About Me

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Mumbai, India
I'm a landrace dog fancier, birder and amateur arachnologist. Founder of the INDog Project (www.indog.co.in) and the INDog Club. Before that, worked with urban free-ranging dogs of Mumbai from 1993-2007. Also a wildlife conservationist working in the tiger reserves of central India with Satpuda Foundation.

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.

Monday, January 18, 2010

When dogs seek out dog-lovers - Episode 1: The white dog on the beach

This series of posts is about injured dogs who seem to have deliberately approached humans for help. This kind of thing usually raises a storm of protest from "rational" people who, without proper evidence or research, believe that dogs are not capable of any level of rational thinking. I've heard of and experienced several cases in which an animal in distress seems to actually seek out an animal lover and ask for aid. I don't think any of these cases can be attributed to mere coincidence. Read them and judge for yourself.

Here's the first episode:

The white dog on the beach

This happened a few years ago, I think it was in 2004.

Lalee, Lucy and I were walking on the beach in Nagaon late in the evening, just before sunset. The beach was virtually empty of humans in those days as it was still unknown to tourists. Usually there would just be our two dogs, some village dogs, a few fishermen and me.

Far away I saw a white dog climb down over the rocky bank that separates the gardens and bungalows from the beach. He reached the sand. Lalee and Lucy noticed him too.

The next part surprised me. The dog started trotting towards us, very deliberate and focused. He was pure white, quite lean built, and there was a large something on the back of his neck. As he came closer it turned out to be a huge swollen wound, almost the size of a melon. I had never seen him before.

It's very unusual for a dog to approach us so directly and silently. Either they are hostile to my dogs - in which case they would rush at us in stages, barking loudly - but they would definitely be wary of a human and wouldn't walk straight up to me.

Or they may be friendly, in which case their body language would indicate that they wanted to play - tail held high and wagging, perhaps play bows. But again, they never just walk up to us.

This dog gave no signal whatsoever to Lalee and Lucy, he more or less ignored them. And they, receiving no cues from him, were confused and didn't react much to his approach. He didn't seem to want to interact with them, but with me. Eerie as it may seem, it was as if he was coming all that way just to meet me.

Before you scoff at this statement, consider what he did next. He stood still and let me examine his huge wound, though it must have been extremely painful. Most injured dogs would not have allowed a stranger to touch them, but this dog stood perfectly still. The wound didn't have maggots, or perhaps it had had maggots and someone had cleaned them out. I won't go into gory details, but the flesh was pink, clean and healthy. There was something dark smeared on the fur around the edge - some medication applied by a human? Without treatment a wound like this would almost definitely have had a maggot infestation or infection.

I decided the best thing to do would be to take him back to our house and apply some Calendula tincture on the wound. I lifted him in my arms - a dog I had never seen or handled until a few minutes ago - and he didn't object to that at all. I'm usually very cautious with dogs I don't know well, but somehow it seemed safe. I carried him all the way back. Lalee and Lucy probably didn't approve but trotted quietly beside us. In the dusk our odd little procession wound its way home through the casuarina trees and lantana bushes and coconut palms.

When we reached home, my servants gasped and one of them reached down for a stone to throw and chase the dog away. "That dog bites!" she yelled. This is unusual, as our servants normally don't react to dogs in the area.

"What nonsense, do you see him biting now?" I scolded them. But they insisted he had sometimes visited my aunt's plantation next door, and that he was a biter. They recognized him by the wound.

Well, the "biter" stood perfectly still until I had poured the tincture into his wound. At that point he probably decided he'd made a mistake - no wonder, Calendula burns for a few minutes - and since I had no extra leash or collar, I couldn't control him in any way. After a vigorous shake that showered the medicine all over the courtyard, he leaped nimbly over the parapet and bounded away into the darkness. And that was the first and last time I ever saw him.

Why did he come to me and why did he let me lift him up and carry him home? Village dogs don't just go up to strangers and allow so much handling. Did he know that I would treat his wound and make him feel better? Had his wound been treated earlier by some dog-owning stranger?

I guess I'll never know.



Lakshmi said...

It's such a coincidence that I should read this piece now! I just came up after trying but failing to administer medication to Gattu, a dog that lives in our lane..in spite of being used to me (he's hand-fed by me every day) he was downright aggressive (I am not surprised though, because there have been earlier instances when this sort of thing has happened)...

Rajashree Khalap said...

Most dogs are aggressive when in pain, that's normal. That's what made this dog's docile behaviour so strange, specially since I was a complete stranger and village dogs are always wary of strangers. Much more so than most urban street dogs.