About Me

My photo
Mumbai, India
I'm a landrace dog fancier. Founder of the INDog Project (www.indog.co.in) and the INDog Club. Before that, I worked with urban free-ranging dogs of Mumbai from 1993-2007. Also a spider enthusiast and amateur arachnologist.

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

Monday, December 29, 2008

Lucy - Lalee's partner in crime

This is Lucy, an INDog-mix and Lalee's best friend. I think of her as my part-time dog though her real owner is my aunt Sunanda Das. My aunt's weekend bungalow in Nagaon is right next to our's, so Lucy naturally spends a lot of time at my place especially when I'm there with Lalee and Bandra.

Lucy has a one-of-a-kind personality which makes her a fun dog to be with. For instance, she rarely barks but has a repertoire of odd noises including a high-pitched neighing sort of sound which is my favourite. Then she makes some strange grunts and also the usual squeaky whines. She manages to combine a sweet docile demeanour around humans with a strong independent streak and a complete disregard for human commands.

Another defining trait is her busy trotting kind of walk with her head lowered.

Lucy's relationship with Lalee is rather complex. Though she is a few years older than Lalee and has been in Nagaon for much longer, she set the tone at their very first meeting by rolling over and giving other submissive signals. Since that moment she's been Lalee's devoted sidekick. Though Lalee is officially the leader it's really Lucy who decides their activities, what areas they are to explore, and what disgusting off-menu objects they are to eat (horse dung and decayed fish, that sort of thing).

One of Lucy's peculiarities is her reaction to dogs entering her territory. If the dog is accompanied by a human she tolerates it. But if it is unaccompanied she is extremely aggressive and chases it off. She's quite fearless with other dogs in most situations. My Bandra tried bossing her around a couple of times but was surprised when she leapt right back at him and bit him. The picture above was taken by Rohan Mukerjee - Lucy, Lalee and Bandra taking a short rest during their evening walk.

Lucy really loves the sea and swims quite often, unlike Lalee who prefers the sand.

Last week we passed a pair of not-very-friendly dogs on the beach, a male and a female who seems to be nursing pups. The two followed Lucy for a while, barking with hackles raised. Lucy didn't show any aggression at all but walked behind me with her tail tucked down. I was quite touched by Lalee's reaction. She had been watching in an undecided way - obviously the nursing bitch was not to be taken on lightly - but now she rushed a few feet towards them barking loudly, clearly angry with them for threatening Lucy. The hostile pair departed after that, and it all sorted itself out without my intervention, as these things always do.

Alibag, Maharashtra

Photos: From top to bottom - first, third, fourth and sixth by Rajashree. Second photo by Kiran Khalap. Photo of Lucy, Lalee and Bandra taken by Rohan Mukerjee.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Canine victims of terror

The recent shocking terror attacks in Mumbai not only claimed innocent human lives but also two canine ones. One was a police sniffer dog at the Taj Hotel, a Labrador. The other was a street dog who lived at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. Another dog at CST was also shot, but survived thanks to a journalist named Shripad Naik who rushed him to the Bai Sakabai Dinshaw Petit Hospital for Animals. The dog has been named Sheroo (from "sher," meaning "lion"). This story appeared in the Times of India a few days ago. Click on the image to enlarge it and read the text.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Deepa, Bandra and Lalee

Top, above: Deepa and Bandra

Now that Deepa has started making friends with other dogs (see previous post), Nicole and I decided to find out whether she'd strike up a friendship with my Lalee and my mix-breed Bandra. So a few days ago my dogs and I dropped in at their place for a while on our way to Nagaon.

The dogs were first introduced to each other in Nicole's building compound. Deepa doesn't have a fierce instinct to guard her territory and got on with them right away, though my two were a little nervous and on their best behaviour as they didn't know what to expect. Even when we entered Nicole's apartment, Deepa's reaction was quite unique. She was really happy to have other dogs in her house and didn't display any aggression at all. She went from one to the other sniffing them and wagging her tail a little and clearly giving friendly signals. Lalee remained quite nervous and growled a bit and sat in a corner throughout the visit, not responding to Deepa's overtures. Bandra being of the other gender had no such problems, and barring a few faint growls he behaved perfectly and seemed quite pleased to be there.

