About Me

My photo
Mumbai, India
I'm a landrace dog fancier, birder and amateur arachnologist. I'm also a wildlife conservationist working in the tiger reserves of central India with Satpuda Foundation. Founder of the INDog Project (www.indog.co.in) and the INDog Club. I worked with urban free-ranging dogs of Mumbai for 14 years.

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. I sometimes feature other landrace breeds too.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Teddy, soft toy-cum-therapy dog



Meet Teddy/Puppy, our live "soft toy," the like of which you will never get at any swanky Mall in the world.

This unexpected "gift" was actually thrown by somebody into my garden here in Jogeshwari, alongwith his brother and sister, when they were a few weeks old and barely able to stand. My daughters Kainaaz and Khushnam immediately fell in love with them and we fed them milk and arranged for water to be available for them in the garden. However, since we could not keep all three, we decided to keep little Teddy as he was always getting attacked and shooed away by the other two siblings. So we sent away the other two to nearby housing societies.

Initially we kept him in the garden and he would sleep in my garage as the garage door was slightly broken and he could squeeze in from the broken area. But he would happily come running when we came to check on him a few times, toppling over cutely while running on his podgy little legs, which made him all the more dear to us. Then as time passed we decided to take him into our house, which he carefully inspected with his powerful nose. Never once did he dirty the house, he seemed to have been born house-trained!

He is very playful and very intelligent. My younger daughter Khushnam has declared herself to be his mother, so that makes my elder daughter Kainaaz his doting "masiji" (aunt). And my wife and I his grandparents!! We all adore him. I feel he is some past ancestor of ours who has come in this form. I sometimes see him looking at me with such love and affection in his probing brown eyes, as if trying to jog my memory into recognising who he is, and I just go and hug him for a few moments, which also gives me some kind of heartfelt satisfaction which cannot be explained. Even though he often shakes himself vigorously after a hug, as if some dirt has got smeared on him! Talk about insults!

When we come home he comes halfway down our steps to give us a warm welcome, tail wagging away furiously. He has been a great form of healing therapy for us through all the problems we have faced in our life.

We have a nightly after-dinner ritual: He religiously comes and gets the inaccessible parts of his back scratched by me with the help of a broken footruler. He simultaneously lifts up his hind leg and starts scratching himself wherever his paw can reach. If I stop scratching for a moment when some interesting news comes on NDTV, he waits for few seconds and then nudges my hand with his cold nose to remind me to continue scratching. My girls enjoy this reaction from him. But once he is satisfied he quietly walks away to his bedding, sometimes leaving my hand mechanically swinging away with the footruler in the air as if I am painting, much to my family's amusement.

These two pictures are more than two years old. He has now turned five and is much fatter.
We all wish that our pet dogs had a longer life to lead instead of just 15 or 18 years.

Rusi Mistry

Monday, August 20, 2007

Beautiful pariah dogs for adoption: Chandni

I made these little movies to show you our dogs Chandni and Brandy, who are up for adoption. There are two other two dogs as well, but since they are a labrador and a spitz-mix I'm not posting those movies here. Please spare a minute to view them on Youtube. In www.youtube.com just enter mumbaidogs or rajashreekhalap in the Search box.

Brandy

Do tell all the dog-lovers you know about these dogs. They really need good homes.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

On pariah dogs

I've just read much of the factual information in your blog about pariah dogs,
which was most interesting.

It coincides to a large extent to what I've always believed. M. Krishnan wrote
an informative piece on them in his 'Country Notebook' column in the Statesman,
which has been reproduced in a collection edited by Ramchandra Guha. He
describes the characteristics of the typical breed, and our three dogs
conform to them. We know them to be intelligent, loyal, hardy, cleanly
and good watchdogs. In the words of an article I read on them, 'they
can thrive on an extremely ordinary ration.' They are also well formed
and good-looking.

While it might be a good idea to preserve the breed this would carry
the risk of reducing them to show animals, in which case they would
lose their present good qualities. They remain useful in the wilder parts
of the world, and I remember coming across an article in the Statesman not
long ago about a prized breed of hunting dog in Malaysia, containing
a drawing of one, which looked much like ours.


