So today, I thought I would discuss Indian ‘Street’ Dogs.
For some time now, my husband has been a man living on the edge. This means, he lives in fear daily of whether or not he is going to come home to some (or many) strange dogs lounging on his chair or eating at his table or *gasp* laying in his bed!
Yes, I am a dog lover. No, my husband is not a dog hater, it’s just that like most Indian’s he is what you can call either dog ignorant or dog tolerate or dog ignore.
The dogs are here, they are numerous and sometimes a nuisance and the people of India have learned how to either ignore them or chase them. Depending. My husband is now learning the fine art of dog loving. Saying nice things to them like “Wanna treat?” and “Who’s a good dog?” and “Good Girl” in a way that makes the pooch in question fall all over themself with joy and happiness. Or maybe just to get the treat we originally offered.
You see, I have ‘adopted’ a couple of stray dogs who live in our complex. There used to be five of them. But five got whittled down to two plus one pretty little girl from outside that just got adopted into the original litter. Now that two is down to one and the pretty little girl. What started as a litter of five plus one outsider is now down to two 7-8 month old girls against the 15 or so wild pack dogs that live outside our gates. Our girl’s regularly kick those dogs’ asses. I love it.
Almost every night I go down to feed the girls. Bear and I purchase dog food and biscuits for them, as well as giving them our left over roti and subzi. Sweat pea, the one remaining litter pup is a sucker for kichadi. Princess, the pretty little adoptee, is stuck up and only eats the good stuff. IE: Chicken flavored biscuits, Chicken flavored dog food, potato and roti if that’s all that’s to be had. A neighbor on the other side of us feeds them left over mutton and seriously, I just can’t compete with THAT.
The girls are both very intelligent, sweet dogs. However, they are street dogs and as such people are afraid of them. Here in India, it’s less common to find people who own pets and understand them. If people own a pet at all it’s usually for the social standing more than the companionship, however you will find more people owning dogs for the latter now and days. Because of this, the girls get threatened, kicked, chased, hit with rocks and are constantly on the lookout for runaway cars and motorcycles. If I catch it happening, I generally say something to the person whether they understand me or not, but mostly it happens when I am unable to come downstairs and so the girls are usually on their own. And yet with all this, they are essentially good dogs. When you call them and speak to them in a kind voice, they fall all over themselves in pure happy puppy ecstasy. Whining and licking and dancing about you to show who’s a better puppy. I do this with other people around so that they can see that the girls are not the ferocious baby killers that some of the residents might like to think. Watching two dogs fall all over themselves, wiggling and wagging their tails off, for one small white girl may stand to make a point with them. Who knows?
**Added for clarification. I got a great comment on this topic from a friend and some not so great emails from people who thought I was saying something that I wasn’t. I’m not saying that being afraid of stray dogs is unnatural and silly, even I am cautious around them. What I am saying is that being afraid or even cautious should not entail chasing or threatening the dog without provocation. If the dog is just laying there, minding it’s own business, then let it alone. Chasing and threatening does nothing except teach the dog to be more aggressive to human’s. They do not differentiate between “Oh, I was being naughty and deserved that.” and “I wasn’t doing anything, so what the heck?”. To them, a threat is a threat and it teaches them to be weary of humans and perhaps even to become more aggressive. I would even say, rather than being aggressive towards a dog, even an aggressive one, you start with standing your ground and making a sharp, unusual sound and do not look them in the eye. Look in their direction but not in the eye. Nine times out of ten they will be the one to back down. If they don’t, then they wouldn’t have even if you had chased and threatened them anyway.
I recommend reading/watching the Dog Whisperer for further ideas and understanding. I met him once in LA as I used to volunteer with a local German Shepherd rescue, he is knowledgeable and has excellent advice. The National Geographic site is also full of good information and other resources for more information about dogs.
