This blog is for aboriginal dog enthusiasts. It is part of the INDog Project www.indog.co.in. Only INDogs (Indian Pariah Dog) and INDog-mixes (Indies) 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 landrace village dog of the Indian subcontinent. I sometimes feature other landrace breeds too. Also see padsociety.org
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Blacky is a very friendly, docile and smart four month old puppy I picked up from my hospital premises in bad shape. She was on her own and very hungry. Now after two months with us, she is in much better shape but needs a good home of her own. The snap of her attached is of bad quality, but she looks very cute in person - shiny solid black with lovely brown eyes. We have three dogs already and so find it impossible to keep her permanently.
Any nice people from Chennai who want this darling can contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
My mother and I first saw Proton when he was a two week old puppy, ambling along on a very busy street. We stopped as he looked too small to be strolling alone. But as we had no clue as to how small was too small, we thought he could probably take care of himself. Right then a truck rolled by, an inch away from him. He made no attempt to get away and was looking around in a very bewildered fashion.
Realizing that something was amiss, I bent down and picked him up. He was incredibly tiny (750 g) and his eyes were not open yet. Finding no signs of Mamma dog or other babies in the vicinity, we brought him home. He was extremely hungry, tick-infested and guzzled up twice his volume in milk before settling down to sleep.
That was how Proton came home. The year prior to that we had had much doggy discussion at home - whether to get one, which one to get... My mother had been firm that if at all we bring home a doggy (for the first time and after much begging from my side), we should get a dog that wouldn't have a home otherwise. It seemed fair enough to me and we were thinking of getting one from the Blue Cross shelter before Proton decided that he had waited long enough. I named him Proton as he was our first, plus he was a small mass of positive energy...
Being our first experience with a canine of any sort, and especially one so small, his antics used to amaze us. We brought him up on cerelac, and had to keep changing flavours every week to get him to eat. Once his eyes opened fully he took charge of his duties as companion dog and started following us around everywhere, so much so that we had to tread very carefully not to step on this tiny thing. He was a great watchdog from the first and even as a puppy used to bark and chase away big bad dogs from our yard. He was a smart boy too, learnt 'sit' by eight weeks and made firm friends with everyone around, my great grandmother included. He is particularly close to my Dad, who used to carry him around tucked under one arm, during most of his babyhood.
Our neighbours were so impressed with his abilities that they too brought home an Indian dog!
People who used to tell us that we had to get non-vegetarian food for the dog are surprised to find that Proton is pure vegetarian and particularly loves potatoes and carrots. We can usually get him to do anything by dangling a sweet in front of him. Our vet offered him chicken post vaccination as a treat, and he firmly turned his nose away.
During the last one year he has grown quite a bit, as expected, and grown very handsome too. People who see him often ask what breed our dog is, and remark on his good looks. We are pleased to tell them he is an Indian dog and a great one at that.
Proton has opened our eyes to the beauty of these amazing animals, who do so well given a little love and care. So much so that we have recently adopted two more doggies.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Another twist to the tell-tale-tail is the fact that Dog 1, English-speaking, is by birth and breed, a pariah, better known as sadak-chaap, or gauthi; this particular one was born in the Versova, Seven Bungalows Kachra Peti, and grew up in my Mumbai days, where we spoke a lot of English in the household, so he responds only in flowing English. Dog 2, Marathi-speaking, is a West Highland Terrier who came to me when I moved to Pune and much more Marathi is spoken in my home. He is better known as angrezi-kutta, or English-dog, and responds only to brusque Marathi.
And so, there are several innocents in and around my area – children, courier boys, the postman, the housekeeper, the watchman, the carpenter, the milkman, the paperwallah, the dhobi, and several such – who never fail to exclaim in great wonderment: array, this sadak-chaap knows English, and that Angrezi-kutta knows Marathi? I have tried often to explain, that it isn't some hierarchical skill, this language learning, with English reserved for the upper echelons and whatnot. But somehow I can't get this point across. Too complicated. (It's like the old Ajji who was taken to Paris, and on her first day out, in the park, she exclaimed in amazed admiration: "Array, even the children here speak French! What a sophisticated place!")
The 'opposite' or 'inverse' language skills of my two dogs continues to be quite the talk of the town. At times, poor Dog 1 is openly jeered at by some of these people: Array gauthi kutra asoon English kay boltos? Marathi yet nahi ka?
I kid you not. A policeman once came to my home to inspect a break-in. This was when there was just Dog 1, the English-speaking gauthi. He asked me what the dog was doing while the house was being broken into. "Sleeping soundly like me," I sheepishly answered, trying to offer some lame explanation about the dog being old. Having observed me instructing Dog 1 in English, the policeman sniffed and said chastizingly to me in Marathi: "Let me tell you one thing. All this 'come, come, go, go' talk with these gauthi dogs – no use. It only makes them lazy and think that they are some kings who have to just sit around and eat."