We've decided to fix more meetings between the three, and also to have Deepa and Nicole visit us at Nagaon though I don't want to risk Deepa coming to my Mumbai apartment, which is Lalee and Bandra's permanent territory. I have a vivid picture in my mind of how these two would behave with canine visitors there and I am not going to put their hospitality to such a test any time soon. I know I can count on them to behave well outside their home though. What kind of welcome they'll give Deepa in Nagaon remains to be seen. However we have had a dog visitor there a couple of years ago (a lhasa apso called Ronnie, belonging to Daisy Sidhwa) and that had gone off very well.

(For those who haven't read about Bandra in this blog: he was rescued from Bandra Station in 2005 and was named after that popular suburb. Half his leg had been cut off in a train accident and we had to have the remaining part amputated. He doesn't have much INDog/pariah in him. A very goofy and sweet dog).

Photos: Nicole Poyyayil

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Deepa and friends

Above: Deepa

Above: Shyla

Above and below: Deepa approaches Shyla

Above: All dog-owners know that this kind of sniffing is an important canine ritual

Above, below: Friends

Above: Deepa and two males - INDog-mix and INDog

Above: INDog

Pariah-type dogs are extremely gregarious and love interacting with other dogs and being part of a group. In fact, I believe such interactions are the high point of any dog's life and those who aren't allowed to socialize are missing something very healthy and enjoyable. The anthropologist Elizabeth Marshall Thomas writes that what dogs really want is to be with other dogs, and that we humans are a substitute for the canine company they crave (The Secret Life of Dogs). In India we often don't give enough importance to this need, mostly because of fear for our dog's safety or fear that our dog may injure others. If pets are well-trained and encouraged to spend time with other dogs from an early age there is no reason why there should be any risk on either side - at least that's my experience.

Nicole Poyyayil has been looking for friends for her Deepa for a long time. Here is her account of Deepa's first interaction with another dog.

May I introduce Shyla, Deepa's first friend. Finally! I've already given up the idea of finding her an "owned" dog as friend since most people don't release their dogs from the chain outside and the ones we've met so far were not friendly to other dogs so she could never go near them.

Shyla is not a pet dog and was first terribly scared when Deepa approached her, which you can see from some of the pictures. Deepa's first dog-contact was very exciting for me to watch. She behaved very friendly and I could see that she was really happy to play with a dog for the first time in her life. But it was not easy for her to convince her shy skinny friend to run around with her. But after some time, they understood each other and ran and ran...

Shyla just lay down, I guess to show Deepa that it was enough for the day. This irritated Deepa so much that she kept walking in circles around her until she got up again.

Today, we brought biscuits for her and they played again, but with less running than yesterday. I called her friend Shyla because she is extremly shy; never came close to me and carefully watched me from a safe distance.

(I think I'll bring her a deworming tablet next time, she looks too thin, maybe due to worms).

I think Shyla belongs to no one, at least for sure to no one who feeds her. If anyone would like to take her home and take care of her, I guess she would be happy. She seems to have no company, always sits there alone on the construction site outside Kharghar, even if there are plenty of other dogs around in that area.

But since she is extremly shy of people, I'm not sure if she would be okay indoors.

Last week, we met another one, but I didn't release Deepa from the chain, since a real strong male INDog watching carefully what was going on. The smaller one was more interested in chewing on Deepa's chain than playing with her. But that one was not at all shy and he tried to jump right into the car after I sat down.

If anyone likes dogwatching (as an alternative to birdwatching maybe), Kharghar is the perfect place to do that. We have dogs in all colours, sizes and shapes. Especially now you can see small ones on almost every footpath here. I guess most are mixed-breed ones but I think the majority outside the city could be showing the "pariah morphotype."

