About Me

My Photo
Mumbai, India
I'm an aboriginal dog breed fancier, birder and wildlife conservationist. I work with the wildlife conservation NGO Satpuda Foundation in the tiger reserves of central India. Before that I worked for 14 years with the street dogs of Mumbai. I created and manage the INDog Project www.indog.co.in and the INDog Club.

Are you a Pariah Dog fan?

This blog is for aboriginal breed enthusiasts. It is part of the INDog Project www.indog.co.in. Only INDogs (Indian Pariah) and INDog-mix mongrels are featured here. The two are NOT the same, do please read the text on the right to understand the difference. Our aim: to create awareness about the primitive natural breed called the Indian Pariah Dog/INDog.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Dogs of Cambodia, 2

These are a few dogs Kiran Khalap photographed on a rushed three day visit to Cambodia in August. 

If you haven't seen my earlier post on Dogs of Cambodia, do have a look at it now.  It's from 2011. The pictures are village dogs clicked by Col. Gautam Das. 

Kiran last visited Cambodia in 1998, with me, and he found Siem Reap greatly changed since then. We remember it as a rather sleepy little town. It's a busy city now. There are more free-ranging dogs now, and more mixed ones.

On this trip he also visited a site about 70 km away from Siem Reap, up a hill. These beautiful aboriginal looking dogs were up there.

The same dog from the top photo

And these are the Siem Reap dogs, some attached to eateries. Two have very heavy black shading, including the cute puppy. One has completely dropped ears.

Kiran saw a few short-legged dogs too, the kind we remembered from our last trip.

It would be fascinating to travel in the region and discover more about the village dogs of Cambodia, and all of South-east and East Asia. I just read about a newly documented type, named Cambodian Razorback Dog by the breeders, but I don't know anything about its history or ancestry. It has a primitive type build but long coat, which is unusual. According to the breeders it's extremely rare and found only in a specific region, so it's not a typical village dog.

I wish people all around Asia and Africa would get interested in their native village dogs, common and uncommon, and be proud of them. And preserve them responsibly, as pets and working dogs. 

Before they all disappear forever.

Photos: Kiran Khalap

Please do not use images or content from this site without permission and acknowledgment

The story of Honey

Elegant graceful Honey lives with Grumps, Vidya and Samik in Pune. 

She appeared once in this blog last year, but we've never shared the full story of her rescue and adoption. 

Here it is at last, from Vidya:

They say some things are destined to happen. I strongly believed that on that particular day, when my husband and I decided to take a walk to the nearest supermarket instead of taking the car to bring groceries home. What was supposed to be another lazy sunday morning turned out to be quite something else for us. And yes, this is a long long story. Of hope, faith, belief, gratitude, trust and every other virtue any animal can teach us humans.

As we walked closer to the supermarket, we heard a dog howl. It was in pain and could barely roll over. It lay near the fence near the pavement (which was thankfully wide), right next to the road. My husband and I couldn't bear to listen to this. 

It was as if this poor dog was shouting and crying out to each and every passerby, calling for help. 

We completely forgot about our grocery shopping and decided to take the poor dog to the vet. Unfortunately our regular vet wasn't in town. To make things worse, it was a sunday. I began frantically calling my friends who were involved in rescue work. Time was running out. One of my friends suggested a vet close to where she lived. I decided to bring the car out to take the dog there. There was no blood or visible injury on her. I noticed she was desperately trying to stand, but there was no way she could put her weight on her front paws. Both her front legs were broken at the exact same spot, at a joint. Apparently hit-and-run. I got the car and told my husband we would have to lift her and put her in the back seat. But we needed to be very careful as she was in tremendous pain with those badly broken bones. I was afraid of holding her myself. But my husband - and for this, I love this man a hundred times over - didn't think twice; he quietly and confidently slipped his arms underneath her (all this time she was howling in pain), and slowly put her in the back seat. By this time we were both very hungry, since we hadn't had breakfast, but the adrenaline was pumping away and all we wanted was for this poor dog to get proper medical attention.