Either way, the girls have grown quite a lot since Bear and I started feeding them. During the last two months especially so, and Bear has missed most of it due to the two surgery’s he had to have. I also could not go down as often, but the girls know where our third floor bedroom windows are and they hang out down there waiting to hear our voices or for us to toss down some roti or chicken flavored biscuits.
I’m excessively protective over those two skinny little girls and they over me. Whenever I or Bear go down, they perform their ritual happy puppy dance and then slip into their circle of protection. One always in the front and one always in the back, circling us and watching. When we stop to feed them, they eat heartily (as long as Princess got her Chicken flavored something), drink all the fresh water we bring down and then find a nice spot to lay down where they can keep us in view and protect our ‘flanks’. I suppose, in a way, Bear and I have become the alpha leaders of their little pack.
If I’m alone, the girls are very protective and will growl at certain people. I do not egg them on in these cases and sometimes tell them to settle down, but to be honest, the people who the girls growl at also give me an uneasy feeling so I let them do their protection bit and we are all satisfied.
They also come whenever we call. Even if we call from our bedroom windows. All we have to do is call “Giiiirrrrllllss!” and if you watch closely, you will see two streaks of brown and beige fur flying out of the night. Tails high, noses up, ears back. Pure joy written on their faces. How can someone even think of throwing a stick or stone at something so pure and uncomplicated?
What those people don’t see, is that the girls protect out complex from the wilder and meaner dogs that live outside our complex. The vicious older ones that life has been unkind to at every turn. The broken ones with less fur to warm them on cold nights. The hungry ones whose belly’s only get full of rubbish and cast away trash. These are the desperate dogs that fight every day just to live. And while they aren’t to blame for their plight, they also cannot help heading to the lessons that life has taught them. Man = Pain. So they bite and chase people and cars outside the complex. The girls will not let them into our complex and if they manage to sneak by, the girls are always there, usually outnumbered and smaller, but standing firm and patiently working/worrying the other dogs out. Sometimes the guards help them, as they understand that our girls are good, almost tamed. Sometimes residents help them, as they also know and understand. But mainly it’s just the girls fighting the daily struggle for what they see as their territory and I see as their home. I wish more could see the goodness of them.
Some of my favorite dog quotes:
The dog was created especially for children. He is the god of frolic.
Henry Ward Beecher
I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult.
Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.
If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.
No animal should ever jump up on the dining room furniture unless absolutely certain that he can hold his own in the conversation.”
I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.
Dogs feel very strongly that they should always go with you in the car, in case the need should arise for them to bark violently at nothing right in your ear.
You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, “Wow, you’re right! I never would have thought of that!”
If you think dogs can’t count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then giving Fido only two of them.
I’ll end with this. This was a speech given by a former American Senator of Missouri, George Graham Vest. He delivered it in 1870 when he was acting as a lawyer in a suit against a man who had killed the dog of his client. He won the case.
ONE MAN’S SPECIAL TRIBUTE TO A DOG
The one absolutely unselfish friend that
a man can have in this selfish world,
the one that never deserts him,
the one that never proves ungrateful
or treacherous, is his dog.
A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity
and in poverty,
in health and in sickness.
He will sleep on the cold ground where
the wintery winds blow,
and the snow drives fiercely,
if only he may be near his master’s
side. He will kiss the hand that has no
food to offer, he will lick the sores
and wounds that come in encounter with
the roughness of the world. He guards
the sleep of his Pauper master as if he
were a prince.
When all other friends desert,
When riches take wings and reputation
falls to pieces, he is as constant in
his love as the sun in its journey
through the heavens.
If misfortune drives the master forth
an outcast in the world, friendless
and homeless, the faithful dog asks
no higher privilege than that of
accompanying him to guard against
danger, to fight against his enemies.
And when the last scene of all comes,
and death takes the master in its
embrace, and his body is laid away in
the cold ground, no matter if all other
friends pursue their way, there by the
graveside will the noble dog be found,
his head between his paws, his eyes sad,
but open in alert watchfulness,
faithful and true, even in death.