Whatever people may say about dogs understanding only tones, and not actual words, they're not fully right. Of course, I have a friend who once demonstrated brilliantly how tones worked with dogs, rather than words. He called out "maanjar, maanjar" in a hissing, go-get-her tone, and his dogs hurled themselves at the garden wall, anticipating a nice mouthful of cat. A few minutes later, when they'd settled down, he said "Sridevi, Sridevi" in the same hissy tone, and the dogs chased after imaginary or potential cats again. So granted, your tone works a lot, with dogs. But still, dogs do understand words, and in different languages – in their mother tongue, if you will. I had a Tamilian neighbour who would say "Fan inge?" to her German Shepherd, and the fellow would look at the switch and then at the fan. If you tried "Sridevi inge?" in the same tone, he would probably say go find her yourself.
To come back to my sharply divided bilingual home. The older dog, who grew up in Mumbai when he was with me in a predominantly English speaking household, understands English. Not just single word commands like come, go, sit, walk, eat, shut up, but also more elaborate sentences. Stop staring at guests, I say, and he ceases eyeing people's kabab platters and sulkily goes away. To the other, Marathi-speaking dog, who was acquired in Pune and grew up surrounded by Marathi, I convey the same sentiment in our unique rhetorical idiom: Kon tondakaday baghtay? I ask, dripping Maharashtrian sarcasm, and this dog looks guiltily away and pushes off with a very distinctly Marathi hmmph.
And neither of them can understand a single word of the other language. If, for instance, I say to Dog 1, Chall, phirayla jauya, or bhook lagli ka, he just stares back at you like those South Bombay people who steadfastly refuse to understand anything but English. But whenever I say Let's go for a walk, or ask him, hungry? that is sure to instantly elicit a standing ovation, and hectic Yes! signals.
Dog 2, were I to say elegantly, black slipper, would just continue with whatever crime or misdeameanour he is committing at the moment. But all I have to mutter darkly is kaali chappal, and that gets him to stop nipping at people's ankles, or trying to dig a passage in the garden all the way to China. (A word of explanation: when still a puppy, Dog 2 had chewed up one of two black beaded slippers. With the remaining one, so bite me, I had whacked him soundly, all the while asking: Ka khallis mazhi kaali chappal? After that the kaali chappal can be invoked when things get out of hand, to great effect).
Dog 1 grows a halo around himself when I say, excellent animal. Dog 2 needs to be told, shahana kutra. Then he knows I approve thoroughly of whatever he's done. Even their barks are distinct. One says woof, straight out of some Bedtime Tales kind of book; the other goes bhu-bhu, like the dog from my first book of Marathi nursery rhymes.
When I'm out walking with this jodi, things get complicated. Kadey ni chaal, move to the side, I'm saying, almost at the same time, to the two of them (since Pune traffic roars dangerously close past you in only one language, the language of the road rowdy). Paani hava? Water? I rap out, and several such instructions and questions issue forth from me like a simultaneous translator.
And if they could speak, there would be more confusion, no doubt!
Rajashree adds: This piece appeared in Gouri's column in the Maharashtra Herald (now Sakaal Times). Thanks for sending it, Gouri!
Recently we rescued four puppies from a garbage dump. They had been abandoned and left there to die.
The puppies are very tiny and very very cute. Currently they are at the WSD Kennel (but we can't keep them there for too long) waiting to find loving homes.
We've named them Chunnu, Munnu, Bunnu and Tunnu for the moment. Please help them find good homes. Interested people should email email@example.com
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Some recent photos of Hari, who was adopted by Beatrice Hannah in Sri Lanka last year and later taken to the UK. Hari is short for Harriet, and the word also means "OK" or "very" in Sinhalese. This pretty little dog was featured here on January 24 - click here to see adorable puppy photos. As you can see, she's grown into quite a beauty - look at those ears!
Here's what Beatrice says about her:
"Hari has settled in well, she's made lots of friends and even has a little English dog living with her. She seems to like life in Britain, though she does get very excited if I offer her some mango and she still really likes to eat dahl as a special treat.
Photos: Beatrice Hannah
Monday, September 8, 2008
Above: Me with Cutta as a puppy - you can see the swelling on her face
Above: Feeling better
Above: Some sweet milk and baby cereal
Above: Cutta in Aspen, Colorado
Above: With Dublin, her adopted brother
Above and below: With my son
Below: At the Lake House
This is my "Pariah" dog. Until today I had no idea that was what she was called. Her name is Cutta (short for Calcutta) and I found her on the streets of Kolkata four years ago.