A. Chaudhuri
Kolkata

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bakalu, Jayasree and Bono















Jayasree Singh

Bakalu















Jayasree Singh

A letter from Bakalu

Dear friends,

I am writing this letter just to pass the longest and darkest night I have ever known. I haven’t seen much of life, but I have experienced five eventful years in this beautiful world. I forgot to introduce myself. I am “Bakalu,” a five-year old Pariah dog. Our neighbours used to call me “Desi Kutta” as I was picked up from the street. My family is not very big. Gau (Great grandpa), Ma, Babi (my human sister) and Bono, my elder brother, a pedigreed labrador. We were very happy in our small house “Babui basa” (Birds Nest) in Kolkata, surrounded by a small garden with lots of plants.

Everything was going fine (barring the scoldings I often used to get from Ma for being mischievous), till Gau fell sick last month and Babi took him to the hospital.

Gau never came back.

Ma told us Gau has gone to heaven.

Where’s heaven? Once or twice we have all gone for holidays. Once to a place where Babi bought a new apartment, and once to a place called “Puri.” It's full of water. There was a big lake they called “sea.” But we have never been to heaven. Ma says nobody returns from heaven. Then why does anybody go there?

Everybody at the house was sad. Specially Bono. He was not very well and was under treatment for cough and cold. He had to take lots of medicines daily. Even then, he was getting weaker by the day. Couldn’t play with me, couldn’t run, couldn’t climb stairs, his belly was getting larger and larger just like a balloon. We all became worried. He was taken to so many doctors. But no medicine was working.

One day Babi took him to a big doctor who could see through his body, and they found a lump, a tumour, they called it carcinoma. I don’t know what it means but for some reason Ma and Babi cried a lot. I often used to cut my legs while running after the lizards in the garden or get my stomach upset by taking eating something I found in the backyard. They only scolded me and I had to take some bitter medicine, that’s all. Nobody ever cried over it.

Now Bono is lying in his bed. We all are sitting around him. Everybody is so silent. I don’t know what they are waiting for, it’s very boring. I am so sleepy…

Oh, is it morning already?

Where is everybody? Ma is there, sleeping. Woof Woof! No, Bakalu, Ma is sleeping. Don’t make any noise; she has been given an injection. Babi scolds me. Where is Bono then? I am not allowed to go into the garden. I run frantically up to the terrace from where the garden can be seen. Oh, I can see our gardener coming up with another man. They are digging a big hole below the Bakul tree. My God! There’s Bono lying inside it. What they are doing with him?

Bono was buried in the garden just beneath the Bakul tree and a bed of white stone was put over him, with his name written on it. When I asked Babi where he had gone, she told me that he has gone to look after Gau and will never come back to us again.

So now it’s just us.

Bakalu

………………………………………………………………………………………
Jayasree/Babi: This was Bakalu’s version of his beloved brother’s loss. What he will never know is that Bono could have lived a few more years if his tumour had been detected earlier and operated in time. What a tragedy that even senior vets went on treating him for cough and cold instead of diagnosing the real problem. How long will this trial-and-error method continue, and how many Bonos will pay for it?


Jayasree Singh

Our very own Van Gogh!

I found Gogi quite by chance. Driving home from college one day, I stopped the car as the two teachers accompanying me wanted to buy some provisions. As I sat at the wheel, waiting for them, I noticed a slight movement just in front of my car. I got out to check and saw a really tiny pup, busily checking the surface of the road with her nose for something to eat. It was a very busy road with no pavement. I carefully checked the surrounding area for the mother or the rest of the litter but could not find any sign of them. Then I noticed something else. The little one's right ear had been almost severed and was hanging by a thread of skin! Without hesitation, I picked her up and put her in my car where she sat quiet and interested until I reached home.

While the family and our vet were wondering what to do about the ear, it suddenly fell off and the ear hole, in a very short time closed completely also! It's been 12 years since that time and Gogi is left with one beautiful ear. We named her after Van Gogh who also unfortunately lost his ear.

She has remained as small and delicate as ever but as strong and robust as they come. She's an elegant little dog and is very energetic. She is the only one allowed on the bed and one of her games is dashing all around the bed, zig-zag, in circles or from corner to corner until she has to stop, panting and exhausted and smiling. Yes, Gogi smiles. When you speak to her, when she's been naughty and when she's checking out some new clothes that I wear for the first time. She always knows, so she smiles and wags her tail to let me know she approves!