We reached the vet my friend had recommended, and there we were welcomed by the sight of an entire lot of people waiting with their pets - sick, old, whining, crying. We had no idea how to take her into the clinic. Both the vet and his intern were pretty indifferent, but thanks to the large-heartedness of two locals (God bless their souls) who helped us, we managed to lift and carry her to the examination table. My husband stayed with her while I went out to catch my breath till we were called. There were lots of people watching, and one woman even asked stupidly, 'Is it going to die?' I honestly wanted to sucker-punch her in the face, but I had better things to do. I decided I wouldn't let anything happen to this dog as long as I was around. I went back inside when our turn came. The first thing the vet asked me was, 'Whose dog is this?' We told him that we knew nothing about her apart from the fact that we found her on the road hurt and howling in pain. We were told that she couldn't be treated unless someone took responsibility for her. We told him to do what it took. I was desperate and really angry with this man who called himself a vet. Couldn't he at least look at her and administer painkillers? As I guessed he would, he just took a brief look at her and said, 'She has broken bones. I will just give her two shots - one is a painkiller and one is an antibiotic.' After the injections he wrapped one leg in cotton and a bandage. My husband and I slowly carried her to the car and we drove home.

The troubles didn't end there. We didn't know how our very spoiled little princess Grumpy would react to this new canine addition to the household. I locked Grumps in one room and laid out a mat in our bedroom for this new dog. We got her some dry food and water and the poor thing gobbled up all the food hungrily, and lapped up half the bowl of water. She had been unable to walk after her accident, whenever it was, and it was evident she was starving and thirsty. We were so glad to see her eat. We didn't know what to do till our regular vet got back to town the next day. She fell asleep from exhaustion. Meanwhile the vet who had seen her, sent over his pet-mobile to take a digital x-ray of her legs. He confirmed she had two fractures. The poor girl cried when the vet assistants tried to fix the apparatus, but quietened when my husband stroked her head.

I have had experience taking care of puppies and nursing them back from ill-health. But taking care of a full-grown dog with two fractured legs was something totally new to me. I was clueless and so was my husband. To make things worse, he was to travel to the UK on a long-term assignment and would be gone in the next two days, for an entire year! I had no idea how I'd manage with an injured dog and our already spoiled princess.

Meanwhile we noticed how beautiful this dog was, with the most gentle honey-coloured eyes.  Filled with gratitude on seeing us - ALL the time. We decided to call her Honey.

That night Honey didn't let us sleep. We gave her dinner, put her in an e-collar and locked her in the master bedroom so she could move around freely to the best of her ability. She crawled to the door and managed to get her e-collar trapped underneath it. As a result we could neither open the door to free her, nor open the door completely, nor even put an arm inside to slowly push her out of the way. It took us close to 15 minutes to do that. Then we realized why the poor creature was so desperate. She had been lying in her own urine and faeces, which she had had to pass lying down since she couldn't stand. We cleaned up the mess, changed the paper and cloth she was lying on, and she fell asleep. We got just two or three hours of sleep after that. Needless to say we were exhausted. 

Grumpy on the other hand was super-curious to find out who this new entrant was. But she was quite unlike her usual aggressive self. It was almost as if she understood that this new dog was terribly hurt and needed some compassion.

The next morning we went to our regular vet. Luckily for us, he worked part-time with an animal rescue organization near our place, and weren't we glad we brought Honey to the right place! Seeing familiar faces and hands that were expert at handling injured animals instantly put me at ease. I knew Honey would be alright. Our vet confirmed the fractures. He and a good friend of mine, who volunteers in animal rescue, cleaned her legs, and told us to wait while they put one of her legs in cotton and an iron cast. The other leg had a wound and couldn't be put in a cast till the wound healed. We were asked to wait a few days till the wound healed. If it didn't, they would have to perform surgery on that leg and insert a steel rod. After antibiotics and painkillers Honey was brought home. She ate and relieved herself again, on the floor. And dropped off to sleep after being cleaned and medicated.

My husband flew out the next day and suddenly I found myself all alone, looking after two dogs. It was a bit overwhelming and I missed him and his reassuring presence, but was determined to do all I could for Honey. 

I dreamed of the day she would stand on all fours and run and play.