Nicole Poyyayil
Navi Mumbai

Friday, December 19, 2008

Rico and Lucky

Above: Rico and Lucky's mother

Above: Lucky and Rico as pups!

Above and below: Lucky and Rico on holiday in Goa

Above: With owner Gino

One day, while I was taking my early morning walk here in Hyderabad, I came across two VERY tiny puppies (about two weeks old or so) crying loudly by a trash dumpster. Some old street lady nearby told me that the two sad puppies had already been there for two days and had been abandoned by their mother. As I was petting the two puppies (brother and sister) some other people nearby said that the mother dog had already been killing her other puppies one at a time. Without a second thought, I picked up the two, fragile puppies and carried them home with me.

Fortunately, I grew up in a dog-loving family environment back in America and helped raise many wonderful puppies. As a result, I was very well prepared in what had to be done for nutrition and care. When they completed their first meal with me, I had a "chat" with them about what names they wanted to have from now on. I first looked at my girl puppy and asked her if she liked the name "Lucky," as it was luck that had me walk by at that precise time and location. She happily barked and began to lick my fingers. Lucky it was! I then looked to my boy dog and asked him if he liked the name "Rico." He gave me a puzzled look and then I quickly explained to him that "rico" is a Spanish word which means to have lots of money...to be rich. Upon understanding this, he began to bounce all around his tiny empty bowl of milk. Rico it was!

Lucky and Rico are super intelligent dogs. With the help of my doggy trainer, they each know over 40 commands and tricks! They are now nearly one year old. Some funny things about them, Rico and Lucky are allowed to sleep with me on my king sized bed. Lucky can ONLY fall asleep when she is on top of three pillows, right by my head and with the blankets covering her. Rico can ONLY fall asleep when his body is right next to my legs and feet and he HATES to be covered with blankets. They also love to have the air conditioner turned on (as do I) in order to fall asleep.

Since that fateful day that I came across the two tiny, starving, unloved pups without a hope in the world of surviving another day or two, they have become perhaps the most spoiled dogs in the whole of India! Rico and Lucky are truly my two special "children" and I cannot think of what it would be like not to have them in my life.

Gino Santistevan

Saturday, December 13, 2008

We need a home for Bindi

Bindi is I think between three and four weeks old and is tiny tiny. I rescued her from a busy street because I was afraid she'd get run over by a car. She's separated from her litter and all alone. She is absolutely adorable and very very loving. Could you please pass this appeal around and see if we can find her a loving home?

We already have our two - Rocket and Gobbers - so we just can't keep another. We will be able to keep Bindi for a while but we need to find her a home in that time otherwise she'll have to go back on the streets.

Please see what you can do to help. She is fantastic and will bring joy to whichever house she goes to.

Anuradha Gupta

Monday, December 8, 2008

Nana - primitive dog of Russia?

Veera Antsalo of Helsinki entered the fascinating world of primitive breeds when her new dog Nana arrived from a shelter in St.Petersburg. Like primitive dog owners across countries, she has become increasingly intrigued by her dog's appearance, unique behaviour and ancestry, all the more mysterious because such dogs are virtually unknown in Finland. One possibility is that Nana is descended from the Yakutian Laika. There are lots of really gorgeous photos in Veera's blog - click here.

Veera tells us about this beautiful dog:

I adopted Nana in October 2007 from a Russian dog shelter with the help of a Finnish voluntary organization. I had been thinking of getting a dog for some time and my natural choice was a rescued dog as I knew there are a lot of homeless dogs in need of new owners and because I had always disliked the idea of having an expensive pedigreed dog as a status symbol. I also knew some people who had adopted dogs from our neighboring countries Estonia and Russia (where there a lot of stray dogs unlike in Finland where ownerless dogs are extremely rare). These dogs had adapted fast and become wonderful pets.

