There's nothing left there now but burial mounds and one phenomenal restored palace on the tippy-tip of a crag called Yambu Lhakhang, the first palace of Tibet.
I don't know how this worked out, but all along the circumambulation route, there were these little dogs. They were separate, lone dogs, eacj parked at his little station of this circumambulation. Each one had their own territory. None of them had anything to do with the monastery. They were just orphans, charity cases. The pilgrims, as part of their pilgrimage, fed these little guys. The little dogs were quite defensive of their territory. They were regular dogs: they wanted ALL the food and they were quite pudgy.
We were walking along and eventually we got about halfway around the monastery, which meant we were at the high point of the hill. It was a very arid place and there was very little going on.
Down below us was the agricultural valley formed by the Yarlung and the Chongye Rivers. With the rivers it produced a lot, but the mountains surrounding it were very arid and dry-looking.
I looked up behind Tashilhungpo and along the tops of the ridges I saw the silhouette of a dog running. It just appeared and it ran about 50 feet, 100 feet, and then it disappeared below the ridge. I thought this was strange so I stayed there watching the ridge and the dog -- apparently the same dog -- popped up again and ran for another stretch.
All of the monastery dogs went into their defensive attitude. They all saw the dog running along the ridge. It was part of their "job." So the second time it popped up, all the little monastery dogs went on full alert. The attention of all of the dogs was pointed in the direction of the silhouette dog.
At the middle of this ridge was a wash that came down like an alluvial-shaped valley. It started steep and narrow in the back and fanned out as it came down towards the monastery walls. On both sides of it were huge boulders – the same kind you would see in an old Cisco Kid movie…I mean the ones outside San Diego headed east; the giant ones they used in the Hollywood movies.
Some of the boulders were 40 feet tall, some of them were 50 feet tall, some of them were three feet tall, but there were a lot of rocks and they were monolithic.
As I watched, down the middle of this draw came a black dog -- a small, fast, little black dog. It came running down the bottom of the draw headed for the monastery.
All the little fat monastery dogs – about 30 of them -- ganged up and took off. They were obviously bent on taking out this feral interloper…this scoundrel…this brigand, who was scooting at his top speed towards them like he has just seen his best friend.
The little black dog got to about 150 feet from the fat monastery dogs racing up the valley and he turned and bolted back up the valley as fast as he can go with all the platoon going after him to take him out. They've got him on the run now.
All the little Vienna sausages went scooting up towards the rocks after the invader. They got completely up into the part where the boulders were on both sides of the wash, and feral dogs -- about 50 of them -- appeared out of the rocks and cut off the monastery dogs.
Then the feral dogs started racing through the monastery dogs, killing them. They were breaking their legs -- just snapping them. They were on the fly like they were going through a herd of sheep. The feral dogs were just leaving the monastery dogs maimed and screwed up behind them, taking out as many of the monastery dogs as they could.
The monastery dogs, in sheer terror, turned and bolted back towards the safety of the monastery with the feral dogs just cutting them like Indians cutting out weak buffalo. They gave chase gleefully, it seemed.
The lead dogs were racing towards me. The monastery dogs were coming directly at me as I was standing there watching this whole thing. The dogs were speeding straight back to the sanctuary of their little domiciles around the circumambulation.
All the Tibetan pilgrims, by this time, had been watching this and they started picking up rocks. As the dogs come closer, they started throwing the rocks at the feral pack.
The feral dogs saw all the humans. They knew that meant bullets (and bad news). They turned back around and they bolted back up that little valley the way they had come. When they got to the rocks where they had left all the dead and injured monastery dogs, the feral dogs disappeared among the stones and there was nothing there.
I was standing there watching. I kept thinking: Did I really see that? And then, out of nowhere, all of the feral dogs reappeared on the tops of the giant stones and they began to howl.