Things did not improve as time went by. The second time I visited, Figo repeated the growl and turn-tail act. To mollify him and bribe him into being friends with me, I fed him bones and other canine delicacies. Figo being the smart dog that he is, ate all of it and then signed his disapproval of me with a bark before sauntering off. Same thing happened when I stroked his fur and belly. He would enjoy all the attention and the moment I stopped stroking him, would get up, growl and walk away!
According to me, this was the problem: S was the first person in his family who got acquainted with Figo. Figo, though a very mild-mannered dog, is jealous and possessive by nature. He loves his family with a passion and at the same time hates sharing them with anyone else. So my theory was, his doggy instincts somehow told him that I was someone who was going to be competing (!?! - en owner-thaan, enakku mattum thaan*) for S's attentions. Hence the extra animosity.
I know - this seems like too much thinking for a dog but seriously, the way Figo refused to enter S's room (Figo's erstwhile domain) while I was there and the way he took an extra effort to growl at me before turning his back whenever he saw me told its own the story.
This remained the status quo for all my past India visits. This time too, I entered S's family's house with some trepidation. I could not decide whether to feel sad for Figo or feel amused that he would finally have to start learning to put up with me considering that the my visits would be far more frequent now.
Imagine my pleasant surprise then, when upon seeing me, Figo jumped up and tried to put his paws on my shoulder and lick my face. This was a gesture he usually reserved to welcome people he liked a lot! Then he nuzzled my hand - which was his way to indicate that that he wanted me to pet him.
Either all my feeding and petting of the previous times had finally worked or Figo had resigned himself to acceptance. Either way, I was finally his friend!
The rest, as they say, is history. Figo now trusts me enough to routinely come and lay his head on my lap or contentedly lie down and sigh while I rub his tummy. He still responds to my calls only when he feels like it and plants his feet firmly on the ground if I try to move him when he does not feel like it. But hey, now I am his family too!