Nana was brought from Russia to me in Helsinki and before this first meeting I had only seen a few pictures of her and a description of her character. She was described as "quiet, calm and dignified" and I learned fast that she truly is like that. But she also has another side because she is also very playful (outdoors), lively and attentive. She can also be noisy even though she doesn't bark much because she has a set of wonderful howls and other kinds of strange vocalizations, mainly for greeting and expressing her enthusiasm (or just to join the cry of an ambulance).

My first intuitive thought upon meeting her was that she looks a bit like a wolf and a bit like a fox. Then I came to think that actually with her red coat she looks very much like a dingo - the shape of head, ears, eyes, proportions, and the way she walks with her head lowered - it all made for a striking resemblance. And it was not only the way she looked but the way she moved, the way she observed the surroundings and her extraordinary alertness and passion for both seeking, stalking and catching any kind of prey. I learned quickly that Nana is a kind of dog that can never fully be trained to obey and to be off leash: her natural insticts are simply too strong. Even though she always follows me in the woods she does not come when called but when she pleases. In a city with both hares and busy streets with cars this is not a good thing so I always have to think carefully where and when I turn her loose.

Needless to say I love Nana to pieces, and so does everyone else who knows her. She is a real character. She is simply so loving and attached to people and will roll on her back very quickly when meeting them. Indoors she is very calm and she never destroys anything so she is perfect to have in an apartment. Outside she becomes lively and her main activity is trying to locate prey. No animal seems to escape her keen senses - and if there is a fly inside the house she doesn't rest until it is firmly placed between her jaws.

She loves to play with other dogs (except bulldog type dogs that she seems to avoid as much as possible - dog racism?) and it is a great joy to watch her in intense play because her body language is so clear and she is so fast and agile and makes funny jumps and boxing movements with her paws while playing. She also has her hackles up all the way along her back forming an impressive mohawk - never seen anything comparable on any other dog.

One of the most curious things about Nana is how well she fits into the description of long-term pariah morphotype. She could well be a Canaan Dog, a Carolina Dog or (with slightly different fur) an INDog by appearance and her mentality is definitively of an independent animal who relies more on her own senses than her owner's. She will never carelessly approach a strange person, animal or object without first making sure it is not dangerous or ill-meaning.

Yet she is a Russian street dog and most typically their ancestry is made up of modern European breeds - GSDs, labradors, rottweilers, schnauzers, terriers, spitzes and more; pariah type dogs would be well-mongrelized and thereby vanished among the street dog population of Northern Europe. One possible explanation is that she is a landrace laika (laikas are original spitz type dogs of the native people in Russia and Siberia who have traditionally survived in partly pariah existence in many areas) but I have no idea how likely it is that one would be found in an urban environment.

Veera Antsalo


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dalu, our second son

It was a pre-winter October evening and Veltu had been missing since morning. Hotel owner Kartik hadn't found him while dumping his daytime garbage - Veltu and his wife's usual grab. Stationery shop owner Asis also failed to give Veltu's routine snack - a paper bag of broken biscuits. And the whole of the next night, Dadu, Veltu's 'godfather' had to remain on his duty of nightwatchman without Veltu. Behind all the usual activities of the whole three-storied Vivekananda Market Complex of over 300 shops at the heart of the town, the question "Where is Veltu?" became a subtle but bold one.

Next morning, the beginning of another busy day brought a pleasant surprise when Veltu and his wife were discovered in a deep corner under the staircase guarding a heap of used jute bags. There were six little ones inside the den other than Veltu and his wife. Yes, Veltu had become a proud father of six.

A strong, well-built, bold, cool, affectionate dog, Veltu with his impressive weight at five years of age was well able to tackle at least five street dogs at a time and to be a hero to any young lady of his species. Yet he was never seen with anyone other than his wife, another well-built and equally cool lady.

The pair have been an indispensable part of the whole market since they arrived there, no-one knows from where. But yes, they take their food and shelter from the market not without any service. Both of them along with 65-year old Dadu have formed an indestructible army to guard the market.

Understandably, the young ones also grabbed the heart of the whole market within no time and there began the journey.