Volunteers from the clinic came in every morning for the next few days, to dress Honey's wound and give her shots. It was of no use. The wound just wouldn't heal. So it was decided that she would undergo surgery. That would have to be done at the vet's private clinic that was 25 km away. She was driven there by my volunteer friend the next day. Once the surgery was done I would be informed so I could drive there to get her home. I was horrified at the prospect of having to wait till the surgery was over, and I couldn't eat or sleep till I got her home. It was a relief to see her but also worrying, because she was groggy and kept howling in her half-conscious disoriented state, while I held her in my arms.

I have a million gods to thank for the friends who helped me out through this, in one way or another - the one who drove Honey and me (since she couldn't stand and had to be held, I couldn't drive); the friend at the rescue centre who would ferry her to the private clinic and call me with updates; the helpers at the clinic - all of them. Once Honey was home I had to observe her. Make sure she didn't throw up, make sure she didn't get any water till the anesthesia effects wore off. I was worried sick for her. 

But it was her eyes that gave me comfort, saying 'It's all right, I can get through this now.' 

The clinic volunteers came in every morning to dress her surgical wound. She soon got to know them and they were very gentle and nice with her.

Since Honey was still not house-trained, and couldn't be taken outside, my friend at the rescue centre told me to get diapers for her. I made holes in them for her tail and got her to learn to pee and potty in them so there would be no mess. The poor thing learned the use of this contraption so quickly that each time she'd do what she had to, she'd start moving around impatiently as though asking me to help her get rid of the dirty thing!

To my amazement, in the next few days I saw this beautiful girl stand up on three legs - using the leg that was in the iron cast. Now I knew I couldn't restrict her movements. She would hobble everywhere in our bedroom, her eyes questioning, always thankful. She could finally pee and potty on her own! 

However she tried to put her weight on the leg that had had surgery, and it bent in the shape of a 'C'. I was mortified. The surgical wound was bleeding too. The vet said the inserted plate had bent and had to be surgically replaced. Another round of endless waiting. It was sheer torture. But Honey got through it with sheer fortitude, and was so happy to see me waiting to receive her at the clinic that evening. In the meantime I managed to get an iron crate from one of my friends and decided to put her in it to restrict her movements. The first few hours were horrible. It took her a few hours to get used to it but eventually she did. 

The crate in which she had to spend two months. She grew to love it.

But she continued to put weight on that leg, and the vet decided to add a wire at the joint to restrict the movement of the leg. So we went in for surgery Number 3. By the time this one was done, the leg in the iron cast had slowly begun to heal, as x-rays showed. There were external wounds caused by Honey's skin being scraped by the iron cast. These had to be kept free of maggots (screw-worm fly larvae), but had to be kept unbandaged. The complications were endless. Finally when the leg in the iron cast was freed in front of me, I couldn't believe my eyes. Chicken leg, quite literally. All the mass had disappeared, which I was told was natural. Soon I began to see Honey hobbling around happily on this free leg, while the one with the plate still recovered. 

Within a month's time, with regular medication and nursing, her surgical wounds healed completely and she slowly began to use that leg to limp around.

Word cannot express how it felt to have my dream come true. Of seeing this dog walk around normally as any other dog would do. There were days when I had cried in frustration, thinking of all the pain she went through, wondering whether the vet would ask me to have the leg amputated. Time and again I have learned from animals, including Honey, that with a bit of compassion and kindness any sick creature will fight for its life. They will never let you down. 

Even in extreme pain they never forget the smallest thing you have done for them, and are forever grateful for it.

Saying hello to Grumps for the first time

Since then Honey has been a constant and peaceful companion for Honey. They are like Yin and Yang. And we are very happy with them both, because where Grumpy is a hyperactive baby, Honey is like a Zen monk, all calm and collected.

A year later my husband returned to a very happy reunion. Honey, like many former street dogs, is timid and nervous (specially when she hears crackers), but my husband has a very soft corner for her, just as he has for his Grumpy, who is the queen of his heart. The two of them go for walks together and play-fight like ninjas!

We lovingly call Honey 'Ms Jekyll and Hyde' because she does have a serious predatory instinct which is hidden from outsiders. Till she catches the next crow, we'll keep that trait a secret!

