It was September 2010 when I got my half-baked stray mutt. Her face popped up in an advertisement used as someone’s lunch wrapping paper and her adorable puppy face immediately got my attention. I patiently waited until the gentlemen finished his lunch, and (to his surprise and disgust) dived to catch his lunch wrapping paper just in time as it was about to hit the dustbin. Having made a fool of myself already, I quickly dialed the number in the advert. The lady on the other end elated that I was asking for the pup. It had been three weeks since the ad and no one had adopted this one. A couple of hours later, my pup, Pink was safely tucked in my car and we were on our way home.
In the first year, while I was in awe of Pink who would wobble her way to the tiniest corner in the house. I noticed in particular the mindset of some segments of society against the Indian dogs. My neighbours would coo over Pink until I told them she was a desi like me. Then I would see a mixture of pity and perplexity written all over their faces. Some would be in denial exclaiming, “No, No, she looks like a pedigree dog, she doesn’t look like a stray, she must be a good breed.” and others would blurt out, “But why?” they would often ask, to which I never really had an answer.
Thankfully, Pink’s Vet Dr. Ratinder turned out to be very supportive. A retired vet, he never neglected anyone who has ever knocked on his door for treatment. After the shots I nervously asked him, “What breed is my dog?” He said, “No breed” and he added “But from now on, treat her as your own family member, breed or no breed”.
When it was time to get Pink neutered, Dr. Ratinder kindly pointed me to the Karuna Animal Shelter in Bangalore (http://www.karunaanimalwelfare.org/index.htm). The shelter had a couple of operation theatres, which were used to support the municipality with the ABC – Animal Birth Control Program. Providing rehabilitation of scores of maimed and sick dogs. As we strolled around the place we were surprised to see the sheer number of homeless healthy dogs in the shelters. The caretakers explained, “No one wants to adopt them, even if they are for free”. My eyes welled up the moment I heard the word free. The caretakers also mentioned that handling so many can have a huge financial impact on the shelter especially since adoptions were meagre and the funds were merely trickling in. I failed to understand why we as a community were treating strays differently.
All this bias made me curious about the origin. I opened my Laptop, up came Google and typed the magic words, “Indian Stray Dog” and search! I find Wikipedia’s Pariah Dog post. Turns out that the strays or street dogs originate from a breed called the Pariahs aka Pye. One of the oldest indigenous breeds of dogs on the planet. And the dogs on the street are crosses of Pedigree and Pye. The Pariah is not a recognized breed in any of the Kennel Clubs. It is also interesting to note that the literal meaning of Pariah is outcast and the christening a leftover legacy of the erstwhile British Raj.
As I kept digging deeper, I found the INDog website http://www.indog.co.in/. A campaign founded in 2007 by Rajashree Khalap (https://www.facebook.com/pages/INDog-Club/172836359436779) to address the gaps in information available on these dogs. I also found her blog for the campaign, http://indianpariahdog.blogspot.in/. Reading more about the dogs and interacting with Rajashree was a life changing experience. I could now relate to Pink’s behavior and her characteristics. It was comforting to know that there was an entire community, not just pertaining to Indian boundaries but beyond it.
A few months later while I walking Pink in Cubbon Park in Bangalore, I happened to meet the ever so charismatic Achala Paani, who was on a calendar shoot for her NGO called, “Lets Live Together”. The NGO deals with the social issue of the homeless Indian Dogs, holding puppy adoption camps across the city of Bangalore. For more info please click on the following link http://letslivetogether.org/home-lets-live-together/.
It was Achala who invited us to The Great Indian Dog Show, which was exclusively for Indian Dogs. It was organized by Mansi Jaysal – a fellow pye enthusiast and her wonderful team. Even though it was the first event of its kind, close to a hundred dogs and their owners turned up. It was a pleasant change for the media who were accustomed to referring the breed as a menace. The dogs were well behaved, some were pure vegetarians, others vegans, some biker accessories and others tricksters. It was a big INDog party and the photos are on this link http://www.thegreatindiandogshow.com/.
On my many visits to slums in and around Bangalore, I have seen the perfect coexistence of these dogs and humans. Pets during the day and watchdogs by night. No leashes, no harnesses, no kennels and no walls yet each canine sits right beside their thatched mud walls they call homes. I have also seen dogs outside my home craving for just an inch of affection, which is often more important than food.
I know I stumbled on this whole underlying issue by accident but I now know there is something we can do about it. Many friends who met Pink and immediately concluded that is because of my lack of funds that I adopted a Pye, were later moved by her affection, intelligence and obedience.
Borrowing inspiration from People like Dr. Ratinder, Rajashree, Achala, Mansi and hundreds of pye lovers all over the world, we have come to respect these home grown canines coexisting with us for centuries. Dogs who are waiting for that mere sign of acknowledgement in our hearts and homes.
|Author: Ajith Alex Jacob
Editor: Ankita Mishra