I was working with the Mother Theresa Charities (I am not Catholic, just a volunteer). Every day on my way home I passed these two puppies who always lay in the same position, nose to nose, and were in obvious ill health. One day my friend and I noticed the puppies were no longer there and I said, "oh, the puppies must have died." After a few steps something made me look to my left and there was one of the puppies lying in the trash. Initially I thought she was dead so I walked over to give her a little blessing and she opened her eyes and looked up at me, she was so pitiful and ill. I immediately scooped her up, I could not imagine leaving her there to die in the trash. We brought her to our hotel, snuck her in inside a backpack, thinking we would let her die with some peace and dignity rather than in a trash heap. We made a comfortable bed for her, on my bed, and fed her some sweet milk, which she was too weak to drink to we emptied a bottle of eye drops and used it to squeeze the milk, little by little, into her mouth. The next morning she was still alive so we took her to a vet at an animal lovers society to find out if there was anything we could do for her. He told us to forget about her and put her back in the trash as she had no value and was a "mongrel." I insisted he treat her and he finally relented and gave her a shot of antihistamine (she had a lot of swelling in her face) and a shot of antibiotics. Cutta slept for 24 hours straight. She woke hungry, and wagged her tail for the first time. (When she wags her tail she wiggles her whole behind and turns into a horseshoe shape as she makes her way to you).
After five days it was time for me to return to the U.S. but Cutta was still too sick to travel (there was no way I was not going to keep her) and she had to have vaccinations also but could not receive them being as ill as she was. After much worry and scrambling to figure out where to keep her the vet at the clinic said he had an animal shelter where he could keep her, but only if someone stayed in India and took responsibility for her. Well, the man at our hotel, Sam, a wonderful guy, offered to represent her as her owner, so she was taken from us to spend her recovery and quarantine at the shelter. Walking away from Cutta that day was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I didn't know if I could trust them to care for her. I worried that they might just put her back on the street. I cried and cried.
Finally after 42 days, Cutta made the long journey from Kolkata to the U.S.! It has been four years and she has brought so much love and joy to our family. We can't imagine life without her. Wherever we go people always stop and ask us what breed our beautiful dog is. We usually say she is a street dog from India and they are always so amazed. Sometimes I just say, "She is Cutta of India."
She is so happy. My husband calls her the Queen, because she definitely rules the house.
Above: A pure INDog, very rare in the area
Below: "Indian" mix-breeds typical of the Western Deccan
Last weekend I saw a completely different type of mix-breed from the Indo-Eurobreed kind we normally see in cities. For the first time, this was a completely “Indian” mutt!
My husband and I were visiting the grasslands of the Solapur area of the western Deccan Plateau. This is a very different landscape from the forested areas I’ve visited before: these are vast open savannas as far as the eye can see, dotted with herds of beautiful blackbuck (Indian Antelope)…alternating oddly with cattle, goats and sheep. Cows and goats wander into protected areas, wolves prey on livestock, blackbuck graze anywhere they like and dogs run into the sanctuary nearby. Understandably there is a lot of conflict and controversy over all this… It seems particularly hard to keep domestic and wild animals isolated from each other in such a place; at least that’s what I, with my limited knowledge, concluded.
Of course I went on my usual search for pure INDogs, but they are a very rare sight here, indeed close to non-existent. This is sheep country and hare country and blackbuck country, so two very interesting Indian dog breeds predominate: the thick-coated Dhangar Dog (sheep dogs of Maharashtra) and the thin, elegant sighthound known as Karwani, Caravan Hound or Mudhol Hound.
Almost all the pet and free-roaming dogs here are a mix of INDog, Dhangar and Karwani, in varying proportions. Villagers use them as livestock guardians. The pure INDog in the first picture is one of the very few I saw in this region; the other dogs shown are typical of the area.
A far less pleasant sight was the huge amount of garbage liberally strewn around all the villages. There seems to be no system of garbage disposal, and this is probably the reason for the scattered population of scavenging dogs living in the area (at least so I would imagine going by the universal connection between garbage and dogs). As always, both dogs and wild animals have to pay the price for human sloppiness.
A long-term solution is possible if the local administration would set up a sustainable system for prompt waste disposal, at the same time educating villagers about the issue. It could be done if the authorities would shake off their apparent apathy on this subject: but then in India there is such a deeply-ingrained acceptance of garbage as part of the scenery that no-one even notices or comments on it. As a society we are just not civic-minded and this is the root cause of many of our problems.