Story and photos: Vidya Samik

Please do not use images and content from this site without permission and acknowledgment

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Not INDogs: The Dhangar Dog of Maharashtra

Time to highlight one of the 'not-INDog' village breeds I mentioned in my June post, INDogs and Not-INDogs: Village dogs of India.  I have some lovely pictures to share of the Dhangari Kuttra, sheepdog of Maharashtra, thanks to a few nice people in the doggy network!

A bit of background: The Dhangar community are nomadic shepherds of this region, and kuttra of course means 'dog' in marathi.

Though the name Dhangari Kuttra is well known in Maharashtra, no-one seems to have consistently documented the breed or tried to preserve it in any way since W V Soman included it in his book 'The Indian Dog' (Popular Prakashan, 1963). That's the only book on Indian dog breeds till now, by the way.

Major Soman's description mentions a moderate coat, tufted tail turned over the back, weight about 25 to 30 pounds (that's 11-13.6 kilos), height of males about 20 inches, strong legs, mixed colours; '...occasionally met with tan mixture but very seldom...body not very long but with a wide chest and strong muscular legs. Face a bit long with small dropped ears...Very strong and can work for the whole day. A perfect watch dog.' 

Judging by the few Dhangar dogs and crosses I've seen, and the photos clicked by others, the weight and height estimated by Major Soman are rather low. These dogs seem on average larger than INDogs. For comparison you can read our Breed Description for the INDog (check 'size'). 

Even in 1963 Major Soman mentioned that the Dhangar Dog was threatened by mixing with other dogs: 'The breed is getting extinct as they are being crossed with local dogs forming mongrels.'

Ryan Braganza, of our INDog Project team, is an avid biker and has been looking for these dogs on all his trips in the Western Ghats. He and his friend Prafull Sakharkar clicked these photos below. I can't tell whether the dogs are naturally very varied, or mixed with other breeds as Major Soman wrote.

It's not always easy (or safe) to photograph these dogs from close quarters though. They are known for being excellent and ferocious guard dogs, and do not take kindly to strangers approaching too close or staring at them.

Here are some more wonderful Dhangar dog photos, clicked by Malaika Fernandes.

Gayatri Ganesh recently sent in some beautiful pictures including the one at the top of the post, along with this interesting description: 

'We do a lot of work with Dhangar shepherds, through the organization Anthra

The Dhangars migrate in small groups of three to four (husband, wife, mother-in-law or sister), with their flock, about 200-800 sheep, five horses and two dogs, across the Deccan Plateau for about six to nine months of the year...

These are some of their beautiful, intelligent and hardworking dogs. The spike collar they told me is to keep leopards away.

They won't let anyone they don't know touch the lambs or the horses. And the dogs learn from each other - they receive no special training from the shepherds in how to be sheep dogs.'

What a shame it would be to let this unique breed get swamped out of existence! 

The fate of indigenous village dogs everywhere?

Photos: Prafull Sakharkar, Ryan Braganza 
Malaika Fernandes

Please do not use images or content from this site without permission and acknowledgment

Monday, August 3, 2015

Eight years of this blog - thank you!!

Yes, my first post on this blog was on 3 August 2007! A big day for me, if for no-one else.

My aim was to create a virtual showcase of INDogs and dogs of INDog ancestry. To spread knowledge about aboriginal dogs out of the academic circles to which it was restricted, to a wider, general audience. And to make owners proud of their pet INDogs and INDog-mixes.

I had no idea how to create a blog, and Gunjan Arya kindly helped me set it up (thanks Gunjan)! 

Today we have 421 posts about adopted INDogs and INDog-mixes, or Indies as I like to call the latter. Thanks entirely to all the wonderful people who sent in photos and stories over the years.

To celebrate, I put together this photo gallery of all the gorgeous dogs I featured in the first few months of this blog. Sadly some have passed on, but many are with us and continue to be brilliant ambassadors for INDogs and Indies! 

Each of them is very special to me.

My deepest gratitude to their humans, who took the trouble to share their stories with us all.

Enjoy the visual treat coming up, and don't forget to read our INDog website too!


Please do not use images or content from this site without permission and acknowledgment