Like all our community dogs that live on the road, Gogi is blessed with good health and strength. She's never ill and even though she is 12, she shows no sign of ageing. She's a source of constant joy to the whole family and I always thank God that I stopped my car that day exactly in front of this sweet little angel of a dog.


Vivienne Choudhury

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Canine Outcaste

(This post comes from Pariah-owner Aditya Panda, Bhubaneshwar-based wildlife enthusiast. It first appeared on his blog Jungle Diaries. Thanks, Aditya, for letting me use it - Rajashree)

Here goes to the oldest breed of dog in the world- India's ubiquitious "Desi."

I had been to a reputed pet shop to buy food for my dogs. In the shop there was this important looking man conversing with the owner, the conversation largely being about how great his show-winning Great Dane and Labrador were. As I was about to leave, the he asked me what dogs I have. “A Rottweiler and a Desi (Indian Pariah Dog,” I said. “N******t for a Desi?!” he exclaimed. “Lucky dog… that stray must have done some really great deeds in his last birth to deserve this!” How wished I could rub it into him that Desis are not necessarily strays or mongrels, and that they deserve a LOT more respect than they are being given. But I had neither the time nor the inclination for an argument right then, so I tried wrapping it up saying “it’s not that my dog is extraordinarily lucky, it’s just that the breed is extraordinarily unlucky to have been ignored for so long.” “Today’s kids talk a lot” he snickered.

The Indian Pariah Dog has been abused like this for a long time. Its name alone makes it an outcaste. Very few people even acknowledge it as a breed. It is better known as “stray” and “mongrel” than as a specific breed. No kennel club recognizes it. Not even the Kennel Club of India. These dogs have roamed the streets of India since years living upon garbage and scraps and are rarely considered worthy of being kept as pets. So much so, that many people are embarrassed if somebody in their family has one- “Oh, it’s just a friendly stray, not our dog” they tell guests. Why such a bias? I don’t think I can as yet correctly answer that, but all I can guess for now is this - the British were the ones responsible (largely) for introducing the practice of keeping and showing dogs as pets in our country. They were too busy importing aristocratic canines from ‘back home’ and never bothered to develop local breeds. May be they even actively dissuaded local breeds (we know they did this with a lot of other local stuff, including people). The few Indian breeds that did get recognition were mostly the ones promoted by a few enterprising Maharajas. Little wonder then that most Indians, especially the snobbish kind, believe the Pariah (I’m tired of that name, lets just call it the Desi) to be the scourge of the canine world rightfully belonging in the streets and never to be seen in any self- respecting man’s yard.

Dogs are not wild animals. They are just domesticated wolves that have changed morphologically due to years of isolated, selective breeding. Experts opine that the origin of the domestic dog can be traced back to Asia, particularly India, and that it is in fact a direct descendent of the Indian wolf Canis lupus. Here are a few facts about apna Desi for those of you who still need proof about their eligibility for the show ring:


· It is the oldest, in fact first, breed of domestic dog. Its domestication dates back 12-15, 000 years - older than any other breed.


· Since this is the oldest breed of domesticated dog, all other breeds can trace back their ancestry to this breed. Almost all other breeds have been developed by selectively breeding from this gene pool. Yes, your Doberman, Rottweiler and Bullmastiff had Desis as their ancestors somewhere down their lineage.


· It is spread across the globe from Israel, through Africa and Asia right into Australia with slight regional variations. The Israeli variety has been recognized as the Canaan dog and the African variety is called the Basenji. They are being bred to meet high standards and are excelling in the show ring all over the world. The Australian Dingoes are descendants of dogs left behind by Asian sailors. The Dingo is perhaps the closest one can get to the original domestic dog. In India they are struggling for recognition and are, more than anything else, treated as pests.


· They are similar to the spitz family but show many wolf-like traits not seen in modern breeds. For example, modern breeds have two breeding cycles in a year while Desis have just one. In India this coincides with the breeding cycle of the wolf, i.e., during the Monsoon.


· They are extremely hardy and well suited to India’s sweltering tropical climate. The breed doesn’t have any inherited faults/diseases and have the most genetic diversity among dogs - that ensures that they don’t suffer from the ills of inbreeding.


· They shed remarkably less than other breeds and produce very little odor.


· They are beautiful, well-proportioned dogs.


· They are highly adaptive and, though they thrive with lots of exercise, will happily adapt to more sedentary lifestyles.


