll slow you down, I’ll never manage, I have work to do, it’ll be nicer for you without me – but to no avail. My tall, fit, athletic brother convinced my much-less-so self that coming all the way to Uttarakhand was incomplete without a trek. Having promised to help me through it, he persuaded me to give it a shot, and I (against my better judgement) agreed.

About 15 minutes into our trek, we stopped at a little settlement where we met some friends of our guide’s. They chatted with us for a little while, asking about where we were from, how long we’d be there etc etc. Then, I was introduced to Jackie; a stunning mountain Bhutia.

I introduced myself. He was friendly. He wagged his tail, shook my hand and let me cuddle him, quite willingly. As we were leaving to get back to our trek, I asked him “Are you coming with us?”

Something told Jackie than I needed some help. Not only did he come with us, he also didn’t leave my side the whole time. He’d run ahead, but stop and wait for me to catch up. He stopped when I stopped, sitting right next to me, head or paw on my knee as if to assure me that I could do it. However irrational it sounds, I’m convinced that I wouldn’t have made it to the spectacular view at the top of Mount Kranteshwar without my new friend.

On our way down, Jackie refused to enter the premises of the resort we were staying in. Perhaps it was another dog’s territory. He sat just outside the entrance, watched me walk away and I suddenly felt tearful. I ran back to him, gave him a hug and said thank you, at which he licked my nose and happily trotted away.

I will probably never see Jackie again; an unexpected friend in the most unlikely of places. But then, aren’t those the best kind?

Champawat, Uttarakhand, India, May 2016.

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