Over the years I have had little reason to believe that anyone has the will or common sense to go in for large-scale long-term solutions. I can’t help hoping for one though, and I’m offering up my completely unimportant opinion for what little it’s worth.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
INDogs photographed by Kiran Khalap in the village Lote Parshuram, near Chiplun in the Konkan region of Maharashtra. The area lies between the Western Ghat hill range and the Arabian Sea. Like the dogs in my 11 May 2008 post, these display the generalized primitive dog appearance known as the long-term pariah morphotype.
The red-brown dog in the first picture was a livestock guardian dog belonging to a group of shepherds.
Photos: Kiran Khalap
Our move to Bangalore from Mumbai (or Bombay as I prefer to call it) was heartwrenching. And when I saw this doggie near the gate of our apartment, I looked away. He had such melting brown eyes – no more heart aches for me, I thought and ignored him completely for several months to come. But as wise men say, one cannot fight destiny.
Doggies do break hearts. Let us begin with Poochie. Poochie was almost my sibling, not a dog, or so she thought. Well, it is true she was part of the family. Born in our own garden in Bandra, I swear she called my Mum, 'Mum' as well.
There were two of them: Brown, fierce, independent, female puppy – Poochie (as she was later named) and her brother - fluffy, lazy, cuddly and spotless white. Unfortunately their mum, also a brown stray doggie, died soon after in a car accident.
It was for us to rear these puppies. Poochie's brother found a home and Poochie found a way into our hearts.
Our family agreed that she was a highly intelligent and 'educated' dog, this more than made up for her mixed breed. It is true; she was my constant companion, from standard seventh till after I qualified as a CA. From mugging History and Hindi to Economics and other mundane stuff, Poochie stoically bore it all. In fact she relished performing a war dance on my stomach to wake me up when the alarm went off, early in the morning, when I got up to study. And then she went to sleep, sometimes on my warm bed. I didn't have the heart to pull her off the bed and on to her equally cosy extra large cushion. Of course for bearing the long study hours, there were frills attached – lots of hugs, unexpected titbits of treats – she loved apples and cheese, long walks, dips in the sea.
Interestingly, Poochie shared a special relationship with Silky the cat. Silky was our pet even before Poochie entered our lives and Silky mothered this little pup. Let us add that Silky was extremely productive - with a litter of kittens almost every three months. Poochie, once she was grown up, played the godmother and a good one at that. Silky's departure was rather tragic, she ran away from the vet's clinic and Poochie mourned for days over her absence. But one could never keep Poochie down for long and she was soon back to her cheerful self. While she adored Silky, any other cat was her sworn enemy.
When Poochie expired - close to twelve years old – of a heart attack, in my mother's arms, my parents were stricken with grief. But I could not shed a single tear. It just seemed that a part of me had died. It was then that I decided, "No more dogs equals no more heartbreaks."
Fast forward: Six years after Poochie's death, we trundled into Bangalore. And there was 'Snowy', standing at the gate waiting for us. But, no, I turned away. I did not have to feel very guilty. Snowy was fed by our neighbours. They had a cocker spaniel and used to feed Snowy, apparently an abandoned doggie, with leftovers and extra rotis thrown in.
Then, as fate would have it, within six months this family shifted and we took over the responsibility of providing Snowy with food. Guess a dog needs love as much as food. So I would spend time talking to Snowy (who was a bit deaf) hoping we could adopt him and bring him home.
Slowly his spirit returned, he became active, began to bark at strangers, chase cars, and flirt with the female doggies. Yet he could never ever become our full-time house dog. I so wanted to hug him, as I used to Poochie. Why, I would have even given up my warm bed for him, had Snowy agreed to stay with us. The barrier remained, we could not pat Snowy. He shied away if we tried to. Perhaps he could not really trust another human being to pat him. I wonder till today what trauma he had to undergo in the past.
All we could do was provide him with food; shelter he took in the basement when it poured and an animal welfare organization took care of his medical needs and regularly pinned him down for various shots.
While Poochie used to welcome me with warm hugs and licks every evening when I returned home, Snowy used to give me an equally warm sendoff. He used to chase my car when I would leave for work. When I was in the car I did not seem to pose a threat to Snowy. This became an everyday game; he would bound up grinning to send me off to work, every morning without fail with excited yips and yaps.
On September 20, 2006, we found him curled up and dead in his sleep.
Yes, in a way he was my dog. Yet a dog I could never pat and hug and hold. Snowy was not my Poochie, yet he held a special place in my heart and I miss him. The road still seems so empty, there is no one to bark and say "Have a nice day at work."