· They are highly intelligent, extremely loyal, even-tempered, brave dogs with a strong guarding instinct.


· They are easily trainable but some can be a little headstrong - blame their hunting pedigree for that. They are still used by tribes in India to hunt everything from hare and deer to wild boar - you need a very determined dog to face a wild boar.


· They are among the few breeds that go closest to being the ideal dog. They are a brave guard dog, yet loyal and friendly to their family. They are strong and athletic, but easy to maintain and extremely hardy. Their intelligence makes them very trainable. Their size is big enough to make them look intimidating to unwanted visitors, yet they are small enough for easy handling and affordable feeding.

The breed is fast losing its purity to mixed breeding. It is extremely crucial to preserve the breed now. Like-minded promoters of the breed need to get together, set a high standard, and start breeding these dogs selectively to achieve that standard. Every effort should be made to get the breed recognized at least by the Kennel Club of India and give it the respect it so truly deserves. A lot of us Indians need to stop being snobs and start appreciating the fact that the very purpose of keeping a dog is to have a companion for life. They are not status symbols born for the show ring and nothing else. The purpose of dog shows is to promote a breed and encourage breeders to strive for making every litter better than its parents. Glamour is not the point of a dog show. Even if you are looking for glamour, take this- the Desi is the oldest living breed of domestic dog. It’s the original domestic dog. The one that started it all! To me, nothing can be more glamorous than that, because it is impossible for any other breed to ever achieve that.


Aditya Panda

Saturday, August 11, 2007


" Sandy listen carefully. This game is the only one where dad can't make us run, so pretend to enjoy this. We have to last out a whole weekend!"

Lata Bajaj

Myra and Sandy continued: Sandy's tale

All was well at Myradom till May ’07, when we realised we had spoilt our first pet beyond repair. We wanted our second to make up for that. Our vet had always advised us to bring in a pup soon, as Myra was getting set in her ways.

One day we got a call from an acquaintance (known to us from the vet clinic) who wanted help for an abandoned dog who was hurt badly by strays. We went looking for him and found him in a state of shock, with one ear torn and refusing to eat. I felt his sadness and realised he had no will to survive. We took him to our vet and asked about adopting him. He gave us the go- ahead, as the dog was very docile. Being about a year old he would be a good companion to Myra if she accepted him. We had to keep him in a hospital for a few days before we could bring him home. We took Myra to meet him. She sniffed him, looked us in the eye and wagged her tail. Probably saying “Dad, mom, do something, he is in bad shape.” He was kept in the animal hospital for nine days and we used to take Myra to meet him from time to time. Finally we brought him home.


The building kids have now switched allegiance. They find Sandy irresistible and Myra has faded into the background. Myra is jealous but has learnt to bully him to submit to her superiority.

Umesh, my husband, and I work hard at keeping them active. We have a “moushi” (“aunty”) who loves animals and is an intergral part of our family unit. We have as much help as required, hired as and when Myra or Sandy need it. Say for training or taking them to the park and so on. Whenever time permits we take them to a seaside resort at Manori (Dominica’s allows pets) or Bordi (Gool Kush) to enjoy a weekend. Myra and Sandy love to play together in the beach or garden. It is a pleasure watching them play and chase each other. We’ve made Myra our communicator as she has language due to her earlier obedience training. She takes her job as elder sister very seriously, and he is everybody’s darling, gangly and clumsy and all the more adorable. Myra is a “touch-me-not” pet and Sandy is “Ghodi sona” pet. He needs a lot of hugs and keens through the night if he misses someone. Myra has a quota of one hug a day and “no kisses please”. Ask us if we want to trade our life for anything else and you’ll hear a firm “NO.” Many a time Myra and Sandy fight over food or a dead housefly (!) My husband always says “Human error brings about conflict, so keep their food separate.”

Umesh and I have had pariahs as pets all our childhood. I still remember my Puppy , Sandy, Titoni as if it were yesterday, and he his Rocky, Boots and Patch. We know there are many more to follow. Myra and Sandy are both unique gems we love and cherish. Sometimes we can give a glimpse of our treasure to other like-minded ones.


Lata Bajaj

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Remembering Jippy

She was a 7 week old pup who had been walking up and down our road crying piteously for a couple of days. Finally, my daughter and I could bear it no longer, we went in search of her and found her under a car near our building. She was a tiny orange coloured pup with upright ears and a half inch long tail! When we found her, she was covered in petrol. We took her home, bathed her, fed her and decided to keep her. She grumbled throughout the process! We called her Jippy and she lived for 15 years.

