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, July 17, 2009

Fida and Tara













These pretty dogs belong to Ashwini and Ajay Varma. Originally adopted in Pune, they now live with their owners in the US. Fida is the pale one and Tara is the darker brown one.

Tara entered the Varmas' lives when they found her lying on the road bleeding profusely from the forehead. Probably because some goon had flung a stone at her. She was immobile and it took a month for the hole in her head to heal up. No external scars remain, but the trauma left her understandably scared of humans. She is nervous to this day, though she has improved a lot thanks to this kind couple's patient efforts and care.

Fida is the opposite, a confident and fearless dog. She just walked into the Varmas' house one rainy evening and they decided to keep her. Look at her narrowed, intelligent eyes as she gazes into the camera. Very different from Tara's soft mild expression, but just as cute!

Photos: Ashwini and Ajay Varma
USA

Emailed to me by Sameer Prabhakar

Jimmy, victim of India's Eurobreed obsession





This lovely German Shepherd Dog was actually a mix-breed, the result of an unplanned mating between a pet GSD and a street dog. Since he was not pure GSD, and therefore of no commercial value, Jimmy was destined for a life on the street.

Luckily he was rescued by animal lover Sameer Prabhakar, who was more concerned about the puppy's plight than his pedigree. He lived happily with Sameer till his death last year, at the age of 13.

Most mongrels do not have happy endings like this. Thanks to second-rate dog owners who let their Eurobreeds mate with street dogs, a vast population of mix-breeds lives on our city streets today. My own dog Bandra is a typical example. Dogs like Jimmy and Bandra exist because, first, people are obsessed with Eurobreeds here, and second, because they don't bother to restrain their pets properly. I know that once in a way a pet dog may escape and mate in spite of his owner's best efforts to restrain him, but most of the time it happens due to human stupidity and carelessness. I know of only two ethical people who actually adopted street pups fathered by their own Eurobreed dogs, but such conscientious behaviour is rare.

The belief that mongrels are tougher than purebreds is true only in the context of artificially created breeds. I don't believe that a mix-breed is tougher than a pure aboriginal dog though. Dogs like our INDogs have evolved over thousands of years of natural selection and they are already perfectly adapted to our climate and their life. How can you improve on perfect? Moreover my years of experience have not led me to believe that mutts are any tougher than the pure-looking Pariahs. In some cases, they seem to inherit the temperament and health problems of their more delicate parent, making it difficult for them to survive on the street. I knew a mix-breed who died of heatstroke one summer. My Bandra is very much more frail than my "desi girl" Lalee, and in fact has complex health problems. As for Jimmy, if Sameer hadn't taken him in, I wonder how long he would have been able to cope.

Mongrelization is the biggest threat to our aboriginal dog population. Already the Australian Dingo has been hybridized to a dangerous extent, by Eurobreeds taken to that continent in the last couple of centuries. Is that the way our INDog is headed? At this rate this ancient race will silently disappear before people are even aware of its pure ancestry. What an irony.

Photos: Sameer Prabhakar
Pune

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Indian street dogs as security dogs: a database of incidents

This is self-explanatory...We all know INDogs and INDog-mix dogs are superior watchdogs, but incidents and examples have not been compiled in any one document, as far as I know. I've finally managed to collect instances which I've been sent over the last two years, into this database. Thank you very much, everyone who responded to my appeal. I specially want to thank canine behaviour expert Shirin Merchant for suggesting such a compilation in the first place.

This is just the first step and I'm sure there are thousands and millions more examples out there. Please spare a few minutes to email me anything you have heard about or experienced personally - on rajashree DOT khalap AT gmail DOT com

INDogs as Security Dogs

Friday, July 10, 2009

Rishi and Kimaya





I simply had to post these two pictures together, because Rishi and Kimaya are siblings, and so similar to each other! Here they are both doing a "play bow" to invite their older companions to play with them.

Above: Kimaya's play bow gets a warning snarl from Lalee, who finds this pup rather pesky sometimes! Needless to say, these displays don't deter the boisterous Kimaya at all.

Below: Rishi and Leela are always playing and are the best of friends. Photo by Yvonne de Kock.

Nagaon and Cape Town

Rishi and Leela in Africa!













Yvonne de Kock and her husband recently shifted back to their own country, South Africa, after several years in NYC. With them of course are Leela and Rishi, formerly of Pune and Mumbai. And their leader, Apollo the 17-year old red Persian. Here they all are in Cape Town.

The dogs now get daily romps on the lovely beach and in the garden. Bliss!


Photos: Yvonne de Kock
Cape Town
South Africa

Monday, July 6, 2009

Shalini growing...

















Cute little Shalini is shooting up, as puppies always do. See her baby pics here. She is now lean, leggy and stunningly elegant.

This lucky girl lives with owners Nicole and Vinod in a beautiful part of Ahmedabad, filled with open spaces and interesting wildlife. I am slightly envious of them actually! Lalee and I see rats on our walks; Nicole and Shalini see monitor lizards and langurs.

It's so great that this lovely dog's life changed so dramatically for the better, just like all the pets featured here. I wish for the millionth time that more people would rescue INDogs rather than buy Eurobreeds. All they do is encourage sloppy and unscrupulous breeding, and in the bargain give some poor dog a rather uncomfortable life (given that most of the common Eurobreeds here originated in much colder countries!)