I, a daily visitor to the market also fell in love with the family and the heavenly view of the mother feeding her six kids with proud Veltu on guard.

Around 25 days down the timeline, despite the best possible feed by the hotel owners and shopkeepers, Veltu had lost two of his kids. One of the remaining ones had been taken by a shop-owner and I had also stolen one from the mother's lap. I knew I could not groom the baby the way his mother could, but I promised to be the best possible substitute.

At my home, by the end of one restless week for the baby, it had become me and my wife Papiya's second son. And Dipto at eleven years of age had his new brother. We named him 'Dalu.' In Bengali, a ferocious dog is called 'Dalkutta.' And with an image of Veltu in mind, I expected his son also to be of the same mould, so the name chosen was 'Dalu.'

The doctor suggested giving him Lactogen – Dalu refused. My friend suggested a commercial dry food - he did not even lick it. One of my neighbours advised cow's milk. God saved me - he accepted it. Gradually he started taking rice, meat, fish. But it took two months for the little one to understand the difference between my bed and his urinal. Oh! but nothing new about that - it was the same with my son too ten years back.

Days passed by and Dalu kept on growing. Now he knows his own room - an unused bathroom of my house. His own bed - a large wooden packing case packed with thick stack of empty jute gunny bags and a flannel cover on that. His night-time playmate- a 3" x 3" x 8" wooden piece. After spending the whole day inside all the rooms in my house barring the kitchen, it becomes a difficult job for him to leave for his own bedroom at night.

This is the time he wants me to take him on my lap and then take him to his bedroom - a habit developed since his childhood.

Normally I don't put even a collar on his neck as Dipto does not want his coat to get damaged. And so he is never chained. He is an exceptionally intelligent one who can understand every single bit of body language of mine, Papiya's or Dipto's, but will hardly ever obey any command. Command him to "Sit down" - he will pretend to bite your hand. Say "shake hands" - he will jump on you. But he becomes the"teacher's pet" kind of student the moment I call him for lunch. He will wait for me to say "sit down." He will follow it in no time. Even before completion of my next command to him, "Shake hands," he will raise his right paw and after I reciprocate, he waits for me to say "Go." Sometimes I delay the command "Go" even after shaking hands with him. First he yawns. Then he makes a peculiar sound and then starts howling. But he never jumps on to his lunch until I say "Go!"

Now it becomes a tough job even for me to handle this 25 kg one after I return from my long official tours. First he takes a physical test of the newly-found me by jumping on me and doing some mock fighting. After ten minutes of such exercise, he cools down a little bit and then starts licking my whole hand, even face, maybe to check whether everything is in shape or not. Then he begins his biting session. With his four long canines and strong jaw, he keeps on biting my hands. The jaws that can crack even thick mutton bones like papad, work on my hand like a well -programmed robotic tool, never with a pressure more than what can be painful to me.

Dalu is now a good team-mate of my son and his friends in their football games. He plays with them just like a little kid. One cannot imagine the level of pleasure he gets from playing football with friends. Just part him from the team and see his reaction. He will tear off the sofa cushions, jump on whoever is there inside the house, shout vigorously and finally give up after drinking a full bowl of water.

As Dipto says: "It is an advantage to take Dalu in our team as he can play with all his four limbs without any fear of 'hand ball.' But it is not always a positive thing - there is a major disadvantage too. Dalu cannot differentiate between the goalposts of our own and the opponent's side. And obviously, does lots and lots of 'same sides.' "

However, though I simply cannot think of anything bad about Dalu, facts are facts. There are a few shortcomings I have noticed in Dalu, a few common doggy instincts are missing in him. Even at his age of over one year, he still urinates like a puppy, standing on all four limbs. Sometimes he eats things that would never be eaten by a street dog. During a stomach upset, I have never seen him look for grass - a common instinct of a dog. Maybe I separated him from his mother too early without giving him enough time to learn all the instinctive behaviour.