Today, owing to personal reasons, I am unable to take care of a dog. But if you can, you must. Try and befriend them and take them home. At times you may fail, like we did with Snowy, but I'd like to think we gave him the best possible love and affection.
Yes, dogs do break hearts, but the love they provide and the lasting memories that you retain forever and ever, more than make up for it.
In the photo: Snowy
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Pariah-type dogs exist in every continent, from the Dingo of Australia, across Asia, Africa and America. On January 24, 2008 I had posted a story and photos of Hari, adopted from Sri Lanka by Beatrice Hannah. Two Sri Lankan dogs, Flopsy and Bob, are owned by Kara and Kevin Cottle of the US and were featured here on March 24. In Sri Lanka the pariah-type breed is recognized as the Sinhala Hound. Other people have written to me about similar dogs adopted in Bangladesh and Malaysia. I've seen pariah-type dogs in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Egypt.
Fenix (I love that name!) is an Asian pariah dog too, slightly mixed, from Taiwan. She lives in the Netherlands now. Her owner Pepijn Stulemeijer tells us her story:
Recently my wife and I adopted a Pariah dog as a pet. She originates from Taiwan and not India. Her story is a very sad one...she will be two years old on September 5th, but in her short life she has been through a lot.
As a puppy she was adopted as a house pet by a family in her native country of Taiwan. We know that when she was just a few months old, she was abused and thrown from a moving car. A traveling businessman found her and brought her to a vet, where she was treated for her injuries (a broken rear leg amongst others).
After she recovered she was handed over to Animals Association International, who brought her to the Netherlands. She was placed in a temporary home while they looked for a family who wanted to adopt her. So when she was about six months old, she was placed in a loving family where she had a very good life. She had loving owners, another dog to play with and the grandchildren of her owners came to play with her on a regular basis.
But about a year later her owner was diagnosed with cancer, and it is very likely to be terminal. So they made a very hard decision, and returned their much loved dog to Animals Association International. And again, she was moved to a temporary home. This left a very big mark on her, as her self-confidence was completely destroyed and she became a very scared little dog.
But after just a few days in her temporary home, my wife and I decided to go take a look at her, to see if we could adopt this dog. We went to meet her on a Saturday, and the Sunday after we went to pick her up.
The first thing we did was change her name. She was called A-sing (I have a friend who speaks Mandarin, the main language in Taiwan, and he told me that her name most likely meant 'disgusting,' which isn't a very nice name of course). We renamed her Fenix (pronounced just like Phoenix). We thought this was a fitting name, as when the creature the Phoenix dies it rises again from its own ashes. We liked the symbolism of this, as she had to start over so many times during her short life. The different spelling 'Fenix' is a link to one of my hobbies, I collect flashlights, and 'Fenix' is one of my favorite brands.
It took her a while to get used to her new home and family, but we're seeing progress every day. Now she really feels at home with us, but when people come to visit she's still a bit scared. Last week we started with dog training, hopefully this will give her some of her self-confidence back.
Monday, September 1, 2008
This bright and perky little dog is Gizmo, Rupam Borah's INDog-mix. Gizmo has the most expressive and intelligent eyes and clearly has oodles of personality. My favourite picture in this beautiful series is the one of him trying to reach the bathroom mirror!
Photos: Rupam Borah
Katie was born in July of 2001 in Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu. Her mother was a Pariah Dog, father unknown. We acquired her as a puppy, barely weaned, from a family that was involved with the International School as I was a volunteer teacher there at the time. Another couple from the States adopted one of Katie's brothers, but I don't know what has happened to them.
Katie has been a very special part of our family. She stole our hearts as a pup and there was no way we were going to leave her in India when it was our time to come back to the U.S. Katie endured a 32 hour trip in a carrier, with time for a walk in Malaysia (under armed guard!) and nibbled on stolen breakfast sausages from the hotel! When we finally arrived in Los Angeles, we could hear her howling for us through the customs door. I think the airport officials were so glad to reunite us that we didn't even have to wait for a vet - we just walked out with her like she was one of our children!
Katie has been totally pampered in America, but I swear every time we cook Indian food she sits in the kitchen with her nose in the air and a far away look in her eyes. Could she really be remembering her first year in Kodai? Or could she just be reflecting the longing in my own heart to return to Tamil Nadu...???
Rajashree's footnote: I must explain how Katie joined the Club! Yvonne Koch was watching a repeat of the Martha Stewart Dog Show (I posted the link on February 9, 2008, you can view it by clicking here). On the show she saw Yvonne de Kock of NYC with her INDog-mix Leela and our other NYC member, India. She was struck by the resemblance between Leela and Katie, looked up pariah dogs/INDogs on Google, and that's how she came here.