Photos: Nicole Poyyayil
Ahmedabad

Bonu and Putu









Rinika Dutta Gupta's beautiful INDogs Bonu and Putu, on Bonu's birthday!

Bonu was rescued by Rinika because a low-grade person in the neighbourhood was persecuting her mother and siblings (sounds familiar, doesn't it? Good news is he's stopped now). Putu is her brother from a later litter.


Photos: Rinika Dutta Gupta
Kolkata


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Pikey









I adopted Pikey a few months ago, outside Mount Carmel College, Bangalore, where I studied Mass Communications.

It's a funny story really because I was hurrying into college at around 12 noon, to write my final exam, my last paper on literature, to complete my course and get my degree. I arrived on campus about 10 minutes early for the paper. So I was standing outside the hall trying to do some last minute revision.


Well, my college has always been very pro-INDog and the college dogs are well known by all the faculty and students. So when little Pikey, who was just a puppy then, ran in front of me, I had to stop studying to see who this new puppy on campus was. Turns out, he had wandered on to the campus and was desperately crying out and darting about as he didn't know where he was. The other dogs in my college, Stephano and Gloria, were running after this poor puppy trying to show him he had wandered onto their territory.


At first I thought I'd just play with Pikey for a little while to calm him down, and feed him something from the canteen so he wouldn't be so frightened. But half an hour later, when I realised everyone had gone in for the exam and I had forgotten all about it, playing with Pikey, I decided to give my exam a miss and take him home with me.

He was very nervous in the autorickshaw ride to my house, but once he met the family and had something to eat, he started exploring the house and getting comfortable enough to sit on the sofa.

Yesterday I took him for a ride in my car, and as usual, in true Pikey style, he was very nervous and refused to get into the car. But once he was in and the breeze was in his doggy face, he seemed to start loving it and even barked at all the dogs outside. It was very cute to see his pointy ears being blown back in the wind and the way he enjoyed the breeze by the window!


Sagari Shetty
Bangalore

Friday, July 3, 2009

All about Rabies

My first exposure to the Rabies virus was in 1993. The incident was extremely traumatic and was my most important reason for starting street dog welfare work, something I did for the next 14 years.

At the time I was given an alarming pamphlet by the veterinary college, illustrated with a picture of a skeleton riding a horse. I felt that a much clearer FAQ was needed, with up-to-date information about diagnosis, symptoms and prevention.

One of the first things I did was gather information about rabies and compile a leaflet, which was printed and distributed jointly by two Mumbai NGOs (The Welfare of Stray Dogs and Plants and Animal Lovers Society). The information was provided by the World Health Organization (Geneva), Haffkine Institute (Mumbai), several Mumbai veterinarians and a molecular biologist. The FAQ is still in the WSD website. Click below for the link:

Rabies - What is true. What is false. What you must know.
However, it was last updated about three years ago, so newer information has not been included, notably about the oral anti-rabies vaccine.

The World Health Organization (WHO) site is a must-read for anyone interested in rabies. Click here.

And another must-read is the CDC site (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), though some of the information is specific to the USA and not applicable in India. Click here.

Sadly, rabies prevention is not a priority of our government at all, judging by the scant attention it gets. It would be so easy to eradicate this terrible disease if there was any real will to do so.

Click here for an earlier post on rabies in this blog.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

On Talking Terms with Dogs

Recently I read about a Japanese-made gadget that claims to "translate" a dog's barks into English sentences. You attach it to your dog's collar and it tells you what your dog is trying to say. The gadget is being sold by a Mumbai pet store. A popular daily asked four dog owners to review it. From what I remember, two of the interviewees were quite scathing about it and didn't think it was of any use. They also felt (and I agree) that people who need something like this should not be keeping a dog at all!

While the merits of such gadgets are dubious, the motivation for creating them is very real. There is an undeniable communication gap between dogs and humans, no matter how much we may love each other. The human filters we naturally apply would lead us to misinterpret or simply miss a lot of what our dogs are trying to express.

For me, a new door just opened on the mysterious world of dog-human communication, thanks to Norwegian dog trainer and behaviourist Turid Rugaas. I recently read her wonderful little book On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals (Yvonne, thanks for gifting it to me!) It was a real eye-opener and I am so impressed with it I want to recommend it to all dog owners. Turid Rugaas has done pioneering work in this field, inspired by her "childhood dream about talking to animals." She believes that dogs are conflict-solving creatures, and they use many signals to prevent aggression, and also to calm fear and stress in themselves and those they interact with. By using the same signals, we can solve many common behaviour problems in our dogs and really understand what they are trying to say.

I tried a couple of her suggestions on my sometimes boisterous Kimaya, and they worked beautifully. I'm looking at Lalee with new eyes too, wondering if I've misinterpreted some of her expressions and body language for so many years (of course, my husband believes I have!)

The book is very easy to read and illustrated with many photographs. I think all children of dog-owning families should be made to read it.

I am now going to order another book by Ms Rugaas, Barking: The Sound of a Language. The publisher for all her books is Dogwise Publishing, http://www.dogwise.com/

Incidentally, there is a very interesting chapter on dog "language" in Stephen Budiansky's book The Truth about Dogs.

Click here for an earlier post in this blog on useful books for dog lovers. And if there are any other books you have liked, please share the names with our readers - just post a comment below.