Maybe because of the petrol, Jippy got a terrible skin infection. The Vet we contacted told us to get rid of her and he would get us a pedigree dog! Needless to say, we got rid of the Vet! Then we approached Dr.Joshi in Santa Cruz. He was Head of Department in the Parel Animal Hospital. He congratulated us for adopting a pariah and assured us there was nothing wrong with her. He was right. After some treatment, Jippy always had a beautiful coat and sparkling eyes. She also had a sense of humour. When we tried to 'train' her to return to us, that is, 'come', she would run towards the hand holding the treat, grab the titbit in a sweeping movement and race off like the wind!

Minutes before she passed away, Jippy ate a complete butter-scotch ice cream from the cup I held for her as she lay in her basket. As my husband went upstairs, her eyes followed him, glowing with love and affection. Moments later she died.

We really loved our Jippy and we'll always miss her.

Vivienne Choudhury

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Meet Myra



Dogs have always been a passionate dinner topic for me with family and friends. When I met my husband I knew he was the man on hearing his love for our four-legged friends. The first five years of our courtship we craved a pet but considering our lifestyle at that point (he a sailor and I a hotelier from another state settling into the Mumbai way of life), it was impossible to do justice to a pet. We waited.

We married and sailed the seven seas for a few years. On one of our jaunts we a saw a stray dog at a port in the Middle East who came running to us like he was there just to receive us. We both looked and knew on our return home what we had to do. We missed having a pet. So we started discussing how we were going to go about the selection. Friends of ours had adopted a couple of kittens from the SPCA. The decision was made to visit the SPCA and look for our pet. But even before we could schedule a visit came a pup from a garden close to our home (in a then upcoming colony). She was a bundle of love caked in red mud .She licked me and approved of us as her adoptive parents.
The kids in our neighbourhood were crazy about the pup. They wanted her down all the time when they were playing in the garden. We used to get calls throughout the day to visit her or bring her downstairs to play.

Myra is a mix-breed, white and black with brown and black patches on both eyes, which are just like her personality – colourful. She is our proudest possession. She is spoilt and has managed to train us to wait on her. We’ve had her for 3 years and more. She tries to emulate her human counterparts, loves girls, is scared of boys who bully but the gentle ones are her darlings. She is the self-appointed watchdog for kids in the garden. Any stranger approaching the kids is unacceptable. Her rule is that no adult is allowed to chase and play with the kids, only kids can play with each other.

She loves to lick babies in the stroller. We always try to focus and prevent this, but somehow she manages to distract us and steal a quick lick! No amount of “no Myra” will do it. Most of the people in our society are Myra converts. Earlier they would find it strange that we brought in a “stray”, but Myra had a plan and today she has conquered many hearts. She is the most unruly, wild child who has brought everyone around to accept her.

Kids come up with their friends and explain their Myraisms. “When Myra barks look around there will be a C-A-T.” “ If you ever see a cat don’t say the hindi word (billi)! She will bark even at that.” Most of the time the kids put their parents fears at rest. And explain at length why they shouldn’t be afraid of her. I am always pleased by their sensibilities.

Lata Bajaj

Myra and Sandy





Lata Bajaj just sent in these pictures of her gorgeous dogs, both newly enrolled in the Indian Pariah Dog Club. Myra is the white lady with patches and the light brown male is Sandy.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Rajashree's dogs

I adopted Lalee in 2002 after nursing her through an attack of canine distemper, a disease which is nearly always fatal. My family were all German Shepherd fans, and Lalee was my first pariah dog. I can’t truthfully say I own her because there’s a lot of confusion about who really owns who. (There’s absolutely NO confusion about who owns the living room sofa, though.)

My other dog is Bandra, a mix-breed male. He’s named after the suburban Mumbai railway station that was his original home. I’ve no idea where all his fluffy fur came from. He was short-haired when I adopted him.

My vision of a beautiful friendship between these two dogs is now a distant dream. They spend most of their waking hours plotting each other’s downfall (No bloodshed fortunately). They do occasionally team up against common enemies, like the plumber, the guy who brings the gas cylinders, and the cook.

I'll be posting their photos very soon.