However, after having him for a year, now I think: Who says that INDogs are not as intelligent as pedigreed dogs? They may not be as exotic as those western breed dogs, but undoubtedly they are the most affectionate, smart and sensible ones.

I have read somewhere, the normal life span of a dog is around 14 years. Can any one tell me - how shall we live when Dalu is no longer with us?

Debasis Sarkar
Darjeeling, West Bengal

Rajashree's note: Debasis tells me that he was inspired to keep an INDog after reading this blog! Which means, after seeing all the lovely dogs featured here. So all INDog-owners out there - do keep writing in and sending me photos. That's the best way to tell the world how wonderful these dogs are.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Avuvi of Ghana

Meet the aboriginal dog of Ghana: the Avuvi.

Avuvis are an example of the primitive dingo-pariah type seen around the world. Other examples are Israel's Canaan Dog, the Australian Dingo, north America's Carolina Dog, the AfriCanis and of course our INDog/Indian Pariah Dog. The African Basenji was originally bred from the pariah-type dog of the Congo.

The best person to tell us about the Avuvi is Emmanuelle Occansey, nature enthusiast, dog enthusiast and member of Primitive and Aboriginal Dogs Society. Visit her blog Ghana outdoors to read more about this tough, smart little creature and other beautiful animals of that country. From all the pictures I've seen so far I'm guessing the Avuvi population has not yet been threatened with mongrelization.

The handsome dogs in these pictures are Emmanuelle's pets, Takenga (Taki) and Smartie.

Photos: Emmanuelle Occansey, Ghana

And the winner is...

Brownie made her owners very proud recently: she came first in the mixed-breed category in a dog show held by non-profit CUPA Bangalore. She doesn't seem to be mixed actually - her head and ears are those of a pure INDog/pariah - but hats off to CUPA for holding dog shows of this kind!

Owner Sana Mashood tells us about her pretty pet:

What can I say about Brownie!?

She is just amazing...

Brings a smile to our faces every time we look at her, with her devil-in-disguise attitude!! Always looks like she has done something she's not supposed to! Hates to see a dog even pass near our gate! Thinks the whole world is her territory! Even barks at birds if they sit on a tree in our garden...

Can catch anything from a bandicoot to a squirrel to a pigeon...anything
that moves and makes a noise is her plaything! Has the energy of a horse!

Supriya Aunty from next door was the only person who could get some manners into her; she taught her to "sit" and now every time we have to feed her she sits automatically!

I'm her playmate - she's ready to play with all her toys be it the tennis ball/old slippers/bone/ her gunny sack which is part of her bedding. She loves plastic bottles because they make a noise.

I must say shes a big flirt! She is on her best behavior when around any male purebreed dog! It's really funny, because with other dogs she becomes a vicious brat.

Apart from all her naughtiness she has brought lots of happiness into our lives after we lost the previous dog we had adopted.

My mom runs a play school for kids aged two to four years and Brownie gets locked up during the three hours that they come. The kids enjoy a tour of the house because they get to come in and meet Brownie and my cat Frisky and also get to pet them and feed them. Brownie lies flat on the ground and allows them to touch and feed her, I think because the kids are allowed to feed her dog biscuits which she gets only as treats, so I kind of bribe her into behaving! If left loose she would jump on the kids not realising their size, as she is allowed to jump on us family members.

I could probably continue talking about her forever!

Sana Mashood

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pups for adoption, Mumbai

There are these three adorable balls of fluff living on the roadside outside my office. I’m sure they would love to find homes rather than curl up on the pavement all night.

Their mother had a litter of six pups, all of them black and brown. Now only three remain.

I’m not sure the mother is getting enough to eat and she doesn’t seem to take very good care of the pups. The people of the nearby chawl, who feed the dogs, have appealed to me to help and I thought the web was the best place to reach out.

Every time one of the pups squeals, I believe it’s a plea for help.

So if anyone would like to give these puppies a good life, please get in touch.


Carol Lobo

Cell: 09833126391